There has been a saying going around our Community that the Feast of the Ascension reminds us that Jesus decided thereafter “to work from home”. But Jesus promised not to leave us orphans. The Feast of Pentecost reminds us that He would send another advocate to be with us till the end of time. It seems that Jesus then delegated most of His work to the Holy Spirit.
He breathed on his disciples the night of His resurrection and gave them the gift of the Holy Spirit. But it was on Pentecost that they came to realise what that gift meant. They began to preach, and people heard them preaching in their own tongue. People heard the truth about Jesus and were converted. The disciples began to work some of the same kind of miracles Jesus had worked. It was now their task to carry out the mission Jesus gave them with the help of the Holy Spirit. And for the last 2000 years the Church with the aid of the Holy Spirit has continued to bring the message that Jesus came to bring us – that God loves all people. We cannot do this just on our own; we need the help of the Holy Spirit. And the Holy Spirit is more than willing to help us.
I learned this for the first time when I was still a young priest. I had been saying Mass on occasion in a near-by girls’ Catholic Hugh School. One afternoon four girls arrived and asked me to give their class retreat. I told them I had never given a retreat – I knew nothing about giving a retreat -- that they would do better to find a more experienced priest to give it. But they stayed for an hour and repeatedly told me they wanted me to do it. So in the end I agreed.
I knew from the start that I wanted the theme of the Retreat to be God’s love for us. The song “More” was popular at the time and I thought that song could become the theme of the Retreat. I wanted these girls to leave the retreat knowing that no matter what they did or what happened in their life, God would never stop loving them. I then approached three married couples and asked them to provide the “inputs”. I asked them to share their experiences of how they knew that God loved them with the girls. I figured they would have more “credibility” than a “professional priest”. I told them we would be using the song “More” several times during the day and they were happy with that. Finally I borrowed something that I learned from the Cursillista Movement – the power of prayer. I wrote many friends asking them to keep the girls in their prayers that week-end so that the girls would be open to the working of the Holy Spirit.
When I started the Retreat I played the song for them and asked them to imagine God singing the song to them: More than the greatest love the world has known, This is the love that I give to you alone. More than the simple words I try to say I only live to love you more each day…. In the closing ceremony I asked them to sing the song one more time, but let it be their love song to God. Some of them were doing it with tears in their eyes.
A couple of weeks later I discovered how powerfully the Holy Spirit had worked that week-end. One girl told me how they had been looking forward to having a “blast” that week-end. They had brought beer, soda, and nibbles so that they could have a party every night, but not one can of beer or soda was opened. Even more telling of how effective the Holy Spirit had been was that five or six years after the Retreat ended there were still girls phoning me because they had run into serious difficulties and they needed reassurance that God loves them. That they heard the message that wek-end was truly the gift of the Holy Spirit.