Sunday, June 8, 2014

The Feast of the Wild Goose

Sister Sharon Haskins shares a Pentecost reflection as we celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit.

Surprises and gifts

Jesus told the disciples that he would return. Pentecost is the feast of this returning and considered the birthday of the church. We can connect the Pentecost symbols of wind and fire with the candles on a birthday cake. Celebrations often come with surprises and gifts. So does the Holy Spirit. Scripture names numerous special gifts of the Spirit. Some are unity, joy, peace, wisdom, understanding, patience. It is appropriate today to remember the gifts of the Spirit and take time to ask for what we need.

The Daughters of Charity have a special ritual on Pentecost. We each choose a card and on the back is written one of the gifts. The idea is that we might want to pray for that gift in the year ahead. To me, it's like a message from God: "Sharon, maybe you need to pray for more patience!" Certainly it is a Pentecost surprise!

Always with us here and now

An especially consoling gift is the constant presence of the Spirit. The same Spirit described by Luke in Acts is with us now. Pentecose celebrates the Spirit's ability to reach out to everyone and connect us as one family. The Spirit of the risen Lord is always with us.

Jesus told his disciples, "I will not leave you orphans!" The Spirit is described as our advocate, as God always "on our side." We will never be left alone. 

Healing, peacemaking and communicating

The Holy Spirit specializes in healing, peacemaking and communicating. Luke's account of the Ascension includes Jesus's order to his disciples not to leave Jerusalem but to wait there for "the promise of the Father." They returned and "constantly devoted themselves to prayer" in the upper room with Mary and others. Imagine what a state they were in: feeling abandoned, afraid of persecution and possibly even death!

The Spirit mends what is broken. That includes relationships and hearts. We all experience brokenness. We ask God for healing of our wounds and for the grace of forgiveness and reconciliation. We ask for peace in our world.

The Pentecost event enabled persons to communicate, to speak other languages. We need this gift...perhaps not literally (but maybe). Certainly we need to communicate in all areas of our lives. The Spirit helps us find the right words.

Images of the Spirit

  • The wild goose: Our understanding of the Holy Spirit can be stretched by an image from my ancestors, the early Celtic Christians in Ireland and Scotland led by St. Patrick. The Celts didn't like the dove image for the Spirit. They lived close to nature and saw doves as too tame. So they used the image of the wild goose. Many of us know the saying, "a wild goose chase." It is used to describe a hopeless undertaking, a fruitless search or errand, a nearly impossible pursuit--that is, trying to catch a wild goose. (For example, searching all over town for a part of my old car and never finding it.)

    Wild geese are just that: wild! Attempts to catch and tame them are a waste of time. They cannot be controlled. They are noisy and feisty. They are always on the move.

    Much like a wild goose, the Spirit of God cannot be tracked. God, too, is beyond us, unpredictable. And if we follow the wild goose, often we cannot predict where we are going.

    This reminds me of Father Henry's favorite prayer by Thomas Merton. The prayer begins, "My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end..."

    Perhaps we should shift our image from the sweet cooing dove to the wild goose. How might this affect the way we pray? How might this affect the way we live?
  • The hound of heaven: Another image of the Spirit is the hound of heaven. The poet Francis Thompson wrote a poem by this name. It is all about a hound dog chasing someone for a long time (like a hound might chase a rabbit). The person runs and runs until she or he finally gives in and is caught by the hound. When I was thinking about becoming a Sister, someone suggested I read that poem. If I had any doubt about what I was running from, Thompson spelled it out. This poem makes clear that we do not chase the goose/the hound/the Holy Spirit. The Spirit chases us!
Full of surprises

We are not in control when we follow the Spirit. Our lives are unpredictable. Jesus told Nicodemus: "The wind blows where it will. We do not know where it came from or where it is going!" (John 3)

We are called today to be open to surprise.

We have heard the saying, "God writes straight with crooked lines." In the same vein, someone said, "I make plans, God laughs."

We celebrate this great gift of God's constant presence in the Holy Spirit. As we often sing, "We are one in the Spirit!" We remember the Spirit of God speaks all languages and pushes an dpulls us to embrace all people as "our" people. The wild goose is always with us!

1 comment:

  1. As always, Sharon has zeroed into the allure and welcome of the Spirit as the intimate, wild, close-at-our-heels, and deep in our hearts Love of God. Thank you, Sharon, for witnessing what you preach!