That one symbol of the Holy Spirit – the gift of Pentecost – is a white dove is not so surprising when one reflects upon the way in which the Holy Spirit works.
We pray most especially to the Holy Spirit for
help in making our endeavours succeed, as did the apostles when Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to help them in spreading his gospel of love to the world after he had returned to his Father. When we pray to the Holy
Spirit, like them, we pray that our hopes will take flight and our fears dissipate on the wind.
This Spirit of all our hopes can be hard to fathom. Harder than Jesus, who was a man of flesh and blood, after
all, and God, whom we can envisage as Jesus’ and our Father in Heaven, even if we can never truly know his nature.
One way to try and fathom this third person of the Trinity is to see the Spirit as a wind,
which is how Luke describes the Holy Spirit as coming to the apostles.
This is also how small children are now taught about the Holy Spirit – you cannot see the wind but you can certainly feel its effects.
So, too, with the Holy Spirit. For instance, a quick prayer asking for help in a difficult endeavour can help make it succeed as the prayer results in extra confidence and buoys one’s hopes.
The Holy Spirit
as a symbol of hope and inspiration is also seen in its adoption as the dove of peace that symbolises the United Nations. The UN, for all its faults, has from its very beginning been an organisation based on hope.
It is an international organisation dedicated to good, whose army, for instance, unlike other armies, is not called an army but a peace-keeping force.
Perhaps we, too, when we pray to the Holy Spirit for
that little bit of extra help, or for inspiration, should bear in mind that the white dove bears the world’s hopes for peace on its slender back, too.
This can be a heavy burden. Right now, for example, the
dove of peace is hard at work brokering a long-term peace deal not too far from us here in Australia – in East Timor. The UN is presently helping the East Timorese develop a constitution for their new country, which
will hold its first democratic elections next year.
Perhaps we should pray that the dove has a strong as well as slender back.
We should also remember that the Holy Spirit is Jesus’ gift to us all.
The Spirit is there to help us when human strength alone is not enough and is an especial help at those times when we find it hard to live a Christian life.
PRACTICAL PROBLEMS IN
Welfare groups have, quite rightly, focused their attention on what they see as the paltry sum the Federal Government has dedicated to welfare in the Budget. But the Budget has
also thrown up a more fundamental concern in its extension of ‘mutual obligation’.
Mutual obligation involves making sure that welfare recipients are really in need and also ‘do their share’. To ensure this,
the Government has expanded Work for the Dole as well as extending its activity tests to include the older unemployed and single parents. The tests and penalties for non-compliance have also been made tougher.
While there is nothing wrong in principle with the idea that those in receipt of welfare should be genuinely in need, not rorting the system and doing what they can workwise, there are practical difficulties
involved in enforcing activity tests, for example.
Anyone who has ever been faced with the task of filling in a welfare form knows that even a couple of university degrees and an advanced reading age do not
guarantee success at this particular game.
Activity tests fall into the same game category, but the difference is that a large number of the people being asked to play the game are handicapped before they
even start. They are often not very well-educated, or they are sick, or physically or mentally disabled, or mentally ill. That is why they are on welfare.
Perhaps a little more lateral thinking on the
Government’s part on the practicalities of mutual obligation’would not have gone amiss.