The Gospel for Sunday, June 4th, 2017

 

The Gospel for June 4th, 2017: Pentecost Sunday

John 20: 19-23

Reflection: Hole-Hearted to Whole-Hearted

For Pentecost Sunday, when we celebrate Jesus sending the Holy Spirit to His disciples after His ascension, I am going off my usual script of close, analytical reading of the gospel followed by carefully cited, evidence-based reflection. The reason is I had a moment of inspiration in the last two weeks that could very well be grace for this humble blogger. I was with a colleague who was playing the “I heart 90s” radio channel. The song “Hole-Hearted” from the group Extreme came on, which was vaguely familiar and musically intriguing. I remembered their song “More than Words” and how I thought it was kind of pretty, but that I didn’t like their long-haired, 80s rock look. I consciously did not jump on the Extreme bandwagon in the early 90s out of snobbery. Consequently, I missed the clever pun of the title of their other popular song, “Hole-Hearted,” due to unabashed snobbery. Depending on the spelling, “whole-hearted” or “hole-hearted” could mean could a sense of complete and sincere commitment or a state where that completeness is not possible due to flaw or absence of a necessary ingredient. A romantic reading suggests the missing piece of this life that yearns to be filled with love is a girl, the “you” who is the only one to fill the hole in the troubadour’s heart. He sings, “There’s a hole in my heart that can only be filled by you.” Once he has the girl, he will be whole-hearted and happy. This is quite original word play even at face value.

However, the reason I have not been able to get this out of my head is I kept thinking the “you” could just as precisely refer to the Holy Spirit. For that substitution to work, I think I need to be clearer as to what the Holy Spirit is, and if it can function to fill a hole in the heart. I prefer to use the rather theological definition used Bishop Robert Barron in his June 1st, gospel reflection. He describes the role of the Holy Spirit in the Trinity this way:

“[T]he paschal mystery is intelligible only in the light of the doctrine of the Trinity. This acrobatic act of love is possible only if there is, in the very being of God, a sender and one that he can send, only if there is a Father and a Son. The Father and the Son are united in love, and this love is itself the divine life. And thus there is a spirit, co-equal to the Father and the Son, which is the love shared between them.”

So what is the Holy Spirit? It is the spirit of divine love, sent directly to us, to provide us with the gifts of knowledge, wisdom, counsel, understanding, fortitude, piety, and fear of the Lord. It is what we need in our hearts to love God and all His creation unselfishly.

Let’s revisit the lyrics of the Extreme song with this definition in mind as the meaning of “you” in the refrain.

“Hole Hearted”
Life’s ambition occupies my time
Priorities confuse the mind
Happiness one step behind
This inner peace I’ve yet to find

Rivers flow into the sea
Yet even the sea is not so full of me
If I’m not blind why can’t I see
That a circle can’t fit
Where a square should be

There’s a hole in my heart
That can only be filled by you
And this hole in my heart
Can’t be filled with the things I do

Hole hearted
Hole hearted

This heart of stone is where I hide
These feet of clay kept warm inside
Day by day less satisfied
Not fade away before I die

Rivers flow into the sea
Yet even the sea is not so full of me
If I’m not blind why can’t I see
That a circle can’t fit
Where a square should be

There’s a hole in my heart
That can only be filled by you
And this hole in my heart
Can’t be filled with the things I do
There’s a hole in my heart
That can only be filled by you
And this hole in my heart
Can’t be filled with the things I do

Hole hearted
Hole hearted
Hole hearted
Hole hearted

Does this substitution aptly describe our need to call on the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts? I think it does. This insight did lead me on quick cyber-search to see if this non-sexual, double entendre in the song was intentional by the artists. The best I could come up with is a “maybe.” It really doesn’t matter. The usefulness persists either way. In general I enjoy humming and singing popular songs as a tonic for difficult moments. What an incredible gift to be able meditate on these words as soaring prayer to the Holy Spirit. Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of the faithful, fill the hole in my heart punctured by sin. “There’s a hole in my heart that can only be filled by you. And this hole in my heart can’t be filled with the things I do.” While I don’t expect this song to be grace-filled prayer or mediation for everyone, the larger takeaway is there is so much divine beauty in the world—in the arts, in nature, in people, in relationships—where we can see the Holy Spirit, know its fulfillment, and act with the love of Jesus when we leave the four walls of the Church and go forth to proclaim the good news. We just have to seek and welcome the spirit of God’s love in our hearts. It’s everywhere that sin is, offering us a better choice for our happiness.

 

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