Sounds more like a hawk than a dove. Pope Francis in his homily on April 17 told us that “the Spirit pushes us to take a more evangelical path but we resist this.” In fact, he added, people don’t really like a pushy Holy Spirit.
“Everybody seems happy about the presence of the Holy Spirit, but it’s not really the case and there is still that temptation to resist it,” the pope said. He added that people don’t want the Spirit “to upset us. We don’t want to change.” He called this “stubbornness and wanting to tame the Holy Spirit.”
The Spirit cannot be tamed. Like the wind, it blows where it will. Genesis (1: 2) describes the Spirit of God as “a mighty wind” blowing over the waters of creation. And, like Jesus, we who are disciples of Christ are blown along by that same Spirit.
In their document on the new evangelization, “Disciples Called to Witness, The New Evangelization” released in April 2012, the U.S. bishops noted that, “Being a disciple is a challenge. Fortunately … the work of the Holy Spirit within the Christian community forms the person as a disciple of Christ.”
So while the Spirit is blowing us along and forming us into disciples, it is also blowing the whole Christian community along. In the process, we each get formed into the person God means us to become within that Christian community. At least, that’s what happens if we cooperate with the Spirit.
The bishops said that when we do cooperate, we learn how to be a disciple of Christ through a form of apprenticeship. This apprenticeship “links an experienced Christian believer, or mentor, with one who seeks a deeper relationship with Christ and the church.” This apprenticeship then becomes a “guided encounter with the entire Christian life, a journey toward conversion to Christ.”
Living the new evangelization means submitting to this apprenticeship. As the bishops noted, an apprentice learns from a master. Other disciples help us, but our true master is Jesus. Jesus and the Spirit work together on this because, as the Catechism of the Catholic Church says, Jesus and the Spirit always work together: “From the beginning to the end of time, whenever God sends his Son, he always sends his Spirit: their mission is conjoined and inseparable” (n. 743).
A master sets tasks, of increasing difficulty, for an apprentice. Since the Triple Crown is going on now, think about horse racing. If you’re going to be a jockey, you don’t go out and jump on a horse’s back and run for the roses. You start by mucking out stables. Not fun, but you sure get up close to horses.
In the same way, disciples of Christ start out in the stables, learning the basics in the community of the parish. As the bishops said, we can find “the concrete actions of the Holy Spirit present in the Christian’s everyday life. These concrete actions of the Holy Spirit are numerous.” The bishops listed “retreats, direct service opportunities, parish prayer groups, Bible study programs and involvement in the ecclesial movements” as just some of the places where we can learn from other Christians. “One’s interaction with a Christian who lives an authentic Gospel life,” the bishops said, leads us to figure out how to make the faith more and more a part of our own daily lives.
Of course, the biggest part of apprenticeship takes place at Mass, where we hear how Jesus the master taught his first disciples through parables, lessons and cures of the sick. And the other readings, including the Acts of the Apostles read during the Easter season, show us how the early Church served its own apprenticeship under the leadership of the apostles who were guided by the Holy Spirit.
It’s no different today. The Spirit still pushes us out into the desert — but we are not alone there. First, the Spirit is with us. That’s what being the advocate means — standing beside you all the way. And secondly, we are not alone because we are all out there. Every disciple is out in the desert (and, at times, the oases) of life, serving a lifelong apprenticeship, with new lessons to be learned every day.
We should not resist — because the Spirit will not be denied. Instead, we should go with the flowing (or the blowing) of the Spirit. As Pope Francis said in a homily May 6, “We should get into the habit of asking ourselves, before the end of the day: ‘What did Holy Spirit do in me? What witness did he give me?’”
So where did the Spirit push you today? Did you resist, or did you go along with it, learning your lesson for today? And what happened?
Sources: Online Etymology Dictionary at etymonline.com; Catechism of the Catholic Church; “Disciples Called to Witness”; and Vatican Radio at news.va.