Photos of Young Adults smiling, cheering in cap and gown. A great day for them and for their families. Celebration! Degrees earned, lessons learned, friendships fostered others abandoned for good or ill -yet, hopefully insights gained about self, others, the reality of relationships. There is a lot to cheer about. And there’s Hope and excitement: What’s next? What’s new? Onward and Forward to the challenges ahead—ready or not!
Have they, do we, acknowledge what all events like these encompass? Or do we just go through the motions, eager to enjoy the dinners planned for the evening or anxiously anticipate getting back to work, or addressing the problems at home in the days ahead?
In these, and in each of our lives’ celebrations, faith demands that we ask: Where is God in all of this? To what extend are we, are they, our families and friends conscious of the spiritual potentials in these and other events that comprise the moments of our lives? To what extent can we / might we surrender to the moment, be attentive to the present and allow the events of the past these events evoke bring us Wisdom, give us humility and insights into who we are and who we want to be in the days and years ahead?
In truth, Graduations, like Confirmations, Weddings, Job promotions / transfers, moving into new apartments/ new homes/ new neighborhoods have the potential to echo the realities of that first Pentecost – a culmination of life experiences with Jesus that give an ordinary celebration profound effects as it did centuries ago for Peter, John, James, the Blessed Mother, Mary Magdalene, Mary (Mother of James) and other disciples—deepening our understanding of who we were, who we are and what we are becoming. Yes, they have the potential, but what do we do to bring their potentials to fulfillment?
On that first Christian Pentecost, the disciples were gathering for the Jewish Feast of Pentecost: The Second Harvest Festival 50 days after the Barley Harvest Festival of Passover–a day of Thanksgiving, rest and celebration. It may or may not, at that time, have merged the festival with the commemoration of Moses presenting the people with Ten Commandment from Mount Sinai—perhaps a different Feast Day that was combined with that one. Nevertheless, the disciples had gathered to pray and focus on Thanksgiving –for the simple gifts of life and nourishment, and, for them, gratitude for the Resurrected Jesus and his pledge to be with them always and strengthen them with the Holy Spirit.
On that day, as in other days, the disciples hoped for further clarification of Jesus’ story and how they would / could / should understand His Story as foundational to their own. They didn’t have a guarantee that this would be the day; Jesus hadn’t told them the date. They had to be present to the Feast they came to celebrate and simply be conscious that God’s Spirit is alive in all good things, and in all times and places. Do we enter our celebrations—Graduations and otherwise–in the same way?
Whether conscious of it or not, our graduates have benefited from the Gifts of the Holy Spirit since birth. They, like us, were endowed with the Spirit at Baptism and strengthened in the Spirit through Confirmation and every reception of the Eucharist in between and beyond. Yes, Gifts of the Holy Spirit: Wisdom, Understanding, Awe of God, Wonder in God’s Creation, Courage, Fortitude, Aptitude for Mercy, Justice with Compassion.
The lesson here: How much more could they, could we engage in life’s challenges and struggles if we more consciously and deliberately attend to the Holy Spirit? All we must do is connect our stresses with those of Jesus and the disciples, relate our vacillating between fear and hope with Israelites in the desert, the peoples of the Scriptures and the Saints who’ve come after, continually learning from them, and, like them, acknowledging our conscious dependence upon God.
On this Pentecost, we can take comfort that God’s grace is active in us and our world whether we pay attention to the Spirit or not. Despite ourselves. Jesus walks with us whether we know it or not. But Scripture, Prayer and Sacrament connect us to the bigger picture, the better picture: our lives are not our own but belong to God and for the service of God. In Churches and in Homes we are the people called to a great awakening in our consciousness for charity toward ourselves and others in all things, to make this a better world, more caring world, a world where others see that discipleship in Jesus does and can make a difference—for everyone. All for the greater glory of God.