June 2011

Pentecost celebrates our unity and diversity

Pentecost is the feast day of the Holy Spirit, a celebration of unity and great diversity made possible through the gift of the Spirit, writes Good Samaritan Sister Clare Condon.

BY Clare Condon SGS

On Sunday June 12 we celebrated the Feast of Pentecost. Pentecost is the feast day of the Holy Spirit, a celebration of unity and great diversity made possible through the gift of the Spirit.

Yves Congar, one of the Church’s outstanding theologians and scholars of the twentieth century wrote extensively about the gifts of the Holy Spirit. His words speak volumes to me for our time, in a world torn by conflict, violence and fear. He emphasises the uniqueness of every person and the dignity that each one possesses.

I quote from his great work, I Believe in the Holy Spirit, Vol II: Lord and Giver of Life (Chapman, London, 1983):

“Persons are the great wealth of the Church. Each one is an original and autonomous principle of sensitivity, experience, relationships and initiatives. What an infinite variety of possibilities is contained in each individual! There are signs of a purely material kind of this individuality – each person’s fingerprints, are for example, distinctive”.

These words “sensitivity, experience, relationships and initiatives” are another way of describing the gifts of the Spirit. In many ways they encapsulate what it means to be human – to be our emotive, intellectual, spiritual and creative selves. They show the potential that is ours to live life fully in everyday life, whether in the home, at work, or in the community at large.

The originality of each one of us is mystery. It takes a lifetime to come to know ourselves in all our depths. It takes the capacity to listen deeply to the movements within our own hearts and souls to find integration.

Congar goes on to identify how things can go wrong when individuals become “the subjects of their actions”, when they are self-centred and in need of some other force to draw them beyond themselves. In order to bring the great gifts of the Spirit to fruition for the greater good, the common good, he says:

“Nothing less than the Spirit of God is needed to bring all these different elements to unity, and to do so by respecting and even stimulating their diversity. The spirit, who is both one and transcendent, is able to penetrate all things without violating or doing violence to them”.

If only, in our daily lives, by prayer and reflection, we could dare to actually “stimulate our diversity” and remain open to the gift of the Spirit, personally and communally.

If only we could live willingly and respectfully with difference and at the same time work together in seeking unity and peace within our common humanity, a transformed world of unity and peace might just emerge!

Clare Condon

Sister Clare Condon is a former Congregational Leader of the Sisters of the Good Samaritan. She served as leader from September 2005 until September 2017. In 2013, Clare was awarded a Human Rights Medal by the Australian Human Rights Commission in recognition of the Good Samaritan Sisters’ work with asylum seekers, Indigenous Australians and the victims of domestic violence. In 2022, Clare was awarded an Honorary Doctor of the University from Australian Catholic University.

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