Pentecost: the gift of the Holy Spirit

This is a translation of the Spanish homily that I preached on Pentecost Sunday.
Pentecost Sunday, Year C: May 23, 2010
Acts 2:1-11; Ps 103; 1 Cor 12:3-7, 12-13; John 14:15-16, 23-26

For many centuries, every year the People of Israel celebrated two gifts that they had received from the Lord. First, in the feast of Passover, they celebrated their liberation from their slavery in the land of Egypt. And then, after 50 days, they celebrated the gift of the Law on Mount Sinai. That second feast was called “Shavuot” in Hebrew, or “Pentecost” in Greek, which meant 50. And that second gift of Pentecost was necessary in order to complete the gift of Passover: because this people who had been newly freed needed a guide for living their life of freedom; they needed a shape for it. And this is what God gave them in the Law. And they all remembered that a very loud trumpet blast and a fire accompanied this gift of the Law [Exod 19:16-18].

Today we heard in the first reading that a noise and fire also signaled the giving of another gift on a new Pentecost. But this noise was not a trumpet blast, but the sound of a strong driving wind; and the fire was not on a mountain but was tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them. And the gift was not just the letter of the Law, written on stone tablets, but the gift of the living Holy Spirit, the Third Person of the Holy Trinity, who was sent to dwell in the hearts of those who had been baptized into Christ.

Fifty days ago, we celebrated Easter—the Passover of our Lord Jesus Christ, in which he established for us the New Covenant in his precious blood. He freed us, not from Egypt, but from sin and death. And he opened for us the way, not to another earthly land, but to the Resurrection. One week ago, we celebrated how he, as the author or pioneer of our faith [Heb 12:2], ascended to God the Father in order to complete the journey in which we now follow him. And today we celebrate how our Lord Jesus, with his Father, sent to us as a guide, not words written on stone, but the Holy Spirit—in order to be with us and console us and guide us and strengthen us in our journey to heaven.

Probably most of you have heard talk amongst some of your family or friends or neighbors about the Holy Spirit; and you know that there are many strange actions that happen that people claim are because of the Holy Spirit. Now, it is true that the Holy Spirit is read and that he speaks to us and is alive and active. But it is also true that there are other spirits and emotions and feelings that are not of God and that do not guide us to holiness. And we need to learn to discern between the spirits: to distinguish one movement from another, in order to know which we should follow and which we should avoid.

I want to give you some principles that can help us in this discernment.

The Holy Spirit is the spirit of unity. We heard in the first reading how he united the disciples—and also united many nations and many languages—in order to form the Church, which is one, holy, Catholic, and apostolic. The Spirit guides us to unity and not to division; he guides us to the true Church and not away from it. St. Paul told us in the second reading that the parts of the body, though many, are one body; and so also Christ. The Holy Spirit is the spirit of unity.

The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of truth, as our Lord Jesus said in the Gospel. He told us: “He will teach you everything and remind you of all that I told you.” The Holy Spirit does not teach us anything contrary to what Jesus said and the Church has taught faithfully for these 2000 years. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of truth.

The Holy Spirit is the spirit of holiness. He does not guide us to sin. Jesus told us in the Gospel: “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” And he sent us the Holy Spirit in order to give us the grace of strengthening us and encouraging us to fulfill his commandments and to live a life that is more and more holy, pure, and full of his true love. The Holy Spirit is the spirit of holiness.

St. Paul wrote, in his letter to the Galatians [5:22-25]: “If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.” And he described the fruit that we should be able to see in the life of a person who lives by the Spirit. Did St. Paul say that this fruit of the Spirit was to be very excited? No, of course not. He wrote these famous words: The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.

By these principles we can begin to test whether someone is truly receptive to the work of the Holy Spirit—whether other people are; whether we ourselves are. Do we see unity? Truth? Holiness? And the fruit of St. Paul’s list, including love? Generosity? Faithfulness? Self-control?

This is the gift that God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ gave to us on Pentecost, as our guide and shape of the New Covenant: no just some letters on stone, but a divine Person to dwell within us; to cultivate more and more the life of the Resurrection that Christ gave us through his Passover, through Easter.

Because of this, on this great feast of Pentecost, let us rejoice in this great gift of the Father; let us give thanks; and let us pray to the Spirit himself in the words of the sequence hymn:

O most blessed Light divine,
Shine within these hearts of yours,
And our inmost being fill!

Heal our wounds, our strength renew;
On our dryness pour your dew;
Wash the stains of guilt away.

Give us virtue’s sure reward;
Give us your salvation, Lord;
Give us joys that never end.

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Published in: on May 23, 2010 at 11:40 pm  Leave a Comment  
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