Pentecost and the Pilgrim People of God

May 13, 2024

Mystical Word for Pentecost
by L. J. Milone

The Church is the pilgrim people of God.
Readings for May 19, 2024 (Pentecost - Mass during the day)

Membership in the church is no small thing.  To be a member of the church means we have been given the gift of the Holy Spirit.  In the Letter to the Galatians, St. Paul says, “If we live in the Spirit, let us also follow the Spirit.”  The gift of the Spirit enables us to take up the greatest adventure in all the universe: the spiritual journey, which is about seeking the Absolute.  To be in the church, to be a follower of Jesus, is to be seeking the Absolute. 

Pentecost is the feast of the Holy Spirit and the birthday of the church.  The two mysteries are related.  We each have the Holy Spirit, who as the very Love of God dwells within us, and so we can live spiritual lives.  A spiritual life is not a life opposed to the regular activities, experiences, and relationships that make up our everyday lives.  Spirit is not the extreme opposite of the physical.  They are one.  God is within us, and this is true at this very moment.  Rather, to live spiritually means being on a journey of seeking the Absolute Reality we call God and knowing this Reality more and more.  It is a life that changes us so that we can pour the love of God into our world and share in its healing and salvation.  The spiritual life means we seek the Absolute in our own lives, not apart from the warp and woof of our daily existence but precisely in it.

This seeking of God, the Absolute, does not happen in a sealed-off individual life.  I seek the Absolute along with many, many others.  This is the church.  It is the community dedicated to seeking the Absolute.  The Second Vatican Council calls the church, “the pilgrim people of God.”  All of us together are on a spiritual journey.  We are a people at once wholly one with God yet in great need of realizing we are one with God.  This is true of each one of us personally and of the entire church.  Like the people of Israel wandering in the desert, we can feel lost.  We can feel like the whole church is lost!  Yet, like the ancient Hebrews in the desert, we too are being led by God.  The spiritual life calls us to seek God within our souls and in the church.  But, is this what we really want?

What are you seeking?  Do you seek power?  Fame?  A slightly higher salary?  A morning without traffic?  A good cup of coffee?  Jesus says, “where our treasure is, there our heart lies.”  What we cherish reveals our true intention.  We may never want grand things like celebrity, millions of dollars, a villa in Tuscany, or whatever rich fantasy we can concoct.  Our desires may be far simpler.  We may want a night to ourselves, a slimmer waistline, a smile from the lady at the grocery store, a decent parking space, or to be able to pay all our bills.  How much do we want these little things? 

The spiritual journey involves becoming clear about what we truly desire.  It is a daring journey within, a prayer journey so we can gain our heart’s ultimate desire: the Absolute.  Everything else pales in comparison.  Nothing else will truly satisfy.  Desire for God is more than a desire we have, like wanting a better garbage disposal.  The desire for God is who we are.  To take a radical journey inwards through prayer is to discover how much competition the desire for the Absolute has.  As soon as we pray, a thousand other wants can come rushing in.  Becoming aware of these other wants helps to clarify our desire for God, and, along with interior silence, leads us to the stillpoint of desire: God alone.

The Rule of St. Benedict begins with the words, “Let anyone come who seeks Christ.”  Perhaps this is the real litmus test for the church?  Do we want God?  Do we seek the Absolute?  If so, we are in the right place.  We may think we’re not worthy, sinful, or too immoral ever to seek God.  Jesus reminds us we are not, for God loves us just as we are.  Jesus send us the Spirit to keep us in the loop of relationship with God.  The Spirit is our unbreakable tether to the Absolute.  Nothing we do can outright destroy the divine indwelling, that is, God present within us.  St. Paul says, “For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, slaves or free persons, and we were all given to drink of one Spirit.”  No one is excluded.  All have the Spirit.  God is within us all; God is with the church.

God is with us.  We are the church.  Even more, the church is here to help us own this truth, enjoy it, live it, and pass it on to others.  For when we know God’s love deep in our souls we are compelled to share it.  Here we come to the greatest mission of the church, namely, to share the unbreakable intimacy with the Absolute each of us already has.