This Sunday marks the great Solemnity of Pentecost. It commemorates the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles, and other followers of Jesus Christ, while they were in Jerusalem celebrating the Feast of Weeks, as described in the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 2:1–31). It is often referred to as “the birthday of the Church”. Saint Paul identifies nine “fruits” of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) that should manifest themselves in our daily lives. In the lead-up to Pentecost, Bishop Boyea is leading a daily meditation upon each of the nine fruits. Today: Kindness. Here is what he has to say:
A famine is a terrible thing. It drove a man and his wife and two sons from their homeland to a foreign land. There they settled in. The boys married local women and all seemed fine, that is, until the father died and then the two sons died. Their mother, Naomi, was suddenly left with two daughters-in-law named Orphah and Ruth.
Naomi, now alone and without heirs, decides to go back to Israel. Orphah will stay with her own people. But Ruth shows an incredible “kindness” and decides to go with Naomi, even though she has no obligation to do so. She tells Naomi: “Where you go, I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God, my God; where you die I will die and there will I be buried.” Ruth shows the very kindness of God.
We need to be clear what we mean by this term, “Kindness”. Some people might think this means we should be “nice,” that is, agreeable and tolerant. That is not at all what this word means. Rather, kindness is focusing on the other and doing what is for the real good of the other, because we are bound to the other in a sort of covenant.
How will the Holy Spirit help us to live this covenant kindness? I believe there are three ways. First, when Naomi encouraged Ruth to stay with her own people, she thanked Ruth for the kindness Ruth had shown all the previous years when Ruth was married to Naomi’s son. But Ruth made clear that her kindness was not just a matter of being nice to her mother-in-law, Naomi. Rather, Ruth felt she was bound to Naomi—that they were in a covenant relationship. Ruth’s kindness was an act of loyalty. God has been loyal to us and the Holy Spirit wants us to be kind to one another because we are bound to one another.
Secondly, the Holy Spirit helps us to be kind by identifying with the poor. Naomi had nothing. She had no family, no heirs, no real place in society, and thus was literally poor. She really had nothing to give to Ruth. Yet, Ruth gave Naomi all that she was. This is not just being nice. This is Holy Spirit kindness. Because of her kindness, Ruth in turn was shown real kindness by God. Ruth went as a poor woman into the grain fields of a wealthy man, named Boaz. There she gleaned what she could, as all poor were able to do, so that she could feed herself and her mother-in-law, Naomi. Boaz noticed her and eventually married her. Their son, Obed, would become the grandfather of King David. God showed his kindness to Ruth through the kindness of Boaz. But it was Ruth’s care for poor Naomi that began it all. God leads us through seeming chance encounters and gives us opportunities to show real kindness to one another.
Thirdly, the Holy Spirit helps us to live this out. What this means is that the Holy Spirit helps us to go beyond the mere minimum. Thus, we do not just do what we have to do, but we do what God would do. This becomes part of our very makeup, of the very way we look at life. God does everything in abundance. The Holy Spirit helps us to be like God, to be kind in abundance. And we do this not just because we want to. Rather, it is because we are bound to every human being on the face of this earth, and especially the poor, because they are all created by God and loved by God and God has bound himself to all of them even as he has bound himself to us. We recognize that we are in relationship with everyone and we want to be like God.
My sisters and brother, the result of this great gift will be the ability to be truly kind, a kindness that binds us to one another, especially the poor. Let the love of God placed in our hearts by the Holy Spirit show itself in your kindness to one another.