Bishop Hying

If allowed, our experience of the Holy Spirit can shake our souls to the core

As published in the Northwest Indiana Catholic on May 7, 2017


       This Sunday’s first reading is part of Peter’s proclamation to the people on Pentecost morning. 

       Filled with the Holy Spirit, Peter proclaims, for the first time, Jesus as Lord and Messiah to the assembled crowd: “This Jesus whom you crucified.” (Acts 2: 36)  The passage reports that those who heard this message “were cut to the heart, and they asked Peter and the other apostles, ‘What are we to do, my brothers?’” 

       Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Three thousand people were baptized that day in the pools used for ceremonial washings outside the Temple in Jerusalem.

       This experience of being “cut to the heart” is reminiscent of the crowd’s response to the preaching of John the Baptist.  His fiery proclamation of the imminent coming of the Messiah and the radical call to profound conversion moved even the religious leaders to transformative change. They too asked the same question, at the Pentecost gathering: “What are we to do?” (Luke 3: 10) 

       When have you been cut to the heart, so moved emotionally, psychologically, spiritually, that something changed in your fundamental understanding of God, yourself and how you should act?

       I was cut to the heart a few weeks ago on Good Friday when I watched the Via Crucis at St. Francis Xavier Parish in Lake Station. The actors in the Passion drama were so talented and spirited that I was moved to tears often. Some of the parishioners who played the part of the weeping women of Jerusalem were sobbing at various times, so deeply moved were their hearts by the suffering of Jesus. 

       Washing and kissing feet at St. Monica and Luke on Holy Thursday also profoundly impacted me, as that annual ritual always does.

       Last month, the villagers from Sharing Meadows in Rolling Prairie danced on stage to “Day by Day,” the famous song from the musical “Godspell,” at the foundation’s annual luncheon. Their joy, enthusiasm and presence in the moment stirred me deeply, as their beautiful witness always does. 

       And lately, several very good friends have died; their sudden physical absence has cut me to the heart, even as I remember their gracious blessing in my life. 

       What are those moments and experiences in your life that cut you to the heart, which truly stir and move you to look beyond the routine worries and work that often brings us down? 

       Holding a baby, receiving the Eucharist, encountering forgiveness, helping a sick person, watching a glorious sunrise, playing with spontaneous children, listening to a powerful homily - such moments we receive as gifts from God that help us on the path of conversion. 

       God is steadfastly leading us more deeply into the hidden recesses of his Heart and the full meaning of the Gospel through our daily experiences of grace. Often simple and unbidden, these glimpses of love pierce the veil of our spiritual blindness.

       As we move closer to the Diocesan Synod next month and its unfolding implementation, I pray that the Lord will cut all of us to the heart, removing whatever is stony and dead within and replacing it with a flesh that can feel, weep, laugh, sing and love in with the inner harmony of the Blessed Trinity. 

       When Isaiah viewed the glory of the Lord in the Temple; when the Holy Spirit overshadowed the Virgin Mary; when Jesus astounded Peter with the miraculous catch of fish; when the crowds heard Peter preach on Pentecost and when Saul was blinded by the Light, none could ever go back to their old ways of life. Everything was changed by the flash of insight that God was real; God knew them by name and had important work for them to accomplish.

       Possibly, a “good” Catholic can dutifully attend Mass every Sunday, faithfully say meal prayers and the Rosary, go to confession regularly and yet never be cut to the heart, never move beyond the practice of religion as an obligatory observance that remains superficial and lifeless. 

       Some of the greatest saints began as outrageous sinners who subsequently experienced that “cutting to the heart,” that movement of the Holy Spirit that shook their souls to the core. 

       May our diocesan synod, this fresh experience of Pentecost, be the same for each of us, beginning with me.

       We cannot afford to simply do the same things as the Church in the same way, expecting different results, while Mass participation drops, more young people (and older as well) quietly check out of organized religion We can no longer watch as poverty and violence increase and our Catholic communities, organizations and structures atrophy. 

       I feel the Holy Spirit calling us to a mighty boldness! When we set the sail of our lives to the hurricane force of the Spirit’s breath, we will find ourselves blown out to the deep water and then a gentle but persistent voice will call, “Get out of the boat!”


       + Donald J. Hying

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