Pentecost * Acts 2:1-21, Romans 8:22-27, John 15:26-27 & 16:4b-15 * Leora Weitzman * May 27, 2012
The homily resource books in our library here gave me some much needed help with part of today’s Gospel. The lines about sin and righteousness and judgment can be retranslated to reveal a courtroom metaphor regarding a crime, the nature of justice, and the verdict. In the case of Jesus, the Advocate turns the world’s perspective on its head.
Where the world saw an enemy of the state tried, found guilty, and executed, the Spirit sees something else. It sees a friend of humanity vindicated and given resurrected life–showing the Source of Life to be stronger than “the ruler (arche, governing principle or power) of this world.”
It is human beings who are convicted of an error in not recognizing the holy in our presence. What is our sentence? God in God’s mercy sends us an Advocate who not only speaks on God’s behalf to us but also speaks on our behalf to God! –communicating our deepest inarticulate desires to God when we struggle to pray for them.
Have you ever had the experience of being granted something you’d longed for without knowing it existed? I think perhaps I have… And to recognize it, I have to turn a worldly perspective on its head, as the Spirit did with Jesus’ execution and death. As I share my story, I invite you to read the text of your life in the same two ways that I’ll read mine.
The first way is as a chronicle of failures, losses, and broken dreams. As a teenager I lived for music and spent hours each day in violin practice. I dreamed of being a soloist. Then I discovered that I’d been a big fish in a very small pond, and that in the bigger ponds, kids younger than I already played much better.
I’d grown up without any spiritual foundation and considered myself an atheist. Music gave me my first experience of the Holy Spirit. When I asked my teachers how they knew how to shape a phrase, I received no answer from them. But I stumbled on the experience of being guided, of having something flow through me that did not come from me, when I surrendered my agendas, listened, and obeyed.
What had I really been asking for? If I was asking for a musical career, it would seem my prayer was denied. But what if without knowing it, I was asking for a relationship with God?
Disappointed about music, I switched to philosophy, having found that the same experience of surrendering and being guided came to me when I did the kind of writing that leads to discoveries in that field. It still seems magical to me that anything can be discovered just by writing, but it can; mathematicians experience the same thing.
However, my probationary years at UW didn’t lead to a permanent position, and neither did the teaching jobs I had after that. It began to look as if God was denying me my second dream as well–or as if I was a failure twice over now.
I changed careers about as completely as possible, going to massage school and learning to work with energy–as in Reiki, or hands-on healing. The school I chose specializes in developing students’ intuitive capacities. It felt a lot like the practice of discernment as I’d experienced it in St. Ignatius’ Spiritual Exercises. The school’s teaching method is based on the premise that only our own ego patterns (Ignatius would say attachments) stand in the way of direct divine guidance, of hearing what the Spirit has to say. The more we recognize and surrender our attachments, the clearer and more complete the guidance we receive.
Like my work in music and philosophy, my present work demands that I let go of agendas and listen very carefully–with the ear of the heart, as St Benedict would say. In fact, I have to listen more carefully than ever, and what I’m listening to seems perhaps more natural and nearer the core of things than what I was listening to before. So what does the ear of the heart have to say about my life? Did I fail in two fields and settle for a less prestigious vocation, my efforts twice refused by God who made me? Or has God been leading me along a path I didn’t recognize to something I have longed for all my life?
Please ask these questions of your own life. What losses, seeming failures, broken dreams define its landscape? ……….. And now: What openings did these disappointments create, and what came into your life through these openings? …….. What have you been led toward in ways that would not have been possible, if you’d gotten what you originally thought you wanted? ……….. What have you prayed for without knowing it, that God has given you to your surprise? ……..
As we listen for the answers to these questions, we are one with all those Medes and Parthians, Elamites and Egyptians: we each hear God speaking to us in our own language–the language of our lives. And it’s only 9 going on 10 in the morning, and we haven’t even had our wine yet.
As we prepare to taste our communion with one another & the Holy in our midst, let us give space to those longings in our hearts for which we have no words. & let us give thanks & praise for all the answered prayers we haven’t known by name.