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Terrance KleinJune 01, 2022
Photo by René Ranisch on Unsplash

A Reflection for the Feast of Pentecost

Readings: Acts 2:1-11 1 Corinthians 12:3b-7, 12-13 John 14:15-16, 23b-26

When one plus one equals three, that is how you know somebody is your true friend.

You can say the same about true love. You are in love when one plus one equals three. But if a person is your true friend, they are already one of the loves of your life. Yes, one of the loves. God never intended us to have only one. He just made the human heart too big, too hungry for that.

So many people are disappointed in love. They search for “the love of their life” when all they need to do is find friends. Friends can always become lovers, but if a relationship begins and stays on the level of sexual attraction alone—good luck with that.

When one plus one equals three, that is how you know somebody is your true friend.

Friendship has an essential openness about it. You do not find a friend and say: “This is it. I’m done. I couldn’t possibly want more of life.” Instead, each true friend enlarges you and your world. You become more capable of being a friend and thus receive more of them.

When one plus one equals three, you have a friend. I know, it seems odd to reduce any part of our humanity to numbers because what makes us unique on earth is our inability to be reduced to a set of figures.

One way or another, science defines everything by way of numbers. For example, the numbers on a test-report tell you that you have cancer. Fine, but numbers cannot explain what cancer is for you, what it means for you to have cancer. When scientists begin to think that numbers explain not only how we are but who we are, they have lost their way. Numbers have befuddled them.

So how can numbers possibly explain the presence of true friendship?

This past week I called Patti, a friend for many years. I had been meaning to do it for the longest time. In my own defense, I kept telling myself that I am horrible at keeping in touch with all absent friends. I cannot find the time.

How can numbers possibly explain the presence of true friendship?

But I did know that it was long past time for me to reach out. I left a message. She and her husband Steve called back the same day. They are both my friends. Remember, one friend leads to another.

Even though my absence shamed me, there was no need for me to rehearse what I might say when we did make contact. When you encounter an old friend, you do not need to think about how you will present yourself. Within a few minutes of conversation, neither you nor your friend are thinking about yourselves. Instead, you are both marveling at this new reality, this new person, if you will, in your midst. Someone who only exists when the two of you come into contact.

Put another way, the friendship immediately rekindles. It takes on a life and an ease of its own. It is so fruitful, so full of newly created abundance, that it is hard not to speak of a third person, one who only emerges when the two of you make contact.

In the Western church, to the extent that we can define or even coherently speak of the Holy Spirit, we say that the Father begets the Son and that the mutual love of Father and Son “breathes forth” (Latin: spirare) the Spirit.

Put another way, the love of Father and Son is so intense, so real, so abundant that it creates a third person. One plus one equals three. The Holy Spirit exists because the Father and the Son, together, are more than “the sum of their parts.”

When one plus one equals three, you and another have become more than yourselves. You have welcomed your origin and your destiny.

We need not make the Holy Spirit into something obtuse, especially when we find the Spirit’s mark repeatedly impressed into our lives. When one plus one equals three, you and another have become more than yourselves. You have welcomed your origin and your destiny, both of which lie outside yourselves. Human friendship is the shadow of the Holy Spirit.

Forget the flame and the dove. Or at least realize that they are meant to be images. Flames will not stop spreading. It is their nature. A bird on the ground is just another animal. But when it takes to the air!

I realized, and confessed, during my conversation with friends, why I had been absent from the relationship. Struggling with a depression and loneliness that I could not, or would not, admit to myself, I had stayed away.

That may be a male thing. I never called my mother in emotional distress because I knew she would hear it in the way that I greeted her.

When we are hurting, we pull into ourselves. That is never going to help. Indeed, it is a mark of a nature the Gospel calls fallen. Sometimes we choose to remain wounded, and we avoid the true friend—and most of us will never have one truer than our mothers—because we know that our contact will take on a life of its own. One plus one suddenly equals three.

Still don’t understand who the Holy Spirit is? You still cannot find the Spirit’s presence in your life? Stop and count. Whenever one plus one equals three, you know.

More: Scripture

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