Renew the face of the earth

Psalm 104 is a moving description of the wonders and beauty of our planet. Generations have reflected on the gifts the earth provides for our life and prosperity. St Francis saw the sun and the moon and all creation as brothers and sisters.

As the psalm runs its course it concludes, “All of these look to you to give them their food in due season.” But this is not enough; “You hide your face and they are dismayed; you take back your spirit and they die.” Then comes the verse the church never ceases to utter; “You send forth your spirit, they are created, and you renew the face of the earth.”

What is this spirit? We speak of ‘Pentecostals’, ‘born again Christians’ and even ‘Spirit churches.’ Sometimes the underlying message is that there are fast-track churches and slow track, or perhaps off the track, churches! Today is Pentecost and it is moment when we can reflect what really do we mean when we talk of the Spirit.

What is this life that makes all the difference between a dead body at our feet and a person standing and chatting with us? We call it life and get used to presuming that is a sufficient answer. Jesus spent more than 30 years building on the beauties of psalm 104 to bring out their full meaning. “Life to the full” does not mean ‘quick fixes.’ We often pray that God will ‘fix’ this or that for us; an illness, a drought, a strained relationship, a violent situation. But God does not engineer short cuts. We want God to solve our problems but we don’t want the patient daily struggle we have to engage in to do our part in solving those same problems.

To be fully alive, as Raphael Nadal, would no doubt tell us is to struggle against an opponent. To be fully alive is not to be free of tears but to experience joy in the tears. To be fully alive is not to be free of darkness but to experience the light in the darkness. The be fully alive is not to avoid all the little deaths we have to die every day – and the big one that will eventually come – but to find life in death.

That is the message of Jesus. The giving of the Spirit was the final act of his mission on earth. The disciples, together with Mary, longed for it in the upper room. We too in our weakness and darkness are to pray for this gift. It is not something we can merit or presume. It is a gift and we have no right to it. It comes from the overflowing kindness of our God who wants to share his life with us.

Post published in: Faith

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