May 20: Don’t Stifle the Spirit! (Pentecost B)

“Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” John 20: 19-23.


John Updike, the great American writer, was once asked what the most significant piece of advice that he found in sacred scripture.

Drawing on Saint Paul, Updike replied: “Don’t stifle the spirit!” (1 Thessalonians 5:19).

Some people try, others try harder. Some see the glass as half-empty, others see it as half-full. Some people are optimistic, others not so much.

But, above all else, “don’t stifle the spirit!”

By 1880, Thomas Edison had invented 999 failed light bulbs; his next attempt at an incandescent lamp was his “successful invention of 1,000 steps.”

“Don’t stifle the spirit!”

A friend of mine retired from his job several years ago and went back to his life-long dream to appear on the concert stage. Three years later, he won the annual Van Cliburn piano competition for his senior division age group.

“Don’t stifle the spirit!”

Gerry and Marilyn Burke lost their young daughter Julia in a car accident. Their grief propelled them to support social causes that Julia held sacred, including speech and debate programs for high schools, college scholarships, and the elimination of landmines in war-torn countries. Five years ago, Prince Harry honored the Julia Burke Foundation for international efforts.



“Don’t stifle the spirit!”

This past week I spoke over the telephone with a former student of mine, Peter Stemp, who lives in Rome. In his role as the Associate Director of Solidarity for the DeLaSalle Christian Brothers, he is coordinating the funding for a new medical school outside Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

Bring this new institution into being, is indeed a gift of the Holy Spirit.

“Don’t stifle the Spirit!

On this Pentecost Sunday, we pray for the “gifts of the Holy Spirit” seeking wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and awe before God, the source of all truth.

We pray for the right words to bring hope and healing to those on the “fragile sectors” of our society that they might take comfort in the healing mission of Christ.

We pray for the ability of women and men in ministry to breathe new life (and here the Holy Spirit means “breath”) into social institutions like high schools, colleges, and universities, healthcare organizations worldwide.

So what about us? Spring is a time of vitality and renewal. Yes, this Spirit is reflected in your efforts in your Spring Concert; and even in the fun and games for kids in the lower school attending yesterday’s Carnival.

On this Pentecost Sunday, special encouragement comes from Pope Francis. In his most recent appeal, “Gaudete et Exsultate” or “Rejoice and Be Glad,” the pope identifies signs of holiness in today’s world.

He suggests a particular kind of holiness and names it as “apostolic courage,” or “parrhesia,” meaning boldness or passion. He writes:

“Let us ask the Lord for the grace not to hesitate when the Spirit calls us to take a step forward. Let us pray for the apostolic courage to share the Gospel with others and to stop trying to make our Christian life a museum of memories.

In every situation, may the Holy Spirit cause us to contemplate history in light of the risen Jesus. In this way, the Church will not stand still, but always welcome the Lord’s surprises.”

“Don’t stifle the spirit!” Don’t put a lid on the opportunity to celebrate the gifts given to those who place their trust in God.

For the Gospel’s sake — be ambitious, passionate, and courageous — and your life will make a difference!

And above all else, “don’t stifle that spirit!”

Rosary Chapel, Santa Catalina School, Monterey, CA.

Here’s a preview of Wim Wenders’ documentary “Pope Francis — A Man of His Word,” currently in theaters.






Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s