for Sunday, May 31, 2009
The Feast of Pentecost ranks among the most
important in the Christian Calendar—it is up there with Christmas
and Easter as marking a crucial moment in the story of our
As we have just heard read to us, on Pentecost
Day the Holy Spirit was poured out upon the apostles and they were
inspired to leave their place of refuge and go out into the street
to proclaim the Gospel eloquently in the languages of all their
This great outpouring of the Holy Spirit was
not a one-off event it is something that continues in the Church
right up to the present day. Indeed it will always be one of the
identifying characteristics of the Church.
The Lord himself said: I will not leave you
orphans. And neither he has. The Holy Spirit has been sent down
on the community of believers and he inspires and sustains the
Church through all the ages.
This great Feast of Pentecost is rightly
considered the birthday of the Church. But it marks much more than
merely the birth of an institution. What is happening is that we are
being gradually drawn into the life of the Trinity - the life of God
We have been saved by the work of the Son and
we now live the life of the Spirit. We are being drawn ever closer
to the Father and when we die we shall rise to glory and see God
face to face.
Each one of us experiences his or her own
Pentecost. The Holy Spirit is poured out on us in the Sacrament of
Confirmation but the Spirit does not stop there. We experience many
other moments of grace because God never ceases to act in our lives.
Nothing occurs by accident and, while
respecting our free will, God constantly cares for us and guides us
in the way he chooses. If we want to know whether he has actually
done this then simply sit down and count your blessings and you will
soon see what he has been doing.
We as Christians want to live in harmony with
our creator and we want to follow where he leads us. Sometimes
though we find it difficult to discern his will. Does the Holy
Spirit inspire this or that particular action or it is just me
following my own desires?
To answer this question we simply need to ask
ourselves whether the deed in question is good and whether its
effects will be good. If there is a shadow of doubt then we will
know it is our own desires that are at work rather than the
inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
God is good and there is no darkness in him.
If our actions and motivations are good in themselves then they
certainly come from God.
This might not sound like much fun—we may
regard being good all the time as rather boring. But this is a basic
error on our part. Doing good deeds is certainly pleasurable,
working in harmony with our creator is in fact deeply satisfying;
and indeed, true personal fulfilment can be found in no other way.
The Lord Jesus breathed on the apostles and
said Receive the Holy Spirit, so we are told in the Gospel
reading. This is a most interesting action and indeed the Holy
Spirit is often identified as the very breath of God.
It is breath that gives life and the Holy
Spirit certainly gives us life. We begin to live a new life; we have
a new breath in us—the breath of God. We live this new life by
doing the things God wants us to do, thinking the thoughts God wants
us to think and by speaking the words that God wants us to speak.
By living in such close conformity to the will
of God we become more and more in harmony with him. What begins as
an act of will, sometimes only with great difficulty, gradually
becomes second nature to us. We don’t have to ask what God wants
us to do because we instinctively choose the good.
This sounds all very lovely and pious and you
might be thinking by now that although I might be saying these
rather marvellous things I quite obviously don’t live them! And
you would be right.
You might also be thinking that you wish you
could live in this way yourself but it would be too hard. There are
so many practical things that get in the way. And actually we all
quite like our little vices and bad habits and are reluctant to let
And this is understandable and in fact it is
an inevitable effect of the original sin that we were all born into.
Concupiscence is the technical word—if you want to know.
But look again at our Gospel reading and you
see that the outpouring of the Holy Spirit is simultaneous with the
institution of the sacrament of reconciliation. The Holy Spirit
comes upon us and this Spirit is a forgiving, healing and
We want to live the way God wants but we
frequently fail, we frequently return to the selfish habits of sin,
we frequently choose our way rather than God’s way. But we are
aware of this. And when things build up we find ourselves turning to
God in repentance to seek his forgiveness and mercy.
When, in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, we
clear away the backlog of sin we hear the priest say those wonderful
words: God, the Father of mercies,
through the death and resurrection of his Son has reconciled the
world to himself and sent the Holy Spirit among us for the
forgiveness of sins; through the ministry of the Church may God give
you pardon and peace.
So although we are still fairly hopeless and
always will have a certain propensity to sin we can yet make
progress. After all the Holy Spirit is guiding us and he guides us
along the way to holiness. By letting him do his work we gradually
grow in love and goodness. By letting him do his work he draws us to
the Father, he leads us to life eternal.
Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your
And enkindle in them the fire of your love.
Send forth your Spirit and they shall be
And you shall renew the face of the earth.
Let us pray.
O God, who has taught the hearts of the faithful by light of the
Holy Spirit, grant that by the gift of the same Spirit we may be
always truly wise and ever rejoice in his consolation. Through
Christ our Lord. Amen
Readings of the day:
Reflections are available for the following Sundays: