As I write this reflection Easter has just passed, and today’s reading brings me back to the conversation my family had over Easter brunch.
For decades, members of my family have gathered for Christmas and Easter, as well as baptisms, first communions, marriages, and funerals. Like most families, we have laughed and cried together, kidded enthusiastically, debated passionately, and on those rare occasions in the past, gone home mad because we just couldn’t agree about politics.
But never do I remember us talking about God. Until this Easter. In response to a particularly evocative homily, we started to talk about our beliefs, doubts, questions, and experience of a Supreme Being, prayer, and the soul. It became a very intimate sharing. We had the great good fortune to speak our hearts in an atmosphere of trust. Neither the struggling agnostics nor the believers among us were in danger of verbal harm; judgments were tempered out of love.
It was, for me, an experience of the Holy Spirit in our midst, enlivening and drawing us closer.
When I was a kid, like most children I had a pretty solid, albeit immature, picture of God and Jesus. The Holy Spirit was harder to understand. A bird? Who and what was the Holy Spirit all about? I knew that we believed in a Trinity but one of those "Persons" was a greater mystery than the others.
I didn’t really understand then that the Holy Spirit is the life-breath of the Church, and animates our spiritual family. In today’s first reading we see the early Christians moved to speak their truth with boldness, the room itself shaking in a cosmic "yes" to their desire. And what we know from Jesus, and later, St. Paul, is that we are all invited into this new life, this new family, born of water and Spirit. We are never too old or too broken because: "What is born of flesh is flesh and what is born of spirit is spirit."
In our own intimate way on Easter Sunday, my family was pushing beyond our familial connection and reaching out to one another in spirit. We were more than children, parents, sisters, nieces, nephews or aunts; we were fellow spirits, journeying to find wholeness, seeking God, absorbed in Mystery. I saw each person in a new light. That was a moment of grace, I believe, sharing the way we did. It was the gift of the Resurrection, the breath of the Holy Spirit, urging new life on a sunny Sunday afternoon.
Nancy Nickel is director of communications at the Passionist Development Office in Chicago, Illinois.