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The Unbridled Spirit
THE UNBRIDLED SPIRIT
It was not the fierce wind, flaming tongues or the instant translation of foreign languages that stunned and frightened the people huddled in that Pentecost room. It was the pressing question: “Now what do we do?” Jesus was no longer with them and they were not sure how to organize themselves. How would they continue the work of their deceased leader? The biblical texts (Acts 2:1-11) provide an answer — a powerful Spirit took hold of them.
But the next steps were not that simple or fast paced. History tells us the early Christian movements took different routes and not everyone was on the same path. The tension between the Jewish Christians and the converted Hellenist (Greek) Christians is one example.
New Testament scholar Harold W. Attridge wrote: “The Christian movement probably began not from a single center but from many different centers where different groups of disciples of Jesus gathered and tried to make sense of what they had experienced with him and what had happened to him at the end of his public ministry.”
Another biblical expert, the late Holland Lee Hendrix, added: “Christianity, or one would rather say "Christianities," of the second and third centuries were a highly variegated phenomenon. We really can't imagine Christianity as a unified coherent religious movement.”
We can see something similar happening to Christianity today. It is not a “unified coherent religious movement.” Many moral issues are affecting each of us directly and indirectly. The information from politicians, research centers and religious leaders is not always clear. Our interpretations of the same message are wide spread. We can easily become confused, overwhelmed, and disparate.
One would think that, if all of us were on the same biblical page or even in the same book, this country and the world would be a more peaceful and equitable place to live. It is not. For instance, it is well publicized that Catholic Christians and their bishops do not agree on everything. We are divided on many issues and we have very different ideas about how to achieve various agendas.
Catholic doctrines assert that different gifts and offices are all united in one Spirit. (1 Cor 12:3b-7, 12-13) The church itself is called a “sacrament of unity.”  Could it be that there is not only one Spirit but many life forces at work in different people and groups in dissimilar ways.
Linda Thomas, professor of anthropology and theology, provides a welcomed and important feminist view point. She writes about the work of the Spirit in the struggles of black women. “Black women have particular insight into the power of the Spirit because their historical radical marginality puts them in the center of myriad realities in which deeply rooted, unacknowledged, and unconventional wisdom dwells.” 
Diversity is everywhere, in everything, and in everyone. Variety or heterogeneity is a healthy and rich ingredient of life. Unity is also wonderful where it exists. But collaboration, which, ideally, is a good strategy for finding a common ground, can lead to an uncontested, single-mindedness. A balance between standing together on issues and accepting perceptions and solutions that challenge long standing assumptions is required.
One way to reach this accord is to employ a practice of intersectionality — a bringing together of divergent energies, spirits, talents, and gifts to a common ground. It starts with listening to and respecting what different people and groups have to say about the issues affecting them and what they would do to seek reconciliation. This is an interfaith strategy that reaches out to all races, creeds, genders and nationalities seeking peace and harmony.
In a Catholic example, Pope Francis is changing the way the Synod of Bishops operates. The Pope wants to make synodality the main driving force in the life of the church. To do so he is requiring bishops to “actively listen” to the views of church members before making proclamations that affect their lives and the lives of others.
Cardinal Mario Grech, Secretary General of the Synod of Bishops, said: "the time was ripe for a wider participation of the people of God in a decision-making process that affects the whole church and everyone in the church.”
Skeptics are doubtful that all bishops will agree to this strategy. Some bishops, like some politicians, are reluctant to give up their power and privilege. How then are we all suppose to work together to renew the face of the earth in peace? (Psalm 104; John 20:19-23)
Pentecost was a celebration marking the early wheat harvest. For our Jewish friends it is the feast of first fruits, Shavuot. For Christians it marks the infusion of the Spirit God into the lives of all people. That spiritual appropriation was not a one-time deal. It is a never ending process of growth and development.
The acknowledgement of the different ways the Spirit is present in the lives of all peoples requires a sense of solidarity and respect of the other. The holy Spirit is unbridled and cannot be contained or possessed by a privileged few
1. Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, No. 26.
2. Thomas, Linda E. “The Holy Spirit and Black Women: A Womanist Perspective” in Christian Doctrines for Global Gender Justice. Daggers, Jenny, Ji-Sun Kim, Grace, eds. (NY: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015) 73-88.
5/23/2021 07:50:17 am
Love the positive, hopeful tone in this message. Let's listen to each other and move forward!
5/23/2021 08:13:54 am
Thanks for sharing your insights. It was a nice way to celebrate this day!
Mary Beth Hofmeister
5/23/2021 10:34:26 am
Thank you for this message. Right on time.
5/23/2021 02:25:51 pm
Thanks for your message 🙏
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