About this articleLooking for a short and meaningful essay for Pentecost? This personal reflection can serve as a good discussion starter or retreat piece. Excellent for faculty groups and students.
There is a vocal exercise I do with my choir every time we gather for rehearsal. It's very simple. I ask them to take in a deep breath and sigh. Take a moment to breathe deeply and sigh. This warm-up is a great stress reliever that helps one relax and become centered before getting up to sing. Breathing deeply and becoming grounded at the center of our souls is essential for the journey of discipleship with Jesus Christ. Jesus speaks of the Spirit as truth and as the One who helps us live the truth. On the feast of Pentecost, the Spirit reminds us that we speak the truth from the center of our being.
As many of you know, I am training to climb Mount Rainier next month, and cardiovascular fitness is a high priority in the training process. I have been paying attention to my pulse rate a lot these days. My wrist is too small to get an accurate pulse, so I take it from my neck at the jugular vein. Take a moment, if you haven't done this today, to feel your pulse at your neck. On this feast of Pentecost, the Spirit reminds us that God is closer to us than the pulse at our throats.
Last week I went up to Paradise at Mount Rainier to participate in a one-day training course in order to climb with the Rainier Mountaineers next month. I was the only woman in that particular training group that day along with six men, three of them over 6 feet 4 inches. Now the first part of the training day was a rapid hike out in the snow, and we were supposed to follow the leader's pace. The guy in front of me was 6 feet 5 inches, and I struggled to match his stride. I am only 5 feet 5 inches. At one point, about 40 minutes into the hike, I was near the point of hyperventilating and dropping out of the training session. Then I listened to an inner voice that said, "Relax and breathe deeply." Once I did that, I was fine and finished the rest of the training day with no problem at all. On the feast of Pentecost, the Spirit reminds us to breathe deeply of God.
Awhile back, I spent some time at Children's Hospital with a seventeen-year-old girl named Erin and her family. Erin has begun the process of dying (a process with an indeterminate length). Erin is at peace with her decision to die. She was diagnosed with liver cancer over two years ago. She has endured a liver transplant and further complications of tumors in her spine and lungs from the spread of the disease. This past week, Erin shared with her family that she is tired of fighting and ready to let go. She is ready to go to God, and her family is ready to let her go. She has been in the hospital this past week to regulate the pain medication. As I sat with Erin in her hospital room, I held her hand and had my other hand on her shoulder. She was dozing in and out of consciousness because of the heavy doses of drugs. I sat and prayed quietly with her, feeling overwhelmed by the sacred gift of life I held in my hands.
I prayed too about the incredible mystery of life and death--that our bodies are programmed for life, and yet in order to embrace eternal life, we must die. A profound mystery beyond words. As I prayed, I sensed in the room a tremendous amount of love and an incredible amount of faith among Erin, her family, and her friends. I also felt sadness and loss. But I did not sense fear at all. There was no fear. Over all this I felt the Spirit of peace. The gifts of the Spirit, as spoken in Paul's Letter to the Galatians, are truly present among Erin's family. On the feast of Pentecost, the Spirit reminds us that we are never alone and that God is stronger than death.
Pentecost culminates our ninety days of the Lenten, Triduum, and Easter season with the gift of the Holy Spirit. As we move into Ordinary Time and continue the journey of discipleship, we are reminded once again that the Spirit of God is always with us; we are never alone. The Spirit breathes within us and helps us speak and live the truth. When we are centered, we can hear the Spirit beating in rhythm to the pulse of our heart and soul. Like those early disciples, the Spirit gives us courage to speak boldly of God's deeds of power and goodness. On the feast of Pentecost, we are called to embrace the gifts of the Spirit. For Jesus promises us that we are never alone on our journey of faith.
So, as we gather around this eucharistic table, let us breathe deeply of God, giving thanks to God who is closer to us than the pulse at our throat and who is stronger than any sickness or death. Amen.
AcknowledgmentsBy Denise Pyles, RSCJ
Published May 30, 2000.