David Roper tells a story about when his father and he would cut down trees with a two-man crosscut saw. David was young and energetic so he sometimes tried to force the saw into the cut. Inevitably his father would say, "Easy does it. Let the saw do the work." As we celebrate this Pentecost perhaps our phrase should be "Easy does it. Let the Holy Spirit do the work."
Honestly the phrase or question that comes to my mind during the past three months is: How the H-E-L-L do you make sense of all this? With the coronavirus pandemic we have had to persevere through ten weeks when our churches were closed, stay-at-home orders, many restrictions, phase 1 - 2 - 3 of re-opening, and over 100,000 who have died from this virus in the US. Then we add to this situation the past few days when we have witnessed a man killed by a police officer in Minneapolis; this event resulting in protests in Minneapolis and numerous other cities, the looting of many stores and businesses, and the burning down of stores. How do you or I make sense of all this?
In some ways we are like the apostles and disciples of Jesus after his crucifixion and death [before the descent of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost]. We've been locked in our rooms or home because of fear and confusion. We feel terrified and imprisoned. We are scared, restless, and confused. The story of Pentecost and scripture readings for the Masses can help us to make sense of this.
In the scripture readings for the Vigil Mass of Pentecost we hear the prophet Ezekiel describing what took place in the center of the plain. There the bones come to life and the Spirit of God came into them as he prophesied. The same spirit comes into you. The apostle Paul in writing to the Romans teaches us that the Spirit interceded for us. Yes, the Spirit intercedes for us now.
In the scripture readings for the Mass of Pentecost Day we hear in St. Paul's words to the Corinthians that there is one Spirit though many gifts. One of the gifts of the Holy Spirit is understanding. [The other gifts of the Holy Spirit are wisdom, knowledge, counsel, piety or reverence, courage or fortitude, awe or fear of the Lord.] These gifts came upon the apostles at Pentecost as he hear in the Acts of the Apostles; they were filled with the Holy Spirit and were now speaking of God and witnessing to Jesus Christ. The Gospel Acclamation offers the prayer: "Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love." Prayer and sacred scripture bring the gift of understanding.
My friends, may these scripture passages and prayer today help us make sense of all this. The spirit of love that has changed the course of human history continues to change us on Pentecost and every day of our lives. Easy does it. Let the Holy Spirit do the work in your heart and soul.