[Acts 2:1-11; Gal.5:16-25; Jn.15:26-27; 16:12-15]
Ten years ago this week, I completed the Camino Frances with five members of my family. This is the famous 800 km pilgrimage from southern France to Santiago de Compostela in north-west Spain.
Pilgrims often talk about the ‘Camino Moments’ they experience on this walk. These are the times when a problem they face is suddenly and mysteriously resolved. They might be lost, or thirsty, or needing something, and then suddenly a solution will appear.
This often happened to me. One day, for instance, it was hot and I had no sunscreen. Without any prompting, a lady approached me, offering me some.
Joyce Rupp talks about this in her book Walk in a Relaxed Manner. She tells the story of when she was lost in the city of Ponferrada, and all of a sudden, a bearded man in a red cape appeared and guided her safely through the streets.
On her Camino, she writes, ‘many unannounced angels came into our lives at just the right time to help us with their considerate care…’ [i]
‘Since my return from the Camino,’ she adds, ‘others have told me about strangers offering them solace in a hospital emergency room, unknown people stopping to help change a flat tyre, and unnamed persons reaching out to extend help or give information at precisely the time of greatest need.’ [ii]
What they all witnessed was the Holy Spirit unexpectedly helping them through strangers.
Today, on Pentecost Sunday, we celebrate Jesus’ disciples being filled with the Holy Spirit’s graces. Jesus had promised to send his Spirit to help them, and he did, as they all huddled in fear in the Upper Room.
A great noise like a mighty wind rushed through the house, tongues of fire appeared above the disciples, and they were all filled with God’s Holy Spirit.
This is the same Spirit that helped Mary conceive Jesus in her womb (Lk.1:35); the same Spirit that descended on Jesus at his baptism in the Jordan (Lk.3:22); and the same powerful Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead (1Pet.3:18).
The disciples’ lives changed instantly. No longer fearful, they bravely ventured out into the streets of Jerusalem, telling everyone about Jesus.
Now, the Holy Spirit’s work didn’t stop with Jesus and his Apostles. Today the Spirit continues to work throughout the world in many different ways, supporting, transforming and energising countless lives (1Cor.12:4-11).
For each of us, our own personal Pentecost occurred at our Baptism, when we were filled with the gifts of faith, hope and charity.
And at our Confirmation, these gifts were strengthened by the gifts of wisdom, understanding, right judgment, courage, knowledge, reverence and fear of the Lord (or ‘wonder and awe’).
Through these sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation, the Holy Spirit gives us the same special graces he gave Jesus and his Apostles. These spiritual strengths were exactly what they needed to get going, and they’re also just what we need today if we are to live our lives to the full (Jn.10:10).
We cannot see the Holy Spirit, and sadly, most people don’t even notice him working in their lives. They take him for granted. But we can sense his presence when we take the time to be quiet and reflective – like when we’re walking the Camino.
Walking the Camino can take many weeks, and you take with you only the most basic of necessities. Life becomes simpler and quieter, your mind becomes clearer, and you start to notice things that you’d normally miss in your busy life.
As you reflect on the Holy Spirit, you start to realise all he does for us. He leads us to Jesus, and helps us get to know him (Jn.15:26; 16:14). He guides us to where we need to go (Jn.16:13). He shows us what we’re meant to do (Acts 13:2; 16:6-7). And he helps us do God’s work (1Cor.12:11; Acts 1:8).
Something the Camino teaches us is that life itself is a pilgrimage, a journey from one day to another towards our heavenly home. And along the way, we’re all invited to see and experience, to learn and understand.
In our pilgrimage through life, the Holy Spirit is constantly trying to lead and inspire us, to help us become like Jesus.
And he’s always giving us help and encouragement. But do we notice? And are we truly open to him?
Today, let’s give thanks for the Holy Spirit’s loving presence in our lives.
And let’s be alert to our next Camino moment.
[i] Joyce Rupp, Walk in a Relaxed Manner. Orbis Books, Maryknoll, NY. 2007:154.
[ii] Op cit, p.159.