Pentecost at Mississippi Abbey

Scripture Readings: Acts 2:1-11;  1 Cor 12:3b-7, 12-13;  Jn 20:19-23

Today we celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit to us as a community; as the Church and as this monastic community within the Church.

From the letter to the Galatians we see how the Spirit given to the community has affected the development of character, communally and individually. Character is the determination of ourselves formed by having certain intentions and beliefs and not others.” By “Intentions” we mean what we strive for. Paul tells us those intentions can center either on “the flesh”, our choice to live primarily for satisfactions, or on the Spirit, the choice to imitate Christ and live for the good-in-itself, and the good of others. Either way it is what we devote ourselves to for its own sake that will determine our character, the kind of person and community we become. Our character is a gift of the object of our devotion.

The path of least resistance is the flesh. Paul calls to mind people who live for the sake of the satisfactions of the flesh. These are people who are lustful, people who are hateful, who are selfish and who Google themselves. Some become weighed down by their success at getting satisfaction; others despair at their failure. The weight is the multiplicity of satisfactions available to us, all of which eventually lose their charm. What the works of the flesh have in common is that they are not true; they’re fleeting. Character-wise, we become nothing more than that which simply happens to us.

Then we are given the Spirit…the Spirit of Truth. We don’t experience it like we do a good meal or a movie. But it affects us. That it affects us means that we go from indifference to caring. The Spirit affects us in a way that transforms us in an enduring way. When it does, one thing is principally required of us: pay attention to it. The Spirit is the power by which we live the intentions and beliefs of Christian character.

Perhaps the two greatest convictions of such character that the Spirit gives us is that of the goodness of God and the importance of our usefulness to others.

These convictions and the attention we give to them contribute in some measure to making our character development deliberate, to becoming what we decide to be. The effective power, though, is from the Spirit of Christ. It sanctifies us.

Paul specifies the results of the Spirit. The Spirit, through the fruit of faithfulness, gives us some control and consistency in our manner of life. The fruit of selfcontrol empowers us to determine beforehand our future conduct that is not presently under our control. We become more than simply what happens to us. Our community can count on our moral continuity and thus on its own. The Spirit’s fruit of patience enables us to form ourselves by enduring adversity in a particular way.

These fruits of the Spirit affect us because our attention is directed and informed by a story…a true story… lived in a community. It is the story of the gospels and, for us, the RB. It is a major life-decision to form and judge one’s life by a story she did not write. We knew many stories from our previous secular lives, so it is a very serious use of our freedom to decide to form ourselves from the Christian story rather than others. Life in the Spirit doesn’t just affect our actions; it affects our vision, how we see the world around us. As morally serious people—single, married, and monastic—our character has not been left to chance.

So, the story must be true. It must free us. And the Spirit of Christ gives us that freedom for the purpose of carrying out the mission of the Church.  It sanctifies us. It affects us in ways that are pervasive, enduring, and deep.

And we find that living this story yields the fruits of joy, peace, kindness and gentleness.