Two weeks ago I was walking in the Cairngorms and I saw a glider towed by a plane. Several hours later when I was driving back home I heard on the radio that the glider had crashed; luckily the pilot had survived and had been rescued by a helicopter.
My knowledge about gliding is limited and theoretical; I’ve never flown any aircraft as a pilot, so I apologise to anybody with greater experience for making this sound simple. We know that usually a glider doesn’t have its own engine. It has to be towed by another plane to the correct height, where it is released to start its free flight. A glider pilot uses warm airflow to maintain altitude; other atmospheric effects are important for flying as well. The only problem is that movement of the air is invisible; so well trained pilot must be able to predict and recognize favourable air conditions. But before the pilot starts flying he must learn a lot and then gain experience under control of an instructor. Eventually the pilot can enjoy a sense of freedom flying on his own.
This story is very like our spiritual live. Baptism is like enrolling at a flying school; this is the beginning of learning how to use the power of the Holy Spirit. Then for the next few years more experienced “instructors” – like parents, family and teachers – help us to learn how to predict, recognize and understand inspirations of the Holy Spirit. The sacrament of confirmation is like a pilot’s certificate: we become responsible for our own moral decisions. We start to fly, soaring on the Holy Spirit.
This would be a very good and simple recipe for life if we lived in a perfect world. But, unfortunately, we don’t. In everyday life we face problems without simple solutions; making decisions with unpredictable consequences; moral choices of the lesser of two evils. The Holy Spirit helps us to maintain satisfying level of living, but we have to recognize his promptings like a glider pilot recognize warm airflows. Sexual abuse scandal revealed in the last few months is an extreme example what happened when some people stopped listening to the Holy Spirit: disaster for themselves and their victims.
The Holy Spirit wasn’t received by the Apostles just once, at the Pentecost; it happened many times during their ministry. We also open our hearts for the Holy Spirit in every prayer, receiving every sacrament and taking part in every Eucharist. As long as we are able to recognize and understand the inspirations of the Holy Spirit we can fly high and avoid disasters in our life. And the life of others.