One of the readings at Mass on Pentecost Sunday was Acts 2:1-11. When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled, they were all in one place together. And suddenly…
The word suddenly caught my attention—and held it. Throughout the rest of Mass and in the days since then, I have been repeating it.
Everything changed for the disciples on the first Pentecost. In one moment, the old life was gone; a new life started.I thought of times in my life when suddenly everything changed. My own Pentecost experience on March 7, 1973, was a life-changing encounter with the Spirit. I had new hope and vision after that encounter. Life looked different; the possibilities seemed endless.
That was a good suddenly.There have been other times, though, when things changed suddenly, but not in a positive way. Jim’s cancer diagnosis was like that. One day, he was fine and then, suddenly, he wasn’t. Life looked different, but the possibilities were not evident.
Fortunately for me, in between those two events—the first when I was twenty-one and the second when I was fifty-nine—I had plenty of other times when my life was going in one direction and then changed course. All of those course shifts taught me the importance of restoring balance as quickly as possible—and of trusting that no matter the direction, God was always with me.
But, why now did this word take hold? What is the significance?
I prayed for insight. Every time I found myself repeating the word, suddenly, I would ask God, “What is the invitation in this word?”
The next weekend at Mass, our pastor talked about personal missions—not going on mission or being a missionary—but rather having clarity about my specific mission, God’s plan for me with my exact history, gifts, skills and talents.
One would think that by my age, I would have great clarity about my life mission, especially since I have spent most of my life working in mission-driven nonprofits.
But then I think of Sarah and Elizabeth having babies in their old age, and I know that God does not have the same expectations of age that we do.
The thing about sudden events is that there is no way to anticipate them or to plan for them. But there is a way to live that makes it easier to receive them.
For me, that means letting go of expectations, dropping my defenses and keeping my cynicism in check. It means being open and vulnerable and willing to be born again in the Spirit.Next Friday is the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, an invitation to ponder unfathomable love and an invitation to keep my heart open to receiving and giving love. If I can do that, the Spirit’s sudden movement will be a breath of fresh air.