We are nearing the end of the Easter season and beginning what I like to call the season of the Spirit. Liturgically this is the time of Pentecost, the celebration of the Holy Trinity, followed by Corpus Christi, and the continuation of Ordinary Time. But actually this period of time is far from ordinary! It is the time of the Holy Spirit moving in the early church, transforming people, giving life, unifying and moving the fledgling Christian community, forming them into a strong, committed people of the New Covenant, many times surprising them in the process.
I particularly like St. Paul’s description of the early believers when he says that they are “a letter of Christ, … written not with ink but by the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on the tablets of human hearts” (2 Cor 3:3). What an awesome thought! We are letters of Christ, written by the Holy Spirit on the tablets of our hearts for other people to read. We could say that the Holy Spirit speaks through us to bring others closer to Jesus.
Not only in the biblical times and in the early growth of Christianity has the Holy Spirit been active. He continues to be active in the world today. We just need to be aware of His presence and be open to His surprises. I have often experienced the action of the Spirit in the most unexpected persons, places, times, and ways. In fact it is only since Sis Carmeli, my spiritual guide, urged me, way back in the mid ‘90s, to keep a journal list of God-Experiences and God’s Manifestations to me that I began to realize the many unique ways that the Holy Spirit has delighted in surprising me over the years.
I began my list by remembering clearly an incident when I was in my early teens. During a summer Christian camp, we visited several rural churches. In one small church in the mountains we were surprised to see a huge stained glass window of Jesus knocking at the door. The afternoon sun’s rays, shining through the window, covered me with warmth; I felt as if Jesus Himself looked straight at me saying, “My child, please open the door of your heart and your life to me.”
There was the time in 1996 (?) when I was in Cagayan de Oro to give a BCLP talk. Plans were made that the following day a group of us would visit the Monastery of the Transfiguration in Bukidnon and attend Sunday mass there. At the hotel where I was staying, very early Sunday morning at the break of dawn I woke up clearly hearing the voices of a group singing Alleluias. I was alone in the hotel room, all the windows and doors were closed, and yet I distinctly heard a choir of voices singing. I went out on my balcony but could not locate where the voices were coming from. Later that day at the Monastery of the Transfiguration, I was happily surprised to learn that the renowned Boys Choir would be singing during the Mass for I had never heard them before. As they began to sing, my heart could hardly contain my wonder, for it was the same voices that I had heard at dawn that morning. I believe the Holy Spirit had a choir of angels give me a preview of heaven complete with the heavenly voices of the Boys Choir serenading before the throne of God.
The Spirit again surprised me when we toured the Olango Bird Sanctuary in 2004 during a visit to Cebu. We arrived there mid-morning, walked around the sanctuary, and enjoyed a picnic lunch as we bird-watched. It was mid-day with a very warm sun so the others in our group decided to stretch out in the shade and fresh air for a siesta. I was not sleepy so I decided to explore the island reef. As I waded along an overgrown and semi-submerged pathway, the tide began to go out. Little by little, the path became alive with tiny marine creatures that inhabited the coral reef. Further out on the reef, I paused in the hush of midday as the water slowly receded from the reef. Little creatures began jumping from pool to pool, clusters of bushes appeared, flocks of birds darted along the top of the water looking for their next meal. The Creation miracle was being re-enacted around me. I raised my hands and began to sing, “O Lord my God! When I in awesome wonder, consider all the worlds Thy hands have made … Then sings my soul, my Savior God to Thee; How great Thou art, how great Thou art!”
These are only three of the more than 50 entries in my journal, memories of the times that the Holy Spirit has surprised me. And I know He will continue to surprise me in the years to come with everyday epiphanies, always leading me to become more conscious of His Presence in the deepest level of my heart, to make me more aware of the Risen Christ and of God our Father alive and present to and in me, fulfilling the promise Jesus made his disciples at the Last Supper of the coming of the Spirit of Truth whom “you can recognize because He remains with you and will be within you” (Jn 14:17).
Has the Holy Spirit surprised you today? Yesterday? Last week? I am sure that He has but perhaps you have not been aware or allowed yourself to be surprised. Expect the Spirit to surprise you, brothers and sisters, and welcome each unexpected happening as an opportunity to draw closer to God in Spirit and in Truth.