Our Lasting Joy: allowing God to work through us
After listening to Richard Rohr’s book: Adam’s Return (The 5 promises of male spirituality),
I have developed a new understanding of Pentecost. One of the key features of the book revolves around the need for every man to be initiated. In other works, he states that women are naturally initiated by child-birth, whether they like it or not!
And Richard observes that, by and large, true initiation is no longer happening in western cultures. In the bigger cities of Kenya I’ve also observed the same.
As I reflected on these issues, I remembered the description of initiation for a boy in one of the native Indian tribes of America: the boy is taken into the forest at the end of daylight, blind-folded and made to sit on a log and remain that way until down. All through the night the wild animals make their noises, the wind creates strange sounds and the “boy” must remain sitting still and not make a noise. As far as he’s aware, there is no one around him: he is alone.
In the morning he removes the blindfold, and discovers his father sitting quietly not far away, unknowingly keeping guard over him during the night. But the boy thought he was alone. It taught the boy many things, and the presence of his father also teaches him something more. The boy learns to confront his fear without running away, and that a higher power is watching over him, whom he cannot see.
In Australian Aboriginal culture, the boys would often be given an axe after initiation: a sign that they have been trusted with power to serve, and not to hurt, the community.
Today, the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles, is the climax of the initiation of the Apostles: they received power which was used to serve the community and not themselves.
After the crucifixion, the Apostles had to confront their betrayals of Jesus, and their fear of the Jews. To their credit, they did not run away. Those days of uncertainty, fear and grieving were all an initiation to prepare them to receive the Holy Spirit with a proper openness and realisation that they themselves were not that important.
What was important is what they allowed God to do through them.
Perhaps that is the message for us today: what are we willing to allow God to do through us?
Is my life still too much about what I want? Or am I ready to allow God to work through me to help the Community?
People have said, “we received the Holy Spirit at Baptism and Confirmation? Why can’t we act like the Apostles?”
Perhaps it’s because we’re blocking the actions/plans of the Holy Spirit with our EGO: our minds filled with our own desires/plans, rather than being open to God’s plans.
In a sense, the Holy Spirit cannot be active in our lives unless we “kill off” our false self, which is the EGO, that wants to promote ourselves more than others.
Initiation, at its core, teaches young men (and women) that their lasting joy comes through their service to their community.
We can talk at length about the birthday of the Church, etc, etc. But what we need to realise is that Pentecost is not something that just happens. It happens when God thinks we are ready to receive; and that will be when we realise and ACCEPT that:
- Our importance comes from our Community;
if we don’t protect and help the Community, then it cannot make us important;
- The powers/gifts/talents we have are not for us alone:
they are to help the community which gives all of us life;
- We have to listen and speak to people where they are at = in their own language;
not at where we are at, or where we think the other person should be at;
The Gospel reading sees Jesus giving authority to the Apostles: a sign that God entrusted them (and us) not to misuse the authority: they either set people free or create protections for them.
Are we ready for such power? Whatever age we are, we have power over younger people. How do we use it? Does it feed our EGO or serve the other?
I gently suggest that while the EGO is very important for our dignity, when we inflate our EGO it’s difficult for the Holy Spirit to empower our lives, and limits our ability to find lasting joy. Let’s pray this week that we may acknowledge where our EGO is “inflated”, and ask God’s Wisdom to discern how to be more open to God’s plans through us.
By Gerard Conlan, OMI