“You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes to you.”

For years I had dreamed of training a dog who would be my four-legged hunting pal, a duck fetching machine and upland bird flusher. This dream became a reality when old Buster, our chocolate lab, waggled his little seven-week-old-self into my life ten years ago.  

March of 2013 I brought that pooch home, and he and I set to work right away on training in the backyard. A quick whistle followed by “Hey pup!” grabs Buster’s attention for a few brief seconds. “Buster, come.” He darts my way awkwardly in his Labrador puppyness, which will undoubtedly end with him slamming full force into my legs until he acquires some concept of stopping. How much he had to learn. How much I had to learn about him, with him, and about myself as his master.

Lots of treats, lots of repetition, and a little patience is all it would take. At 9 weeks Buster had mastered “come,” “sit,” “down,” “stay,” “load up” for going into the crate and “no.” Of course, his recall of each command was spotty at best. He was however a whiz, pun intended, at “pee on the carpet,” “poop at random,” “scratch the rug,” “gag on chew toy stuffing,” “terrorize the cat,” “run like a mad man through the neighbors flowers,” “bark all night,” “nip the hands,” “tug on the leash,” and many other “tricks” every puppy has mastered in its short life here on planet earth. Buster was teaching me that it would take more treats than Petco has in stock and an infinite amount of patience to break this wild spirited Labrador puppy.

Yes, it took an incredible amount of time. Yes, he forgot or ignored many of the commands at times. The business of training is a slow process and one that is far from perfect. We made mistakes. Even when he was ready for his first hunt, he and I bungled the whole thing. He prematurely jumped from the blind, barked at birds, and preferred to take an impromptu swim around the pond. That’s ok. His greatness came later. 

At 6 months, I vividly remember he was a far cry from the high performance hunting machine of my dreams, but it was in his blood and eyes. I saw it in him. A legendary hunting dog caked in wetland mud, eager to hear me say “go” then launch himself out from the blind on a double mark. Each time he pointed at some intriguing smell or stalked up to bushes and flushed sparrows or robins in the backyard, I glimpsed the greatness emerging. When he scanned the sky for mallards traveling up and down the creek bottom or tried to pinpoint the flight pattern of geese honking in the distance, I saw it. As he grew, I continued to build upon the first brick of foundation laid that day he came over to me, a stranger, and would not leave my side.  

At ten years old Buster and I have hunted grouse, pheasants, and ducks but not to obsessive levels. Kids and family obligations have definitely replaced hunting and fishing as singular priorities in life and secured Buster’s place as a premier family dog who still can flush the bushes, strike line if I ask him to, and straight up loses his mind when I ask him to go for a walk and get the birds. He’s old and tires easily, but he loves to hunt. He’s wise and discerning in his actions, exact in how he works the wind and comes back to me at the slightest whistle in any conditions. He’s mellowed to the point that he could sit all day in a blind and when time to fetch a bird, explode out like a 2-year-old AKC prime athlete. In short, he’s a championship gun dog, the championship dog I saw years ago in the 7-week-old pup.

When I think about Pentecost and the awesome workings of the apostles and the early church, I often think Christ looked at the apostles the moment/He called them on the sea of Galilee and saw everything they would become. He chose 12 guys who would not get it right for a long time. Even though He spent three years teaching them, allowing them to be disciples, working miracles for them and for others in their presence, the 12 would deny, betray, and abandon their master, teacher, and friend. But, Jesus knew. He could see in those men everything they would become in a few short years.

Jesus knew that after His Ascension the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete, the Advocate, the Third Person of the Blessed Trinity, would come to the apostles and make them into the men, the saints, the harbingers of the Gospel who fiercely promote and witness to Jesus Christ as the Way, the Truth and the Life. Christ chose the apostles for who they were – sinners, poor men, weak-willed, outcast, yet men ready and open for something new – and saw who they would become through the grace of the Holy Spirit – powerful, courageous witness to the Truth. 

You see, Christ looks at His Beloved Bride, the Holy Catholic Church in the same way. Today, on this the Universal Church’s birthday, we have the opportunity to reflect upon our Church. Don’t we want Her to be perfect? We like to harshly criticize our priests, bishops, ministers, other Catholics, in fact our whole Catholic Church family falls victim to our uncharitable, vicious speech. We have a difficult time seeing what the Church, what we as the Body of Christ are becoming, really who we are, the Body of Christ. The Church is not perfect and will never be as long as she/we are on pilgrimage. The Church is composed of sinners striving to become saints and as sinners, from the top down, things sometimes get messy, we lose sight of who we really are. But the power and grace of Pentecost compels the Church to move forward. It reveals to us the reality that Christ can see our broken sinfulness, our immaturity, and through the working of the Holy Spirit transform us into His pure and spotless bride. The full outpouring of the Holy Spirit helps us to become passionate lovers of Jesus Christ, fierce defenders of the truth of the one, holy, Catholic and apostolic, Church.