May 19, 2015

Pentecost Reflection - Order Out of Confusion


Fr. René J. Butler, M.S.

Remember learning about mixed metaphors, where two or more incompatible images are used to describe one thing? Years ago I saw a cartoon from the New Yorker magazine, where an executive speaking to his staff says, “Gentlemen, I smell a rat. I can feel it in the air. And I will nip it in the bud!”

We seem to have a similar confusion about the Holy Spirit, presented in the New Testament as a dove, wind, fire, and called “Paraclete,” which in turn is translated sometimes as Comforter and sometimes as Advocate. The hymn “Veni Sancte Spiritus” calls on the Spirit to “melt the frozen, warm the chill,” just after describing the Spirit as “Grateful coolness in the heat.”

But all this isn’t so strange as it might at first appear. The key lies in John 3:8, “The wind blows where it wills… but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes.” (See 1 Corinthians 12Galatians 5:22-23 for just a few examples.) The Spirit is “spontaneous,” unpredictable, bestowing extraordinary gifts, often on unsuspecting, unlikely persons, precisely to meet a particular need in the Church or the world.

It’s no wonder that Pentecost is such an exciting feast!

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