Seeing the Signs of the Holy Spirit

This is a reflection on 3 pieces of scripture: Jonah: 3:1-10fire (Jonah’s repentance), Acts 2:1-11 (Pentecost), John 20:19-23 (Receive the Holy Spirit)

BIG…SIGNS

We are always looking for signs?
When we’re driving…
Walking…
Finding a new classroom…
A sale…
We look for a sign..maybe a smile that shows someone’s interested in us.

And a great sign…$.25 wings night.

But BIG signs are really important…big signs show us where God is inviting us to change our hearts and become even better than we thought we could be.

That’s what our readings are about and it’s also what I think Jesuit Education is about.

Our readings talk about 3 big signs…signs that change everything for those involved.

First Jonah…
You all know the story of Jonah, right?
God asks him to go to preach to people at Ninevah but he doesn’t want to go.  So he gets on a ship bound for the other direction.  The ship hits a storm.  He tells people that he disobeyed God’s orders so they think the storm is God’s curse on Jonah and they throw him overboard and a big fish swallows him.

Talk about a big sign…

But then the story gets better.  The fish pukes him up on the shore and guess where he is?  Ninevah– where God told him to go in the first place.

So Jonah preached to the people and they change their hearts and repent from their evil ways.  Another big sign that Jonah shouldn’t have been afraid…that Jonah possessed great gifts all along.

The disciples were also afraid…so afraid that they locked themselves in the upper room after Jesus had left them.  And they needed a sign!

Boy, did they get one.  A strong driving wind breaks down the locked doors and fills them with the Holy Spirit.  That sign the spirit gave them, allowed them to find the courage and the strength to no longer be afraid.  And so, they went out to preach the good news and an even bigger sign happens…everyone heard them and understood them in their own language…and those languages were many.

A final sign…Jesus himself.  Jesus breathes the very spirit of God on the disciples and the sign of both his resurrection and his giving of the Holy Spirit changes everything.  It is the sign that we too celebrate each week here from this altar…that God is alive and lives and breathes in our very selves and that death no longer has power over us.

And that has always been true…but humanity needed a physical sign to believe it.  Jesus is that sign.  The Holy Spirit continues to be that sign for us today.

So those are three big signs.  But what big signs do we see today?  What signs do you see in your life?   What signs in the world today inspire you?  What people or things are signs of God’s love for you?

For me, that sign is each one of you.  Canisius indeed is a sign.   It is a sign that reminds me that the Holy Spirit is very much alive in our world today.  I see it each time a student not only goes to serve a meal to some of the poorest people in the city at St Luke’s Mission of Mercy, but also sits and shares conversation with someone that most people ignore, restoring that person’s dignity.

I see the sign of the spirit, on each retreat we attend when someone tells a story of overcoming adversity with God’s help…or when students come together in conversation and talk about weighty matters and commit to getting through them together.

I see it each time a professor takes just a few extra moments to explain a difficult concept, to guide a student with their presentation for Ignatian Scholarship day, to take education beyond the classroom into service-learning and to prepare our students well for a world that will not always be kind to them, a world that we pray they can and will change for the better.

Students…you are especially a sign when you take care of one another, when someone is unable to care for themselves and someone else tries to take advantage of them–you are that sign of God’s care when you get them out of harm’s way.  The signs are there when you study hard in hopes of not just getting an A or even just getting your degree, but that your study here might allow you to go out from this place and set this world on fire!

So this new academic year…may we all be called to look for those signs.  Signs of God’s presence in all things–a great Ignatian concept.  May we see them in one another, in friends, in family.  Perhaps especially in those deep and lasting experiences on immersion trips with those who live in poverty both here and abroad.  The people you meet there just might need a sign.

And when you are in need of a sign…come here, around this altar each week.  It is here we see that sign of God’s love, especially in the transformation of bread and wine into Jesus himself, but we also see that sign in each person who comes through the doors of the chapel.  We come to see our friends and to pray with them on our day off.  So that we might all have renewed strength for the rest of the week but also, so that we might have the insight to see the signs of God in all things throughout the week by intentionally taking time to see those signs at least once a week.

That’s what Ignatian spirituality and education is all about.  We hope that we can create an opportunity for you to be a sign…for that is a sign that God is indeed alive and breathing and living within each one of you.

And that is the sign that is more than enough to show that Canisius is filled with the power of the Holy Spirit.

And that is a sign that can indeed change the world.