Sermon: The Holy Spirit - True Inspiration
Father James C. Moulketis
Visiting New York City is always exciting. The museums, the theaters, Lincoln Center , Broadway, the sights and sounds of one of the greatest cities in the world. Seeing the great masters at the museums, hearing them at the city's music halls and theaters brings joy and inspiration to our hearts. But in New York and in the highways and byways of America we also see many people desperately looking for a new inspiration. Hanging their hopes on empty dreams and frivolous outlooks. Always looking for something new, something quick to bring them joy and peace and hope. The inspired works of the masters and our contemporary artists as well, just didn't happen in a moment's frenzy, nor were they a result of some pipe dream. True inspiration comes to those who have prepared themselves to receive it, those who search, those who pray, those who struggle and persevere, those who remain faithful and trust.
On the day of Pentecost the early Christians drew their inspiration from the greatest source of all. Our early forefathers and mothers understood that in transmitting the Good news of the Gospel they were in fact communicating an inspired life-style that transforms a life of emptiness and boredom into a life of high purpose and fulfillment. Those heroes of faith have left a timeless footprint and are still leading us today to a life of joyous fulfillment and peace and hope that surpasses all human understanding.
The time of Pentecost is a time for serious reflection on this sacred source of inspiration-the Holy Spirit of God. The word "inspire" means, literally, "to breathe upon," and the word "spirituality," which is at the root of the word "inspire," means the state of having been breathed upon. For this reason, the one who lives a life "in the Spirit", is one who has been breathed upon. This is one who has received the Holy Spirit as his life's inspiration.
The 20 th chapter of John tells us that the Apostles locked themselves in a room fearful that Christ's persecutors would crucify them as well. Suddenly, the Risen Christ appears before them and offers them His peace. Then John writes, "He breathed on them and said, 'Receive the Holy Spirit.' (Jn.20:22).
If we reflect seriously on this bible episode, we can learn a great deal about true inspiration. That the cowering Apostles are in need of inspiration is apparent. They are fearful and confused, not knowing what to do next. Then Jesus comes to fulfill their need. Now inspired, their lives take on new meaning and purpose. What is important to observe is that they do not receive their inspiration from within themselves. Their personality transformation, from timid and aimless men into bold and vigorous disciples, is generated from without. Jesus breathed the life of the Spirit into them. And that Holy Spirit, that Giver of Life, that Comforter, that Spirit of truth, filled everything and was everywhere. That Holy Spirit was their source of power and transformation, and is ours as well today. A real resource and true support, an everlasting joy here and now where we live, here and now where we work, here and now where we pray.
Along with recognizing the Holy Spirit as this source of joy and hope and power we also learn another deep truth concerning inspiration in our lives: we must be prepared to receive it. The full power of the Spirit did not descend upon the Apostles when they first joined Christ. Their confirmation in the Spirit came after Jesus had taught them how to be receptive to it.
The Apostles were ready to receive the Breath of the Spirit through Jesus because they had learned that the Spirit of God was in Him. Jesus had prepared them for this great spiritual event in which their minds and hearts would be opened to the meaning of His own life of sacrificial self-giving. Jesus had prepared them to embrace a ministry of service as the inspired way of fulfillment. Jesus had prepared them for a way of life that needs no relief from their empty dreams and frivolous outlooks.
In his First Letter to the Corinthians, Paul makes this in spired observation: "No one can say, 'Jesus is Lord,' ex cept in the Holy Spirit. There are different gifts but the sa me Spirit; there are different works but the same God who accomplishes all of them in everyone. To each person the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good” (1 Cor.12:4-7). There are different gifts, to be sure. In terms of talent and ability no two persons are exactly alike. But there is one great gift we all have received in common. In Genesis we read, "The Lord God formed man out of the clay of the ground and blew into his nostrils the breath of life, and so man became a living being". The very Breath of God brings us into existence as living beings. Life itself is the gift of the Spirit. And each individual life is given, in God's plan, to serve the common good. We are one creation, one people of God, one human race. We share a common destiny and consequently, a common mission. The goal we share is the promised Kingdom of God among all people, in which all God's children will be reconciled in peace and brotherhood, and love will reign eternal. The mission we share is to prepare the way for the Lord's coming through our works of peace and brotherhood and reconciliation.
"Then He breathed on them and said: 'Receive the Holy Spirit.' " Receive the Holy Spirit and discover that this Gift will not come and go in the manner of the popular trends of our times. Receive the Holy Spirit and discover that God's gifts of love, mercy and forgiveness are never withdrawn. "Receive the Holy Spirit . . . Go, therefore, make disciples of all nations!" Accept this as your inspiration for life and your life will be an inspiration for those around you.