Suddenly it was clear to them. Up to then they were full of questions, sometimes in a daze, sometimes thinking of quitting.
But now they understood. The coming of the Holy Spirit opened their minds and they could begin to understand why he had come and walked among them, why he had to die and rise again. It lifted them to a new sense of being. They progress through the Acts of the Apostles with a confidence that was extraordinary seeing that they were ‘uneducated people’ (Acts 4:13).
On 20 May, this past week, Jesuits worldwide remembered that it was precisely five hundred years to the day since Ignatius of Loyola was hit by a bullet – a cannon ball – in the leg and began a long journey towards a similar recognition. His ambitions of military success, which would lead to high office in the service of the king, were dashed and he was carried home to Loyola where he submitted to a surgery that was torture and months of convalescence.
His reading and reflection opened his eyes a little to a new reality. Now it was a kind of spiritual torture as he spent months in prayer and fasting waiting for some kind of clarity about where all this was leading. Eventually the clarity came. As he sat by the river Cardoner, ‘the eyes of his understanding began to be opened; though he did not see any vision he understood and knew many things, both spiritual things and matters of faith and of learning and this was with so great an enlightenment that everything seemed new to him.’
This happened in 1521. It would be another nineteen years of searching, preparation and gathering companions before he founded the Society of Jesus but he never doubted from that moment that God was leading him on.
One way or another we are all invited to walk this journey. The details may be hugely different but the basics are the same. We grow up influenced by our family, our culture and the expectations the world lays on us. But we have questions. We can listen to those questions and vigorously seek answers – or we can avoid them. When we do listen, answers do not normally come all at once. They come in unexpected ways. We may have a ‘cannon ball’ moment when our world is thrown upside down by unemployment, sickness or war. Immensely painful moments can also be gateways to new horizons.
The feast of Pentecost is a reminder that God has given us his Spirit to make all things clear to us. This clarity is sure though it may not break on us immediately. We too, like the disciples of Jesus and – much later – Ignatius, may have to spend time in searching. But the one who searches will always find.
23 May 2021 Pentecost Acts 2:1-11 1 Cor 12:3-7,12-13 John 20: 19-23