Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., shares a reflection on the Solemnity of Pentecost
May 31, 2020
The Sacred Scriptures remind us that “the love of God has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit dwelling with us (Romans 5: 5).”
The Easter Season – one unlike any other in our memory comes to an end as the Church celebrates the Solemn Feast of Pentecost, traditionally called the “birthday of the Church.” Before returning to his Father, Jesus promised in the Gospel of John that he would send the Holy Spirit to those who believe in him (John 7: 39); that he would ask the Father to give us another, the Advocate, to be with us forever – the Spirit of Truth (John 14: 16-17); that he would not leave us orphans: “I will come to you (John 14: 18),” that when the Spirit comes, “he will guide you into all Truth (John 16: 13).” As Jesus ascended into heaven, described in the Gospel of Matthew, he proclaimed, “Behold, I will be with you always, even until the end of time (Matthew 28: 20).”
The birth of the Church at Pentecost, announced by Peter in the Acts of the Apostles (2: 14-36) and liturgically celebrated 50 days after Easter, is the fulfillment of Jesus’ promises and we are their eternal beneficiaries. The Holy Spirit, proceeding from – and one with – the Father and the Son as we profess each Sunday in the Creed, offers us spiritual gifts and powers to live the Christian life of faith.
The Sacrament of Confirmation is truly our own Pentecost, the occasion for Catholics to celebrate our ownership of these gifts and powers. The Sacrament can only be received once but its effects, its gifts and grace, are meant to last for a lifetime.
Wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety and fear of the Lord – these are the “seven gifts” the Holy Spirit offers. The “nine fruits” of the Holy Spirit, enumerated in the Letter to the Galatians (5: 22-23) – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control – are the powers the Holy Spirit shares for living the Christian life.
We read in the Acts of the Apostles, “When the day of Pentecost came, they [the Apostles] were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the place where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them (Acts of the Apostles 2: 1-4).” What an amazing scene that must have been!
The Holy Spirit continues to make God’s presence felt in the Church in all the moments of our lives, giving his gifts, empowering the community of faith. Pentecost is a “forever experience“ that touches us deeply, guiding us to “all Truth” as we make our way through life. We still pray and sing “Come Holy Ghost” because the Spirit invites us over and over again, each and every day, to open our minds and hearts to discern God’s movements in what we think and feel, in what we desire and seek, in what we hope to accomplish, and in how we live and love in this world. Reflecting on Pentecost, we who are “born of the Spirit” come to realize – like the Apostles in the Upper Room – that “the wind blows wherever it pleases (John 3: 8).” We humbly bow, then, before the power of the Holy Spirit of God.
On this “birthday of the Church,” Pentecost, we should be grateful for the gifts of the Holy Spirit and should strive to show anew and always, by the way we live our Christian lives, the “love of God poured into our hearts.”