It is quite customary for many of us Catholics that Pentecost pushes us into a rush to connect with the Holy Spirit, increasing our supplications before the solemnity expires and lose the opportunity of God’s grace. It is also possible that many of us do not know what to ask of this Spirit because the same things can be asked to God or to Jesus directly. Pentecost itself inspired me to jot down this reflection as an opportunity to meditate on this theme, but actually what I want to say is that anytime is opportune to speak about the Holy Spirit.
How do I experience the Spirit? Is it a tenant of faith that complicates my belief? Can I do without it? Is it the cherry on the cake? Actually, there is a reason why we always leave the Holy Spirit till the end, as an appendix to an argument. Many times, the way we reason things out is chronological and with the Spirit of God we unknowingly take the historical approach. In scriptures we start with the notion of God as creator who from ancient times communicated with man and painstakingly offered him Salvation. In the fullness of time Jesus, the son of God, became human being like us and offered us salvation, as promised. When Jesus ascended into heaven, he promised his advocate, the Spirit, which was to usher us into the new era and will explain everything to us, protect us in our pilgrimage and bestow us with God’s ever creative grace. However, from this perspective many of us get stuck somewhere between Ascension and Pentecost, like Mary Magdalene wanting to cling to Jesus and like the apostles not sure what to expect after the Jesus event.
The Creed follows this historical order of believing in God the father, Jesus Christ the son and finally in the Holy Spirit. However, the historical chronology is the reverse of our journey of faith. When we are baptized into the Church and made children of God it is the Holy Spirit that is our first contact. The paraclete descends by our spirit and does what his nature demands – love us into children of God. Our departure point as believers is from the Spirit of God who intercedes for us so as from alienated beings we become heirs of God and then councils us along the way to start growing in intimacy with Jesus as the Son of God, who is the Christ through whom we can one day appear in joy in front of the Father.
Pentecost is today and every day because we live in the era of the Holy Spirit. We start from the Spirit and pray that we stay in it. Our hope is that what we celebrate on this solemnity is a love that accompanies us throughout the year and not the birthday of a person we remember about once a year.
This reverse historical process is inconceivable without the action of the Holy Spirit. “Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba Father.” So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir.” Gal 4:6-7. And “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.” Rm 8:26. This clearly demonstrates that behind every action of the Christian there is the hidden care of the Spirit. Invoking the Holy Spirit is not an extraordinary effort done when we are in dire straits and need discerning. Nor are they the exceptional moments of big decisions. Actually, these salient moments in life should flow naturally from the acquaintance that we have with the Spirit of God who accompanies us in the day to day chores, thoughts and silences.
The early Church was very conscious that her birth as a community was through the Holy Spirit and that the Holy Spirit was not the point of arrival but the starting force. “When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to Samaria. When they arrived, they prayed for the new believers there that they might receive the Holy Spirit, because the Holy Spirit had not yet come on any of them; they had simply been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then Peter and John placed their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.” Act 8:14-17 This is how real and important the Holy Spirit is for the Church. Every action is void if not filled with the right spirit. In 1 Cor 13 Paul states that “If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal…” That love is not a man-made feeling, or acquired by any human effort. That type of love can only be God’s Spirit indwelling in our being, side by side with our spirit, transforming every human action into the divine.
Without it all is empty.
With it all is transformed.
Through it we become missionaries.
Because of it we are rendered creative.
It unifies us into one body we call Church.
It transforms our limited ordinary into eternal ecstasy.
So, Pentecost is today and every day because we live in the era of the Holy Spirit. We start from the Spirit and pray that we stay in it. Our hope is that what we celebrate on this solemnity is a love that accompanies us throughout the year and not the birthday of a person we remember about once a year.
Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love.
Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created.
And You shall renew the face of the earth.
Fr Mark Grima mssp