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"For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them." Matthew 18:20

 

Pentecost Sunday: You are the Clay

Laura DeMaria

Here we are! The final Sunday of the Easter season, the day when Jesus breathed the life-giving breath of the Holy Spirit on the apostles, charging them with spreading his word to all mankind. In that moment he made missionaries of his followers, a directive which has crossed through the generations to you and me. We are charged by the Holy Spirit to spread his word and live our lives according to Christ's teachings. What a beautiful thought - we have the same mission as the apostles!

This is always a special day for me, not just because I love the Holy Spirit and seeing how He moves in our lives, but because I remember the Pentecost Sunday where I became confirmed. It was just three years ago, though it seems longer because it is hard to remember the time before that, when I was mostly lost, whether I realized it or not. I wanted meaning, I wanted something deeper, but was mostly concerned with school work, my career and having a good time. These are not bad things, but when not ordered toward something more perfect - God - they can become demi-gods themselves. That's where I was, and thanks to the grace of my confirmation on that beautiful June day, that is what I left behind.

What has been so wonderful to learn in that time is that the search for God is a life-long journey. When Bishop Loverde made the sign of the cross on my forehead in oil, I wasn't finished. I wasn't magically healed and transformed into the perfect human being God intended for me to be (can we even be perfect on earth? That's a whole other topic). It's like the image of the old and new wine skins from  Matthew 9:17: "Neither do people pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the skins will burst; the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved."

As a newly-confirmed Catholic, I was the new wineskin. God gave me just a little new "wine" - spiritual knowledge - but not any more than I could handle. And if I had remained in my previous life (old wineskin) and been given new "wine," I would have ignored it or not known what to do. I suppose that is exactly what I did all those years when my sister or others would invite me to Mass and I didn't go. 

Similarly, someone once gave me this great image: it is like we are clay in God's hands, and he forms us over time. If you have worked with clay, you know you have to take it slow, forming and molding gently with small movements. The slightest wrong move can throw your pot entirely. So with us, God give us the little bit of growth we can handle - just enough to stretch and take us to a new level. And then after that, a little more, and a little more...

I look back on the things that scared me in 2014. For example, I began to think about starting a young adult group at my church, which I did. I guess I was afraid of - people not liking me? The group not taking off? Having to talk about my faith in a public way? Now, it's genuinely funny to imagine being scared by any of those things. So God pushed me ever so slightly, and I served him, and I grew, and then he pushed me some more, and my life is very different now than it was then. There is less fear. And I know there will be even greater things to come in the future, because that's just how it is when you respond to God willingly and with an open heart.

And even there, in that instance, that was the Holy Spirit working in my life. A small voice of inspiration ("Why don't you start a young adult group? Begin a blog?" and now I'm on the radio every month, and on it goes). The Holy Spirit is so good at knowing us and calling us to use our gifts, and every little gift has value. Are you really good at making ziti? Then, God bless you, make it and bring it to the church potluck. That's it! You have used your skills to nourish and comfort another. These are the gifts He calls out of us, just as He did the first apostles. You don't have to convert the entire European continent. Use what you have, where you are, in accordance with God's will and the call of the Holy Spirit, and you will have lived your God-given mission on this planet. Praise God for that! He has called us to be messengers, and he has given us all the tools we need.