May the Force be with You. It almost sounds like a ritual greeting, doesn’t it? Once I started a homily with this, and got the reply: “And also with you.” There is a solemnity when folks say this phrase, even when they’re joking. We’ve been doing it for 30 years, and it’s interesting to contemplate how that’s changed the culture we live in.
Actually, I’ve been a fan of Star Wars from the beginning and I’m always interested in the mysterious Force that the Jedis use. It’s something that lets them do a lot of cool things: you can levitate stuff, all the way up to a spaceship; you can communicate with people along ways away and tell is someone else who works with the force is nearby; you can convince some slow witted people to do things that they usually wouldn’t do, like ignore you at key moments when you don’t want to be recognized; lets you “see” objects with using your eyes, even to the point that you can fight a blaster with a light saber without seeing. It’s something that ties the galaxy together, flows around and unites everything. It has a dark side that is seductive, and can pull you in if you’re not careful. Using the force requires discipline and commitment, but it also calls for the Jedi to be able to following his feelings.
In the first movie, there’s a great scene at the end where the hero, Luke Skywalker is whizzing along in his fighter trying to drop a bomb down an exhaust pipe in order to blow up the Death Star. He’s got targeting computers and expert commentary from the technicians, but in the midst of the chase we hear the voice of the dead Jedi, Obi Wan Kenobi, telling Luke to use the Force. He shuts off his targeting computer, causing his controllers to think he’s gotten hurt or something, and through his use of the Force he drops the bomb down the exhaust pipe at high speed, the Death Star is destroyed and the Rebellion has begun.
When we contemplate the scene of Pentecost, we have a different scene in many ways. The disciples still haven’t come out of their shell in the time since the Resurrection to the point where they are willing to appear in public at the Temple. Jesus has gone ahead of them and they are performing the common duty of going up to the Temple for the Festival of Weeks. It has been 50 days since the Resurrection and 10 days since Jesus has left. They have been on hold for a long time, and may have some uncertainty about what they are to do and how they are to do it.
The transformation that they undergo through the great wind, a sign of the Spirit as is the tongues of fire, is remarkable in how it affects everyone around. By the time of the disciples, Judaism has reached out throughout the known world of the time, and there would have been people in Jerusalem who came from everywhere and spoken just about every known language. The miracle is not only one of speaking, but also one of understanding. What good is it to speak a language nobody else can understand? Do it too much and they’ll take you away. Everyone there not only heard the Good News, but heard it in their native language, the language they grew up with and learned to speak at the beginning of their lives.
As we look for the voice of the Spirit speaking to us today, it’s not quite the same as using the Force. We’re not going to be able to levitate stuff or communicate over light years or fight off enemies blindly, or at least most of us aren’t. The miracle is that we can hear the Spirit speaking to us in our language, in our understanding, in our hearts. At time, we have to let go of our training and logic and go with our feelings, provided they are unselfish. For us the Dark side fo the Force is the temptation to mistake the voice of our own desire and self-interest for the voice of the Spirit. We can follow our feelings, provided we have time to reflect on the message to see if our own selfish voice is creeping in. Once we know in our hearts what is right, and we’ve reflected enough to know what we want, what is left is the Spirit speaking to us. It is this Spirit that we can trust to guide us through life.
The Spirit poured out on that Pentecost day isn’t only a gift to a number of individuals. It’s true that the Spirit works in each one of us in a special way. But the Spirit is also poured out on a people, on a Church. The Spirit has been given to us as a group of people, to guide us as a people to proclaim the Word, to heal the Wounds of the world, to bring people together who have been broken apart.
The Spirit is what makes us the Body of Christ. The Spirit is the one we call on to turn our gifts of bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ. The Spirit is the one that guides us individually and collectively as we go through life. It’s something that speaks to our reason, but it’s not a supercomputer, not a machine. The Spirit speaks to us through words, pictures, art, visions, intuitions, and hunches as well as reasoning. Even if we can’t do the flashy things that provide the great demonstrations of God’s work in the world, we are led and transformed by the Spirit to be the presence of Christ in the world.