Sunday, May 27, 2012


Acts 2:1-11 / John 14:23-31

Wait till your father gets home! In the United States, at least, this is a powerful and final warning of a mother to her wayward children. Having exhausted her store of ways to bring uncooperative children in line, she reminds them that hers is not the final authority. To escape her correction is not to escape correction itself, and indeed one would be happier to receive correction at her gentler hand than the sterner, if yet altogether fair and just, correction of one's father. Having heard this warning — Wait till your father gets home! — few children would wish the father's swift return, much less call and pray for his coming to be soon. At the same time, the wait, the delay of his arrival can itself be terrible, sometimes even enough for a real change of heart, a transformation and repentance so that the mother can report to the father, when he comes, not of the disobedience and rebellion alone, but of the subsequent turning back to humility and uprightness.

Chances are, we do not have this experience in mind when we call upon the Holy Spirit and pray again and again, "Veni! Come!" For most of us, the Spirit is best, and indeed only, spoken of as comforter, as friend, as light, rest, coolness, and solace, a healer and giver of gifts. The Spirit's coming is, for us, anticipated with joy and wonder, without a shred of apprehension or doubt. However much God the Father may remind us of the fire, cloud, and thunder of Sinai, and however much even the gentle Son reminds us of the great and awful day when he will judge the nations, the Spirit evokes none of that, and so without hesitation we seek to hasten his coming.

Yet, among his titles which we extol today, which we sing throughout the Church of Rome in the glorious sequence Veni Sancte Spiritus is pater pauperum, Father of the poor. In our song, the words may pass swiftly and hardly be noticed, but in failing to take them into account we would be making a terrible mistake. After all, how certain are we that we have treated the poor in a way that the Holy Spirit, their father, would be pleased with us? Can we say without hesitation that the Father of the poor would find in our generosity and charity, in our fellowship and joy to be among the poor, a model which would incline him to claim us as one of his own? Or, perhaps we might find ourselves to have treated the poor callously, with disregard or avoidance, at best with benign condescension, at worst with outright contempt.

If this latter should be the case, how comfortable can we be when our mother, the Church, tells us that our Father, the pater pauperum, is coming home? How joyful ought we to be that she prays earnestly that he come, and come soon? Perhaps it would be better for us to be like those wise children who seek to amend their ways, to treat as fellow sons and daughters, indeed and privileged and especially loved children, the poor in our midst. Perhaps we might recall that the Spirit who would be our Comforter and Friend, who will heal in us whatever is broken or ill, warm the chillness of our hearts and cool the oppressive heat of our wanton desires, is not only coming, but is here even now, deep within the hearts of the baptized. We might do well to recall that the same Father of the poor who will hold us responsible for how we treat his children is at the same time the one who will make it possible for us to love and embrace the poor as we ought.

God the Spirit is not, after all, sent among us to be our judge, but rather as our Advocate. He it is who will defend our cause, not make the case against us. Will we, then, be his friends as well? Will we take him on as our Councillor and follow his advice? Will we open our hearts to the poor, and in so doing, find ourselves fitting dwelling places of the Spirit, already at work in us to make us fit for the Kingdom of God?

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