By Mark Azzara
As I thought about Pentecost – the arrival of the Holy Spirit among us as God’s gift to us, which most Christians celebrated on Sunday – I recalled words that a friend/priest said. “If there’s no surprise in what you think you’re hearing from God, then it probably isn’t God.”
The Holy Spirit has been described in many ways – counselor, guide, paraclete, etc. – but surpriser isn’t usually on any of those lists. And yet that’s exactly who the Holy Spirit is.
Case in point: I hate to admit this but I complain quite often about the shortcomings I perceive in Christian leaders. My friend/priest and I live in the same diocese (not Idaho or Washington state, by the way) so we have the same bishop. When my priest/friend told me about something compassionate that our bishop had actually done in secret, just because it was the right thing to do, I was surprised.
Actually, astounded is a little closer to the truth. I have not been a big fan of this bishop because some of his decisions have left a bad taste in the mouths of a lot of people. Thus I was shocked to learn he had gone out of his way purely to show compassion to others.
I was blessed with the surprise of seeing this bishop in a new light. It gave me hope for him and the diocese he leads. I’m not saying he will suddenly morph into a spiritual genius who ought to become the next pope. But I learned that God isn’t through with him, and that just because he makes mistakes doesn’t mean he’s beyond God’s ability to help him grow in his personal faith and in his capacity to lead his diocese.
I was even more surprised, however, by the Holy Spirit’s ability to confront the unforgiveness and bias that I held against this bishop because he had failed to do what I (and others) had thought was the right thing to do on other occasions.
I have new hope for myself that I can learn to be less judgmental in the future. I was surprised that I needed deeper humility and that I still have a way to go when it comes to cutting other people more slack and focusing on what God can do to correct what others do wrong.
This is a surprise package that will take me a while to unpack and fully appreciate. But it already has helped me appreciate in a new way the reality of who the Holy Spirit is for me. And you?
All God’s blessings – Mark
Mark Azzara spent 45 years in print journalism, most of them with the Waterbury Republican in Connecticut, where he was a features writer with a special focus on religion at the time of his retirement. He also worked for newspapers in New Haven and Danbury, Conn. At the latter paper, while sports editor, he won a national first-place writing award on college baseball. Azzara also has served as the only admissions recruiter for a small Catholic college in Connecticut and wrote a self-published book on spirituality, “And So Are You.” He is active in his church and facilitates two Christian study groups for men. Azzara grew up in southern California, graduating from Cal State Los Angeles. He holds a master’s degree from the University of Connecticut.