By PEDRO MENDEZ
CONNECTING FAITH AND LIFE
Waking up early, breathing the scent of the mountains, feeling the cold weather while walking to the chapel, praying in silence before morning prayer and celebrating Mass was a great start for a day of priestly formation at the Asociación Sacerdotal Siervos del Espíritu Santo (Priestly Association of the Servants of the Holy Spirit) in the Diocese of Sonson Rionegro in Colombia. During the reflection, we, the seminarians, often heard from our rector: “As Bishop Alfonso Uribe Jaramillo used to say, ‘We need a daily Pentecost.’” Bishop Uribe was the founder of that association of priests. His prophetic words pierced my soul and made a home in me. Indeed, we, the Church, need a daily Pentecost!
What might a daily Pentecost mean today? For us Christians, Pentecost refers to the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. The word spirit is the English translation of the Hebrew word Ruah and the Greek word Pneuma. Both words, Ruah (used in the Old Testament) and Pneuma (used in the New Testament) mean breath or wind. The words Ruah and Pneuma also mean that vital principle of humans, which we can call soul or spirit. So, a daily Pentecost might mean a daily portion of God’s breath in that vital principle that animates our lives and our parishes. The Pentecost narratives in the Gospels of Luke and John depict God giving his Pneuma, his breath, to his disciples. In the Gospel of John, Jesus himself literally breathes his breath on his disciples. Today, too, we need Jesus’ own breath in our souls and our parishes.
It might be fruitful to examine the vital principle of our lives and our parishes. If the vital principle of our lives and our parishes is not being animated by God’s breath, it is being animated by something else – by other breaths/spirits. Due to our fallen condition and human imperfection, our souls are fragile to other breaths/spirits that interfere with God’s work like clericalism, greed, busyness, distraction and political ideology. Sometimes, it seems that we focus more on social gatherings and fundraisers than on helping each other to grow in holiness. The evil one plays a role by suffocating God’s breath in us and in our parishes. Satan brings division, spiritual apathy and laziness, and a sense that “things are going well” when this measurement is based more on quantity than quality.
And still, we are called to be totally animated by God’s breath! God’s breath produces the fruits of the Spirit in our lives and in our relationship with others in our parishes and society! We are Christians because of the fruits of that outpouring of God’s breath at that first Pentecost after the Resurrection of our Lord!
Bishop Uribe was a fruitful shepherd. He founded two seminaries, two priestly associations, a religious community and various parishes. He also wrote many books and worked hard to lead God’s people, ordained and non-ordained, to a living experience of God. He lived a life of intimacy with Christ as it is depicted in his journal. His experience of God’s spirit was not because he was a bishop but because he was a human being whose vital principle was open to a daily Pentecost, a daily portion of God’s breath. It also calls to my mind other Christian leaders who have brought us closer to God like Pope John XXIII, Mother Teresa of Calcutta, Billy Graham, Martin Luther King Jr., and several Catholic and non-Catholic philosophers and theologians. I also think about those unnoticed/unsung witnesses of God’s Spirit who produce so much fruit in our lives daily – children, husbands, wives, coworkers, religious community members, the sick, the handicapped, the elderly, teachers, catechists, etc.
God’s Breath is available for us to bear fruit abundantly today! Jesus gives his own self through the Eucharist. We can pray to him after receiving his Body and Blood: “Jesus, breathe your breath on me and upon my parish as you did to your disciples.”
Pedro Mendez is a husband, a father of four boys, a parishioner at St. John the Evangelist in Daylight, and a Board Certified Chaplain. He can be reached by email at [email protected].