A four-year-old child awoke one night frightened, convinced that in the darkness there were all kinds of spooks and monsters. Absolutely terrified, she ran into her parents’ bedroom. Her mother calmed her down and, taking her by the hand, led her back to her own room where she put on a light, tucked her back into bed, and gently reassured the child with these words, “You needn’t be afraid, you are not alone here. God is in the room with you.” The child replied, “I know that God is here, but I need someone in this room who has some skin!” Jesus is the eternal Word of God become flesh, and in our day we must put “skin” on our proclamation of the Gospel, to incarnate its truth.
–From Evangelization 2008, Telling the Story in Cyberspace by Geoffrey Plant
In this season of Easter and especially Pentecost, we are reminded that God wants us to abandon that which keeps us insular and disconnected from the wider world. In the second reading on Pentecost Sunday Paul uses the image of the One Body to illustrate this essence of community and communion to which we are called when he says, “Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ.” (1 Cor. 12:12)
How do we give meaning to “putting skin” in our witness to creating the One Body in our lives today? We can begin by taking a look at the relationships in our lives. When we begin to open ourselves to a world that is unlike our own, to people and cultures that make us review our own sets of biases/ judgments, we begin to be led by the Spirit into a much deeper, wider communion in which human barriers begin to melt away.
The Holy Spirit is another way we are reminded of our unity. Again, from the first reading of Pentecost we read, “When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled, they were all in one place together. And suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house in which they were.” (Acts 2:1-2) That blowing wind that passes over us all indiscriminately binds us together in our diversity.
Sometimes we are given the image of a dove as a symbol of the Spirit, but in ancient Celtic Christianity, we hear the honking, squawking Goose-Spirit. The squawking goose brings not a sense of calm like the coo of a dove but of irritation and urgency. The missionary vocation is one that is counter-cultural not for the sake of defiance, but rather to bring in from the periphery those on the margins.
As we celebrate Pentecost, we can ask ourselves, is ours the noisy honk of the wild Goose-Spirit that calls us to incarnate the truth by our lives — Jesus the eternal Word who became flesh. Do our relationships give expression to the One Body? May God breathe his Spirit into our hearts so that we may put “skin” on our proclamation of the Gospel and become the flesh of His body.