Holy spirit

With the Holy Spirit, one plus one equals three

A reflection for the feast of Pentecost

Readings: Acts 2:1-11 1 Corinthians 12:3b-7, 12-13 John 14:15-16, 23b-26

When one plus one equals three, that’s how you know someone is your true friend.

You can say the same about true love. You are in love when one plus one equals three. But if a person is your true friend, they are already one of the loves of your life. Yes, one of the loves. God never intended for us to have one. He just made the human heart too big, too hungry for that.

So many people are disappointed in love. They are looking for “the love of their life” when all they have to do is find friends. Friends can always become lovers, but if a relationship starts and stays on the level of sexual attraction, good luck with that.

When one plus one equals three, that’s how you know someone is your true friend.

Friendship has an essential openness to this. You don’t find a friend and say, “This is it. I’m finished. I couldn’t want more life. Instead, every true friend makes you and your world bigger. You become more capable of being a friend and thus receive more from them.

When one plus one equals three, you have a friend. I know, it seems odd to reduce any part of our humanity to numbers because what makes us unique on earth is our inability to be reduced to a set of numbers.

One way or another, science defines everything by numbers. For example, numbers on a test report tell you that you have cancer. Okay, but numbers can’t explain what cancer is to you, what it means to you to have cancer. When scientists start thinking that numbers not only explain how we are but who we are, they got lost. The numbers confused them.

So how can numbers explain the presence of true friendship?

Last week I called Patti, a friend of many years. I wanted to do this for a very long time. In my own defense, I kept telling myself that I’m horrible at keeping in touch with all the absent friends. I can’t find the time.

How can numbers explain the presence of true friendship?

But I knew it was high time for me to reach out. I left a message. She and her husband Steve called back the same day. They are both my friends. Remember that one friend brings another.

Even though my absence made me feel ashamed, there was no need for me to repeat anything I might say when we made contact. When you meet an old friend, you don’t have to think about how you’re going to introduce yourself. In a few minutes of conversation, neither you nor your friend think of you. Instead, you both marvel at this new reality, this new person, if you will, among you. Someone who only exists when you make contact.

That is, the friendship revives immediately. It takes on a life and ease of its own. It is so fruitful, so full of newly created abundance, that it is difficult not to speak of a third person, the one who only emerges in contact with the two of you.

In the Western Church, insofar as we can coherently define or even speak of the Holy Spirit, we say that the Father begets the Son and that the mutual love of the Father and the Son “exhales” (Latin: spiral) the mind.

In other words, the love of the Father and the Son is so intense, so real, so abundant that it creates a third person. One plus one equals three. The Holy Spirit exists because the Father and the Son together are more than “the sum of their parts.”

When one plus one equals three, you and another have become more than yourselves. You have welcomed your origin and your destiny.

We don’t need to turn the Holy Spirit into something dull, especially when we find the mark of the Spirit imprinted repeatedly in our lives. When one plus one equals three, you and another have become more than yourselves. You have welcomed your origin and your destiny, both external to you. Human friendship is the shadow of the Holy Spirit.

Forget the flame and the dove. Or at least realize that they are meant to be pictures. The flames will continue to spread. It is their nature. A bird on the ground is just another animal. But when it takes the air!

I realized and confessed, during my conversation with friends, why I had been absent from the relationship. Struggling with depression and loneliness that I couldn’t or wouldn’t admit to myself, I stayed away.

Maybe it’s a male thing. I never called my mom in emotional distress because I knew she would hear it from the way I greeted her.

When we are in pain, we withdraw into ourselves. It will never help. Indeed, it is a mark of a nature which the Gospel calls fallen. Sometimes we choose to remain hurt and avoid the true friend – and most of us will never have one truer than our mothers – because we know our touch will take on a life of its own. One plus one suddenly equals three.

Still don’t understand who the Holy Spirit is? Still can’t find the presence of the Spirit in your life? Stop and count. Whenever one plus one equals three, you know.