It’s no secret that Queen Elizabeth II has just been celebrating the jubilee of 70 years as queen. A picture that grabbed my attention was a scene on the balcony of the palace. The whole family was there, waving back at the huge crowds and marching troops. But little Prince Louis (about 5 or 6) was yawning and clamping his hands to his ears to shut out the sound. He was bored stiff. He wasn’t interested at all. He was intentionally oblivious to the parade of life before him. It didn’t affect him. I recall reading of a woman who was a child when the Mona Lisa was brought to New York for a special exhibit. Her father was all excited and told her this was an experience she would remember all her life. She didn’t remember anything except getting an ice cream cone afterwards. It didn’t affect her. She wasn’t really interested.
These pictures suddenly mirrored back to me the lack of interest, of presence that can coat and block my perception of reality. I just don’t let it affect me.
If something affects us, it impacts our life even if it is beyond conscious recall. We often don’t want to recall what has affected us negatively or painfully. When we are engaged at a level of interest, this can be something that goes far beyond curiosity or entertainment. What we are really interested in claims our attention, our cooperation, our devotion, our sacrifice, our commitment. It can consume us. Life breaks in and we are drawn out of ourselves. We are affected and changed.
I think the feast of Pentecost celebrates God’s interest in us. This interest is not that of a foreman or judge, not that of someone waiting for us to render accounts, not that of a benignly observant uncle. His interest is His gift of Himself – unconditionally. His interest is His being among us: inter – est. He is affected by us and his love frees us to be affected by him. His forgiveness and peace reveal the blinders, the ways we cover our eyes and ears like little Louis, that prevent us from seeing the Lord.
We are used to sitting in our enclosed rooms, not always admitting that we have been made captive by our own fears. We are acutely aware of our limitations and define our lives in terms that provide the greatest security and familiarity. It is noteworthy that the Risen Lord totally by-passes our doors and locks in presenting himself in our midst. He doesn’t follow the expected protocol.
His proclamation of peace, forgiveness, and liberation communicates the life and spirit of the New Creation in our midst. God could not be more interested in us than to give us his own Spirit. He breathes over us. As He made Jesus a life-giving spirit, he makes his new community a life-giving spirit. The standard protocols which have erected barriers and divisions will not lead us to communion.
We can be justly stunned by this unthinkable and disproportionate approach by God. It is not that it is unbelievable. It is that it is only believable, that faith is the only way to be radically affected in one’s heart by the full implications of this gift, of this love affair with God. We are called to move beyond the pseudo-humility and the embarrassment of being drawn out into the light of day from the shadows of apathy and impotence. The sacred is the new possibility that the presence and gift of the Spirit makes in our lives. The “gifts” of the Spirit (wisdom, courage, knowledge of God, piety, fear of the Lord) are signs and effects of His life within us.
The Spirit is an interested love which unlocks the gifts of each of us in our uniqueness and frees us to rejoice in the giftedness of love that singles out all of God’s children. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body. To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit. God’s Spirit is the great equalizer. No one is more loved than another. We are all made a new creation by the grace and forgiveness of God approaching and addressing us in the Risen Lord. The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. We will not see Him if we put our hands over our eyes and ears, if we choose not to be affected by this mystery which creates the Church. If we let the Spirit dwell within us, perhaps we can say I am because we are.