The Spirit Gets You, a Pentecost Reflection

by Sr. Mary Ann Zimmer, ND

How are you doing with that Bird??

Student: Ok, Sister, I get God the Father and I’m kind of OK with Jesus, but that bird just misses me!


Many of us, I would guess, are like that student. The feast of Pentecost prompts us to ask, What are we to make of the Holy Spirit? That Bird? Jesus clearly promised to send the Spirit as his presence among us, offering peace and courage, teaching us what to say, loosening our tongues, making us witnesses to the Good News of God’s unconditional love.

Since few of us hear roaring winds or see tongues of flame in our everyday lives, where is the Spirit? Are our encounters with the Spirit confined to sudden inspirations or moments of extraordinary life decisions? Or is the Spirit with us always, as Jesus promised?

The late Jesuit Fr. Dick Hauser had a very simple approach that helped me find the Spirit in my daily life. Whatever leads to greater faith, hope, or love, he wrote, points us to the action of the Holy Spirit. Whatever leads us away from those things can be treated as a temptation. That’s it. Of course, at any particular moment the direction of a given action can be difficult to discern. That is where the Spirit as a guide and helper is most real. Jesus’ Spirit is a patient teacher. We won’t always get it right, but we can learn through our own honest reflection, prayer, and the accompaniment of wise companions who share our life. This may not be a pastor, but a book group, walking buddy, golf partner, or shift co-worker. The Spirit is where we are.

This means that the Spirit is with us every day in the life choices that we make moment by moment. We know what they are for us.

The Spirit leads us to love at the times when it takes so much courage to say, “I don’t like to hear people talked about that way.” When we keep making gentle consistent offers of connection to an alienated adolescent. When we begin that difficult conversation with a spouse. When we ask for help. When we begin taking some small action against a seemingly overwhelming wrong.

The Spirit is leading us in the direction of fostering hope when we lend our voice to other concerned citizens to guide the trajectory of our community. When we educate ourselves and vote. When we stick with the scary moments of dialogue with our neighbors. When we offer respect to the person who risks rejection because of their sexual orientation or transgender identity–when we simply express our common humanity.

The Spirit is with us when we take action to increase faith. Consistent (not perfect) care for an infant or child is a foundation for all future faith. The Spirit is powerful when we treat our co-workers or employees with dignity and solidify their own faith in humanity. When grandpa lies down with his grandson for their nap together, this is an action of the Spirit building faith. Tiny? Yes. So is most of the daily activity of the Spirit.

Who or what increased your faith, hope, and love today? How did your choices move toward faith, hope, and love? Where could you see it calling to you, but you were not yet ready to respond? Where did the Spirit help you resist temptation to move away from faith, hope, or love? When did you take a moment to rest in the knowledge that you are accompanied by a patient, ever-present teacher? This is the good news –the Spirit gets you.

A word of caution, if you do happen to actually hear the Holy Spirit, be careful who you tell. I once told a therapist about a very brief experience of hearing God’s voice speaking to me in prayer, and he wrote down that I had auditory hallucinations! No problem, I guess since that voice did lead me to greater faith, hope, and love!