Acts 8:5-8, 14-17, I Pt 3:15-18, Jn 14:15-21
At the beginning of the last century, one of the most desirable and attractive technical jobs was to serve as a radio operator on one of the luxury ships that regularly crossed the Atlantic Ocean. To hold this job you had to understand the operation of the primitive radios that were available at that time. But you also had to master Morse code, which was a technical language of longer and shorter beeps that could be sent over the radio by which the ships could communicate with one another.
On one occasion, one of the most successful cruise lines advertised a position for a radio operator. The waiting room for the line’s office where the interviews were taking place was filled to capacity. Over 50 people were waiting to interview for the job. They were talking to one another in voices loud enough to make themselves heard over the public address system which every so often would announce that the interviews would soon begin. In the midst of this activity, a young man entered the room and filled out an application for the job. He then sat down by himself for a few moments. Suddenly he stood up and went through a door marked “private.” A few minutes later he returned with a big smile on his face and announced that he had been hired for the job. This caused one of the applicants to protest. “Look,” he said, “we were here hours before you arrived. Why was it that you went in for your interview before us?” The young man replied, “Any one of you here could have landed this job, but you weren’t listening. Over the PA system there was a constant message being sent in Morse code. The message was this, “We desire to hire a person who is always alert. So if you hear this message, come immediately into the private office.”
This story is a good image of our relationship to the Holy Spirit. The Spirit of God is always with us, and yet we have to listen to appreciate that presence. We know and believe that the Spirit is always with us because Jesus has promised us that this is the case. In the gospel today he says, “I will ask the Father and he will send you another advocate to be with you forever, the Spirit of Truth.” We know that we have the Spirit because Christ has promised the Spirit to us and Christ’s promises are trustworthy.
To truly appreciate the gift of the Spirit, it is perhaps helpful for us to remember what Christ has not promised us. Christ has not promised us life would be easy. He has not promised us that we would never have to face divorce or rejection or pain. He has not promised us that we would always have a job or that we would always have our health. He has not promised us that we would always be successful or that we would never make a mistake. These are all promises which perhaps we hope would have been made to us, but they are to be found nowhere in the scriptures.
What is found in the scriptures is a greater promise. Time and time again Jesus promises us the gift of his own Spirit so that he would be in our lives forever. We believe in that promise, and yet we know that we will have to listen if we can benefit from the gift of that Spirit.
Like a constant message in Morse code playing out beneath a louder announcement, God’s Spirit continually assures us of the presence of God. Therefore, we must be careful lest we allow ourselves to become deaf to that Spirit because of all our responsibilities and preoccupations. We must not allow our disappointments over the gifts that we have not received deaden our joy over the gifts which the Spirit has given us.
Even if we have to struggle in life, we are called to discern God’s presence in the strength that allows us to continue to move forward. Even though we might have to face hardship and pain, we are called to recognize God’s Spirit in the love of the people who still share life with us. Even though we might have to cope with sickness and death, we are still called to hear the sound of the Spirit in the life that continues and promises us a tomorrow.
The admonition of today’s gospel is to believe and to listen. To believe that the Spirit of God is always with us at every moment of our lives, and to listen so we can hear the sound of the Spirit as it moves under our everyday schedules. Yes, we are called to listen, so that we might recognize the message of God’s Spirit, the message of love that keeps sounding under all the activities and challenges of life.