The Solemnity of Pentecost: Spiritual Dynamism

Today we celebrate a major solemnity in the Church: Pentecost. The Liturgy of the Hours provides very beautiful readings in preparation for Pentecost.

May 22, 2021

Pentecost Sunday
Readings: Acts of the Apostles 2:1-11;
1 Corinthians 12:3b-7, 12-13; Gospel: John 20:19-23

Today we celebrate a major solemnity in  the Church: Pentecost. The Liturgy of  the Hours provides very beautiful readings  in preparation for Pentecost. I want to zero in  on Friday’s Office of Readings. Here St Hilary of Poitiers explains our need for the Holy  Spirit. He says that, just as a fully functional  eye cannot see unless there is light and a fully  functional ear cannot hear unless there are  sound vibrations, the human soul needs the  Holy Spirit to experience God. Let me flesh  this out a bit more. When I was in college, I  spent a couple of summers at a retreat camp in  the foothills of the Catskill Mountains in New York. 

On days off, we often took long hikes  through the hills until we came to a small  opening in the ground that was the entrance to  deep underground caves. When we climbed  into them and kept descending we would  eventually find that the floor of the caves was  covered in ice. We were very careful, carrying ropes and flashlights, but it was still quite  an adventure. Deeper and deeper we would  go, following the ice. Before we turned back,  at the deepest point of our exploration, we  would all shut off our flashlights. We would  be in pitch black. Seriously, we could not see  our hands even when we waved them in front  of our faces. Now, our eyes were working  fine. They were fully functional. But our eyes  could not see without any light. So, by analogy, we can have fully functional souls, but  the encounter with God begins with the Holy  Spirit. That is what St. Paul meant when he  wrote in 1 Cor 12:3, “No one can say ‘Jesus is  Lord’ except by the Holy Spirit.”

The Holy Spirit is the dynamism of God,  the Third Person of the Trinity. This dynamism, this power, was first experienced on  Pentecost Sunday, the fiftieth day after Passover when the Jews celebrated the Festival of  Weeks. Everything changed for the disciples  when they experienced the descent of the  Holy Spirit in the signs of tongues of fire and  the sound of the wind. They finally began to  understand the central event of mankind: the  Christ event, the incarnation, passion, death  and resurrection of Jesus Christ. 

They left the Upper Room where they had  been hiding from the Jewish authorities and  began courageously proclaimed the Gospel of  Jesus Christ. Scripture says that people from  all over the world heard the disciples, now  Apostles, speaking in their own languages. It  was the Spirit speaking to them through the  disciples. Scripture goes on to say that on Pentecost Sunday 3,000 people became followers  of Christ. Within a few decades, Christianity  spread to most of the major cities of the Roman Empire. Eventually it would spread to  the entire world.

It is clear that it was the work of the Spirit,  the dynamism of God, that was responsible  for the miracle of evangelisation. The Apostles would all die, most put to death, but nothing could stop the growth of the Church. The  Church expanded due to the Presence of the  Holy Spirit within the Apostles and within  those who came after them. The Church continues to grow due to the dynamism, the Presence of God working within us and through  us. When we live our faith, the Spirit within  us draws others to Christ. 

Living our faith means that we, like the first  Apostles, have to have the humility to allow  God to give us a knowledge beyond the grasp  of the human mind. Living our faith means  that we be willing to leave that safe place,  our own upper rooms. Living our faith means  trusting in the dynamism of God that is the  Holy Spirit.

Come Holy Spirit! Give us the courage we  need to proclaim Christ.

Come Holy Spirit! Give us the ability to  speak to peoples’ hearts with powerful words,  mystical words, words we might not know  but words that come from you.

Come Holy Spirit! Be the dynamism of  God within us. May we be people of Pentecost. — By  Msgr Joseph A Pellegrino

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