The Holy Spirit is fire, light, comforter, wind and breath—all images and descriptions found in the Scriptures. How about one more image, clearly not found in the Scriptures? The Spirit is the cricket player who urges on his fellow player to continue to run and so score another run. The image is used by the Jesuit priest poet Gerard Manley Hopkins in a sermon delivered in 1882 in Liverpool.
As Hopkins develops it, the Spirit or Paraclete is “one who comforts, who cheers, who encourages, who persuades, who exhorts, who stirs up, who urges forward… He calls us on to good.” He cries out “Come on, come on, he cheers the spirit of man, with signals and with cries….”
For those not familiar with cricket, this could easily be changed to see the Spirit as the third-base coach in baseball, urging the player rounding second base to continue round third and score.
It is interesting to note that just last week, Pope Francis sent a letter to a group of coaches at a conference on the topic of “Coaches: Educators of Persons.” He spoke of their importance, responsibility and privilege of working with young people. But alas, it seems he did not go that one step further and like Hopkins, see that the Holy Spirit can easily be imagined as the coach.
So the next time you watch a ball game and see the coach giving the green light to the runner, you might, thanks to Hopkins, think of the work of the Holy Spirit the Comforter who clearly does more than comfort.