During this lockdown we are seeing both the best of humanity and the worst of humanity. We are seeing people sacrificing self-interest and safety to care for those afflicted with the virus. On the other hand, we are all justifiably outraged when we see an African American man brutally restrained with a knee on his neck to the point of him losing his life. We also saw another African American, man brutally shot in a residential neighborhood while jogging. And in our own Central Park a few days ago we witnessed a white woman call the police to threaten yet another African American man with a trumped of charges of assault.
These and other incidents did not appear out of nowhere. It seems that both inexhaustible good and unfathomable evil both live somewhere deep in the human condition. These stressful times bring to mind W.B. Yeats’ poem, The Second Coming, penned in the wake of WWI, that “Things fall apart; the center cannot hold.” Pernicious racism is coursing through our streets as a sign our society is unraveling before our eyes.
The scriptures depict many centuries of both the best and the worst of humanity playing out in families, civil life and among nations. And as a counterpoint, there is also God’s anointed ones struggling to bring justice, healing and compassion to a humanity that is all too frequently on the verge of violent destruction.
The commandments are an attempt to create a saving code that prevents the worst elements in the human condition from prevailing. The prophets continue to speak truth to power and call the people to see the deeper significance and import of injustices large and small parading as commonly acceptable behavior.
It is in the feast of the Pentecost that the Holy Spirit is given to people in order to establish a new way of being. This new way of being has to have an appeal to contend with and counteract the instinctual rewards of greed and avarice. We hear about this presence in John’s 7th chapter. We read that Jesus’ disciples will have springs of living water continually flowing up from their gut. This spring is an incredibly rich image of internal refreshment and renewal. In the middle east there is a saying that “Where there is water there is life.” What is promised to the disciples is that there will be an internal richness that will allow his followers to be prophetic agents of grace and justice in the face of a world beset by hatred and prejudice.
This Pentecost let us pray for the experience of springs of living water, i.e. the Holy Spirit or the presence of the Holy One to spring up from within us and to inspire us to become a new center that not only holds but pulls and pushes this world towards the Reign of God, as we saw Jesus do in his day. This presence is the Holy Spirit that inspires and animates the Church, illuminates our conscience and activates a new possibility for justice and healing.