The Spirit Within
Breathe in me, O Holy Spirit, that my thoughts may all be holy;
Act in me, O Holy Spirit, that my works, too, may be holy;
Draw my heart, O Holy Spirit, that I love but what is holy;
Strengthen me, O Holy Spirit, to defend that is holy;
Guard me then, O Holy Spirit, that I always may be holy.
St. Augustine of Hippo (AD 354-430)
This famous prayer of St. Augustine illustrates well the place of the Spirit in each disciple: within the person. Frequently, religious art and imagery depict the Holy Spirit coming to believers from the outside. It is our belief that the Spirit of the living God is placed within us at our baptism and remains with us for the rest of our lives. The church later confirms and seals this experience, and we return to our baptismal center every time we celebrate the Eucharist.
The current graduation season parallels well the Pentecost event that is described in John’s gospel that we will hear this Sunday. The believers are locked in a room, and Jesus comes to them and asks them to “receive the Spirit,” to draw on the presence of God within them, to own the experience of God’s centeredness deep in their beings. Jesus was not handing them a tongue of fire or a dove. Rather, he was inviting them to look within their lives and see God’s strong, gentle presence that was powerful enough to move them beyond their fears and locked doors. His Spirit was sending them out, out into the real world where they could be free to live and choose and dream and build and love.
When our young people graduate, they may not be perfectly ready for the demands of life beyond their school building or campus, but they are empowered to confront life’s challenges because they possess the power of God that is grace, deep within them, to make life-giving choices. All believers have this power, not because of a diploma or degree, but because of the presence of the Holy Spirit.
Certainly, Pentecost is not a graduation. Rather, it is a validation that each of us has been given all of the grace we need to live full lives, to combat suffering with patience, to confront evil with love, to replace sadness with joy, and to quell fear with courage because Jesus’ ascension was not his departure: His Spirit remains within us, and we are called to claim this grace and allow it to impel us to live Jesus.