The gentle yet blazing gift of the Holy Spirit

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Pentecost Sunday, Year C: May 19, 2013
Mass during the Day: Acts 2:1-11; Ps 104; 1 Cor 12:3-7, 12-13; John 20:19-23

On that first Pentecost Sunday, the disciples experienced the outpouring of the Holy Spirit (CCC 731). We heard about this event in the first reading—and about the amazing events that followed, as they boldly spoke to others about Jesus in languages that they had not previously known. It was an amazing day—a day sometimes called “the birthday of the Church.”

But what is the Holy Spirit? Or, rather, we should ask: who is the Holy Spirit?

The Holy Spirit is one of the three Divine Persons in the Blessed Trinity. That is, to us has been revealed the mystery that the one God is a trinity of persons: the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, three Persons, one divine nature. The Second Person of the Trinity, the Son, was revealed to us when he was sent forth on his mission to become incarnate as our Lord Jesus Christ, to live among us, to preach and serve and call others to him, to suffer and die on the cross and then rise from the dead for our salvation, and to ascend to the Father.

And then the Third Person, the Holy Spirit, was revealed to us when he was sent forth on his mission: which is to dwell within each of us who has been baptized in Christ; to encourage us, to teach us, to guide us; to make us holy.

The Holy Spirit was made manifest in the form of a dove when our Lord Jesus was baptized; and he is as beautiful and can be as gentle as a dove. But on the Day of Pentecost his coming was signaled by a strong driving wind and tongues as of fire; and indeed he is that strong, that powerful, that transforming.

The Holy Spirit comes to make us holy: which means to make us like God, to make us like Christ, to make us also characterized by love, by a true, generous, self-giving love. And so what effects can we expect to see from his presence in our lives? A full answer to that could be long and also a little different for each person; but let us quickly consider three basic answers that are common to all of us, described for us in the Catechism (733-36).

First, the Holy Spirit brings forgiveness of our sins. Before our baptism, we were dead through sin, and the Holy Spirit raised us to life in Christ as he washed away all our sins. And when we again become dead or at least wounded through sin, the Holy Spirit acts within the sacrament of confession to again forgive us and restore that life within us. In our Gospel reading, we heard that our Lord Jesus breathed the Holy Spirit upon the apostles to give them the ability to forgive sins. Do you have serious sins that need to be forgiven? Don’t carry around that weight, that deadness: go to confession and receive the cleansing of the Holy Spirit.

Second, the Holy Spirit gives us a share in the very life of the Holy Trinity; a share in that amazing, generous love, which is the source of our entirely new life in Christ. Have you entered into this communion, this sharing in the life of the Trinity, through prayer today? The Holy Spirit can enable you to do so, and so to make this day-to-day life completely different.

Third, the Holy Spirit enables us to bear much fruit. As we live these transformed lives, we will find produced within us what St. Paul calls the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. This fruit is a gift that we enjoy; it is a gift that we share with others; and it is a gift that we also offer to God as, more and more, we live according to the guidance of the Spirit.

So let us listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit within us: gentle, strong, powerful, ardent, seeking to make us holy and truly loving. Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love.

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