Being Led by the Spirit?

May 31, 2020

As we embrace this Solemnity of Pentecost, our openness to the Holy Spirit is paramount.  We are to be led to places we never imagined, in ways never conceived before.  The early Church bore witness to the flexibility, the openness and the excitement of looking forward, knowing they were living in the power of God.  They took adversity and persecution in stride.  They related to a Jesus crucified and expected nothing less in their lives.  Being led by the Spirit meant they embraced the moment given to them expecting resentment and rejection.  Overcoming their fear, the early followers looked only to the heavens and knew strength was on the way.

When I went to Africa for the first time, I was a young priest in my twenties.  What I witnessed in Ethiopia was a rejoicing and reverence for life even in the midst of a drought and surrounded by starvation.  Happiness came from an openness to blessing that made the day tolerable.  It was amazing and overwhelming to me.  The battle for all of us is can we be led by the Spirit or are we trying to lead the Spirit?  Too often we try to lead the Spirit by building up walls of protection, walls of security.  The disciples had to leave the locked room and engage in the world.  They had to overcome fear and not worry about results.  They had to walk in a newness of life trusting in the Holy Spirit and all that Jesus had given them.

We live in a new world.  We are being called to live faith and express our spirituality in new ways.  Fear is not to lead us. We are not to lead ourselves.  There will be new outbreaks and there will be new tragedies.  Fear cannot stop these.  There will also be new stories of heroes and heroines; there will be new breakthroughs and setbacks.  Depression is real; the loss of jobs and revenue are real.  All of this can allow us to be led to places of hopelessness and despair.  Instead, we are to be led by the Spirit.  The battle has not changed.  We may try to do the leading; we may try to convince ourselves that our own voice is interpreting the Holy Spirit correctly.  Trust me; that is a dangerous place to be.  Being led is not leading.  Being led is staying open to the ever changing landscape of the present, knowing ultimately God is in control.  It is easy to lose that, especially in the present day climate.

Now more than ever, we must stand in confidence even when it is six feet apart from one another.  We must walk with hope even if we are wearing a face mask.  We are to be fierce with forgiveness and understanding in a time when frustration is over abundant.  Now is our time to be led.  Being led is the hardest thing to do when we are a people driven to accomplish, driven to perfection and driven to be correct.  The Holy Spirit is beyond being driven.  The experience of the Spirit is to do the driving.

May this Pentecost find us in prayer, surrendering to the authentic Holy Spirit.  Peace will come when we do.

Father John J. Ouper