The Spirit Waits

In conjunction with Fr. William O'Malley's article in the current issue of America, we will be posting a few of his homilies to "The Good Word" this week. Fr. O'Malley is a noted homilist and author who has taught high school students for over forty years. You can read some of Fr. O'Malley's other homilies here (registration required).

Pentecost, Year A, June 12, 2011


Literally, a paraclete means anyone “called in” to help. So the translation that appeals to me most is “comforter.” Less pugnacious, dominating, “masculine” than “advocate,” just as connotations of “caregiver” are different applied to a doctor (male or female) or to a nurse (male or female). The doctor aggressively challenges; the nurse compassionately comforts.

The Holy Spirit manifests what Carl Jung called the “feminine” aspects of the one God: intuition, creativity, inclusiveness, mercy, unconditional love. Aspects also associated with ignition and the fire in the hearth the mother guards. We see it here in Jesus’ lovely sensitivity: “I will not leave you orphaned.” God doesn’t want us lost, dislocated, alien, rootless.

Yahweh has that same expansive empathy for the alien and the orphan, responding to the desolating sense of abandonment that the crucified Jesus felt, the alienation slaves–-Hebrew or African--sang of: “Lord, do not forsake us in the wilderness” and “Sometimes ah feels lak a muthahless chile, a long wa-ay from home.” Each of us has felt it, when nothing makes sense anymore, when nothing seems worth challenging anymore, when paralyzing winter seems to have taken up permanent occupancy in one’s soul.

Our first encounter with such traumatic dislocation was birth. For nine months, we’d been as close to paradise as we’ll ever be on earth–-warm, floating, fed, without a worry because we couldn’t think. Then we were rudely ejected into cold and noise, and our first gift from life was a slap to set us screaming. The prime task of the caregivers was to get us as quickly as possible back next to that heartbeat that had been our assurance for nine months. Mother.

Later, when we’d awaken from nightmares in the dark, alone, disoriented, without any landmarks, we cried out–and in an instant, she was there, flipping on the light, wrapping us in her arms, crooning, “It’s okay, honey. It’s okay.” And it was okay. Mommy meant meaning, healing, connection--not only with everything outside us but everything inside, too. Before we had a reasoned philosophy of life–-far more important–-we had “Mama,” assurance of belonging, being valued, being “at home.”

A spark of God’s Spirit lurks within each of us (Hindus and Buddhists teach that, too) and propels us upward from other animals, tries to civilize us, makes us grasp at least in some dim way the sacredness of our souls, wrenches us away from the animal drives within us to degrade ourselves and others, triggers a discontent with mediocrity, pettiness, hypocrisy. I suspect God’s Spirit in us is the irritant we feel when we’re tempted to settle for ordinary, small lives.

During this week, if you really listen, you might sense whispers along the back corridors of your soul, a voice not unlike Obiwan Kenobi’s calling Luke Skywalker from safe anonymity. I’m daring you to listen. Quite likely it’ll murmur something discomforting, like “Is this all there is? Is that all you want? Just to have survived?” If you hit a patch where tedium shoves you back on your heels, wondering which way is up and how the hell you ever got into this cement mixer, that disquiet is quite likely God’s Spirit trying to convince you that you were born for better than rat races, that discovering a felt purpose for the tedious tasks ennobles them–-and you. The Spirit’s waiting (if you have time to sit with her) to help you reconnect the disparate pieces of your life, re-weave all those seemingly incompatible priorities into an organic self, establish within you the realization that, yes, within this skin you are “at home.”

She sits outside our doorways, patiently waiting, to help us claim our life’s inheritance: being sons and daughters of the God who is the aliveness within everything that is.


Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.
6 years 11 months ago
I understand the point of calling Wisdom "her" and using the feminine "she" with respect to the Holy Spirit, but I'd like to point out a cautionary note..... and that is that while the feminine images and allusions of the Old Testament are indeed scriptural - the New Testament into which we were all Baptized rests on the incarnation of the Logos as a Man, the Son, who taught us to pray to God as "Abba" "Daddy", not "Mommy" or "she/it".

For some reason we would do well to ponder on rather than glide over, God became one of us and told us how to refer to Himself on masculine terms even though He, Jesus, admits that "God is spirit" and hence is invisible by nature to human eyes.... and yet visible through faith by seeing the Son.

I would suggest the reason for this is not arbitrary or "merely social" but runs to the core of both our being and our fundamental hurt.... virtually all of mankind's social ills perpetrated by men are connected to men not having a loving relationship with their daddies.....and most of feminism can boil down to women being scandalized and hurt by bad men (daddies, husbands, brothers, etc.) in their lives - which push them to reject not just these individuals but masculinity itself as "the problem".

And yet the problem is not masculinity but the lack of good example.

Since God Himself chose to become a boy and grow into a man, and call God "daddy" and refer to himself as "Son", I don't think we Christians are at liberty to decide that God prefers "she".

Not my will, not my prejudice, not my whimsy.... it's respecting what is, not what I'd prefer to be.
Chris Sullivan
6 years 11 months ago
I don't see why Jung's ''feminine'' aspects of God, intuition, creativity, inclusiveness, mercy, unconditional love, are necessarily feminine.

They were fully present in Jesus and he is masculine.

God Bless


Don't miss the best from America

Sign up for our Newsletter to get the Jesuit perspective on news, faith and culture.

The latest from america

The news from Ireland and the United States reminds us of Herod, of Pharaoh. What culture betrays its children?
The EditorsMay 26, 2018
A woman religious casts her ballot May 25 in Dublin as Ireland holds a referendum on its law on abortion. Voters went to the polls May 25 to decide whether to liberalize the country's abortion laws. (CNS photo/Alex Fraser, Reuters)
The repeal of Ireland's Eighth Amendment, which guarantees the right to life of the unborn, has passed with a nearly 2-1 margin.
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos testifies at a House Committee on Education and the Workforce, Tuesday, May 22, 2018, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
The Secretary of Education stirred up controversy when she said it was up to schools to decide if an undocumented student should be reported to authorities.
J.D. Long-GarcíaMay 25, 2018
Thousands gathered in Dublin May 12 to say "Love Both" and "Vote No" to abortion on demand. They were protesting abortion on demand in the forthcoming referendum May 25. (CNS photo/John McElroy)
“Priests and bishops get verbal abuse by being told, ‘How can you speak for women? You don’t know what it’s like!’”
America StaffMay 25, 2018