Last week I was visiting a childhood friend, realizing that it has been decades since we became friends. The time spent visiting was wonderful. Though apart for many years, it was as if we had not skipped a beat. It was really quite a gift. We had fun catching up and sharing the adventures of our lives, some joyous and some not so joyous. In all, the blessings seem to outweigh the sufferings mostly because when one is with a friend there is always the light of love to make whatever came before seem just a bit less difficult.
Not surprisingly, part of our time together included a series of new shared adventures. We also had a few travel "misadventures" which culminated in my trip back home. One day we tried to get to the airport to pick up a friend and we ended up stuck in traffic for quite a while due to a flooded underpass. We concluded that it was better to have sat in the car for all that time then to have stood in a crowded airport. The next day while returning from the city, we had to leave the train early due to a problem on the tracks ahead. Again we were stuck somewhere, only this time it was in a town far from our destination. It could have been worse, because it was only an hour that we waited to be transported to our destination. The final event of this "trifecta of travel woes" came as my husband and I were flying home after the visit. After an uneventful first flight, the connecting flight was cancelled. It was unbelievable. We were “stranded” in an airport for 5 hours waiting for the flight home, only to get stuck on the plane for another hour due to a thunderstorm. Just to be sure, I am not planning any cruises or boat travel in the near future!
The point of all this is that life is filled with adventures, and in adventures things do not always go as we hope or plan. In the situations I just mentioned, there were happy endings, but in between there were many annoyances. We “lost” hours we could have used for something else in the midst of all the delays. But what made it all bearable was that I was with friends in all three of these situations. Annoying as it was, we were able to enjoy each other; the time was not wasted at all, even if our plans were altered. What helped the most was having a sense of humor, not to mention a healthy dose of patience. In the end everything turned out okay, even if the path was not quite what we had hoped for. The sharing of time together was more important than our initial plans.
What can make or break situations is not only our attitude about them, but also our set of expectations. The only expectation my friend and I had was to share time together. It really did not matter where we were, truly. We had great conversation stuck in traffic, stuck on the train, and stuck in a parking lot waiting to be bused back to our destination. I think we learned a lot about each other in the moment of adversity. There was no sense panicking or complaining. It was what it was. But what I think truly was present was the sense that we were not alone and so we could get through whatever it was together. So it is with friends! (And spouses!)
This is how it must have been for the apostles at Pentecost. In the three years that they were with Jesus they had their lives turned upside down a number of times. First they left everything in order to follow, which they did willingly, and then they started to discover what following actually meant. They were shocked to discover that no sooner had they spent a little time with Jesus, then He sent them away, two by two, out into towns and villages, telling them they could preach, heal, and cast out demons. Every time they thought they had it figured out, Jesus would surprise them and challenge their expectations by either something He did or something they were to do. No doubt their world was constantly rocked by what He revealed to them.
The final change for them was when Jesus died. Even though He told them very clearly three times that He would die and rise, they were stunned when it happened. They ran and hid because of that shock. Even after Jesus rose they seemed in shock, continuing to hide in the Upper Room in Jerusalem until He came and explained things to them once again. Before He ascended Jesus told them to continue to wait in the Upper Room until the Holy Spirit came from on high to empower them. I wonder what they were thinking as they prayed and waited. By now they had to know that whatever this new experience was to be, it was not like anything they had imagined three years previously when they said yes to following Jesus. They must have been more at peace than ever before.
Pentecost must have been a stunning experience for the 120 people who were in that Upper Room, (according to Luke). They had had remarkable adventures with Jesus. Some of those adventures were filled with joy, such as at the wedding at Cana, or watching a paralytic walk again. Some of them were terrifying, such as being caught in a storm thinking they would drown, or being with Jesus when he gave the Bread of Life sermon and the crowds got really upset with what He had said. Most difficult was the night Jesus was arrested and was subsequently put to death. However, their faith, even when shaky, was rewarded when He did indeed rise. So at Pentecost they had no clue what was in store, but by then they had learned not to worry about their expectations and truly opened up to the way the Spirit would lead them. They had become ready and open. Therefore they could receive what was being given. They could receive the power, and the responsibility which came with using it, given by the Holy Spirit.
No wonder they were filled with such joy! The apostles knew that the road ahead was going to be filled with adventures, some joy-filled and some very painful. They understood that they would probably die similarly to how Jesus died. But in the light of eternity, it no longer mattered because they knew that in the end they would be doing the work of building the Kingdom in which they would reside forever with their Lord. They learned to accept whatever was before them and not to complain if it did not go as they expected or planned. It was not their plan that mattered, but God's plan. Therefore they were able to be filled with the joy of the Spirit which is the very gift of God. Best of all, they knew they were never alone. All of their experiences would be with a friend. Whether it was a fellow disciple or whether it was simply with the Friend of All Friends, Jesus, they were never alone in any of the events that befell them.
This Pentecost let us allow the Holy Spirit to help us accept the adventures of our lives, realizing that the difficult ones (especially) can teach us great lessons. This no pie in the sky platitude: as painful as life can be with its betrayals and all that is unfair and unjust, and with all that makes no sense at all, we can persevere in the knowledge that the Lord is with us always. The little annoyances and derailments can be overcome and can even be laughed at if we remember to keep it all in perspective. With the power of the Holy Spirit given us in the sacraments and through prayer we are never alone when the really big difficulties occur. The apostles are a great example of this. After Pentecost they went out to minister and every one of them suffered terribly in the end, just as Jesus had said. But they knew they were never alone and they knew that their lives had been in service of others. They touched many, sharing the joy of the Spirit and the love of Jesus.
May we be open to new life and the renewal of our gifts from the Holy Spirit this Pentecost! May we be filled with the joy of the Holy Spirit and the fortitude to live the true Christian life, which is not always easy! May we share in many adventures with our friends and loved ones, knowing we are never alone and therefore find joy in the sharing! Let us meet in the Heart of Jesus, filled with the love of the Father, in the peace and joy of the Holy Spirit which knows no definition!
The image at the top is The Holy Spirit, The Lord, the Giver of Life,The Paraclete, Sender of Peace by Rev. William Hart McNichols. It can be found at
(A little Holy Spirit red for the occasion!)
The two photos are mine. The first was taken at Gulf Shores, Alabama with the assistance of some filters to create the golden tones in the photo. I chose this photo because it reminded me of the Holy Spirit hovering over the waters in Genesis, the golden tones representing the glory of God.
The last picture was cropped out of a photo I took in Ireland. (Can you tell?) I know it is not a dove, but to me it is symbolic of the Spirit descending.
Heart Speaks to Heart