The Holy Spirit and the Butter Churn
May 17, 2022, 12:00 PM

Pentecost (Whitsun) Sunday is rapidly approaching. We spend most of the church year focusing on the life of Jesus Christ, and a few periods of time on God the Father, the Creator of the universe.    

The church culture at the time of St. Francis was hardly any different.  Little was spoken about the Holy Spirit or her true nature.  However, St. Francis discovered a way to live his life immersed in the Holy Spirit. 

According to St. Francis, a person receives the Holy Spirit “not by techniques, but by simple consistency in penance, prayer, alms, purity, and charity.”  He also added that such people gain the Holy Spirit “permanently” by God’s grace. 

So, why is there a lack of emphasis on this third person of the Trinity in our churches?  Perhaps, it is because we really don’t understand “Spirit,” or more importantly how deeply frightened we are of how “the Spirit” might move in our lives if we allow her.  In actuality, the Spirit exposes our deepest fears, and longings, and desires.  And, at the same time, opens up a way for us to heal from what frightens us.  

What frightens us the most on a spiritual level is the fear that we are alone – and at the same time we are lonely for ourself.  So, we become preoccupied with ourselves - preoccupied with our ideas about ourselves, our opinions about ourselves, and preoccupied by what we think other people think about us.  We cut off our relationship with God because we think that God couldn’t really accept us just as we are (warts and all).  So, we try to find affirmation in another place, person, job, or even in addiction. 

Too much of Christianity is focused on being more “perfect” as Christ was perfect.  However, the Holy Spirit breaks apart that falsehood.  It’s like a butter churn where the paddle goes back and forth (rather than one that goes up and down).  The paddle goes back and forth, back and forth, and the movement makes butter.

Sometimes our lives are like this.  We may take five steps forward and then slide back three.  It's discouraging until we realize that we are not moving forward toward perfection, but making butter.  And, what we are really doing is growing from the visceral, earthy, humble wisdom that we are worth saving, that there's a value to our life.

There's a qualitative wisdom in this down-to-earth, humble, honest, vulnerable way of walking our walk through our own life in a community of people in whose presence we are not alone because they're doing the very same thing.1

 

Blessings and prayers,

Fr. John

 

1 Ref: James Finley, “Mystical Sobriety: Dawning of a New Way to See”. 


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