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Abbot Patrick’s homily for Pentecost Sunday

Holy Spirit: Pentecost 2011.

We don’t have to ask big questions today like ‘Do you believe in God?’ or, even, ‘Who is God?’ Today we should be down-to-earth and practical. We should turn on the tap and see if it is working, see if the water flows. Because that is what we have been promised. ‘We know that God lives in us, Saint John tells us in his first letter, ‘because of the Spirit which God gave us’ [1 John, 3:24]. It’s because of the Spirit that we believe in God and not the other way round. We can know about God by testing the Spirit that is in us. We all have that Holy Spirit. All we have to do is activate this presence, this power to change our lives.

St Benedict tells us how to do this in the Prologue to his Rule: ‘whatever good work you undertake, ask him with most instant prayer to bring it to perfection.’ Instantissima oratione is the secret formula. Instantissima is the same word we use for ‘instant coffee’ or ‘instant soup.’ It is instant prayer. You can do it anywhere, at any time, in a couple of seconds; as long as it takes to say ‘I love you, help me.’

And it’s a question of getting into the habit, going down into yourself and touching base. If someone asks you a question, instead of replying immediately, automatically, ask the Spirit to tell you what to say. The Holy Spirit is the finger of God’s right hand, the Digitus Dei. The Holy Spirit is your digital memory bank, your ATM machine, your automatic teller – you will find that whatever you are meant to do will happen, that whatever you are meant to say comes to the tip of your tongue, to the front of your mind, to the flow of your pen.

If you allow the Holy Spirit to guide you there is a magical life ahead. You only have to learn how to interpret the coded messages that are sent your way. These are sometimes contained in coincidences which can so easily be shrugged off or overlooked. Other times it is an impulse, sent our way: talk to this person, take down that book, walk in this direction, go into that church now. When we obey, because we believe it to be a suggestion from God, we find that it leads on to something wonderful. Usually we don’t know the reason for a particular hunch until we have followed it; the reason is at the other side of our doing, staring us in the face. Today is the day of Pentecost, the day of the Holy Spirit. Tomorrow we return to ordinary time in the Church’s calendar. This is the day to decide never again to enter ordinary time. From here on in, every move we make should be motivated by prayer: instantissima oratione; and afterwards a breathing prayer of thanks for the privilege of being part of God’s plan.

The chess master says nothing,


other than moving the silent chess piece.

That I am part of the ploys
of this game makes me
amazingly happy.

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