“When you send forth your spirit, they are created, and you renew the face of the earth.”

Psalm 104:30

Friday, 28 May 2021

Psalm 104

In the liturgy, this line from Psalm 104 is somewhat reworked: “Lord, send forth your Spirit, and renew the face of the earth”. Note the change: the description is turned into an intercession, asking the Lord to do what the Lord has done.

This may seem a little odd at first. After all, the psalmist says that the Lord has already done it.

But have we noticed? Have we responded? It may feel that it’s a case of ‘already – but not (quite) yet’. God has already sent forth the Spirit and has renewed the earth, but we have somehow missed the work of the Spirit in the world. That is perhaps our human condition – missing what is already under our noses.

The disciples before Pentecost were in the same position. Even after Pentecost, even after nearly 2000 years of the Church, we are in a similar position. We are so caught up in our little squabbles in church and state that we miss the Spirit under our noses.

How are we going to notice? I think one way is to be still and wait for the Spirit to speak to us. As I said earlier in the week, we may not have the kind of ‘wind and flame’ experience that mobilised the disciples into what became the Church. But all of us – Christians and non-Christians, believers and non-believers – have at least once experienced what some theologians call the sense of the transcendent – even a transcendence, a sense of the bigness and magnificence of everything, in the world around us.

Whether we have named this transcendence God or the Spirit probably depends on the world we grew up in and in the religious (or non-religious) language we know. No matter. Whether it was a sense of God present during worship, in a church or sacred space, or even just a sense of the awesomeness (in its real sense – the largeness, complexity and feeling that reduces words to babble) of the world and universe, we have experienced it.

We may have just forgotten. Get back to it, remember (re-member: put it back together).

Ask yourself: When have I sensed the presence of Spirit in the world? 

Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful. And kindle in us the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and we will be courageous, so that you can renew the face of the earth.


Fr Anthony Egan SJ

Fr Anthony Egan SJ (born Cape Town 1966; entered the Jesuits 1990; ordained 2002) has taught, full-time or part-time, at St Augustine College of South Africa, St John Vianney Seminary, Fordham University (on sabbatical) and the University of the Witwatersrand. The author/co-author of a number of books, book chapters, academic and popular articles, he is a correspondent for America magazine, a contributor to Worldwide and writes for spotlight.africa. He is also a commentator on local and international radio and television. He is an Honorary Fellow of the Helen Suzman Foundation. Extramural interests include Science Fiction, Theatre, Art and creative writing, including poetry.

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