Have you ever been given a gift that you weren’t quite sure what you were going to do with? Maybe at first you just put it aside, figuring you might use it someday. But then, only later, did you find yourself using it all the time? You didn’t realize what you had?
Years ago for my birthday, my brother gave me one of those pocket Leatherman multi-tool knives — the one when you flip it open you find pliers, wire cutter, serrated knife, a can opener, a bottle opener, a screwdriver, even toenail clippers. I was grateful, seeing as we just bought our home, but I really wasn’t sure when I would use it. Of course, after about a year in my home, I found myself needing and using that tool so much that I started carrying it around with me on the weekends. In fact, I used it so much, I broke it. And I bought another one just like it.
All of us have a story like that. Maybe we received a gift like a jacket or hat, a kitchen utensil, something for your garden, or your garage. We were just a little puzzled about what we were going to do with this new thing, maybe a little stuck in our ways… we just weren’t open to all the possibilities… until we started to use it.
You know, God gave us an even greater gift than that, one He expects us to use every day. A gift that is always present, 24/7. Always at work. A gift that brings us wisdom, understanding, counsel, knowledge, fortitude, piety, and wonder. The gift of the Holy Spirit.
Think about this: Jesus told his apostles that His resurrected self would not be practical once Christianity hit the four corners of the earth. He told them He had to leave them, so that the Holy Spirit could remain ever active, ever present in everyone’s life. Today. It’s like Christ changed from flesh and blood to spirit in order to be able to dwell in every heart. Your heart. In order to guide our feet into way of peace.
No one likes change. We like things just the way they are. At work, at home, in Church, even how we understand God. As Pope Francis has said, often we are willing to follow God, but only up to a certain point. It is hard to abandon ourselves like that with complete trust, allowing the Holy Spirit to guide our every decision. We fear that God may force us to strike out on new paths and leave behind some of our narrow, closed and selfish horizons in order to become open to his own.
We are not supposed to simply receive this gift.
We are asked to be bold enough to use it.
And the Pope also said that throughout the history of salvation, whenever God reveals himself, he brings newness and change. God demands our complete trust: Noah, mocked by all, builds an ark and is saved; Abram leaves his land with only a promise in hand; Moses stands up to the might of Pharaoh and leads his people to freedom; the apostles, huddled fearfully in the Upper Room, go forth with courage to proclaim the Gospel.
Are we open to Gods surprises? Or are we closed and fearful before the newness of the Holy Spirit? Do we have the courage to strike out along the new paths which Gods newness sets before us, or do we resist, barricaded in habits which have lost their capacity for openness to what is new?
Do we toss our gift of God’s presence in the kitchen drawer, not realizing all the wonderful things it could do for us?
I was much more grateful for the gift of that pocket tool after I had begun using it. It was almost as if I needed to see it in action before I saw just how valuable it was.
I pray this morning, the feast of Pentecost, that I don’t make the same mistake with the gift of the Holy Spirit.