Saturday, 19 May 2018


In the 1950’s I  read a wonderful encyclical on the Holy Spirit, written by Pope Leo XIII.   When I suggested it should be published, to my surprise and horror, I was told there was no I demand for a pamphlet on the Holy Spirit!    Thank God that has all changed.  The Holy Spirit is no longer the forgotten person of the Blessed Trinity!
The Church has re-discovered the Holy Spirit.   I say ‘re-discovered’ because from the earliest days the Church has realised the vital role the Holy Spirit plays in her life.   St. John’s Gospel, the Acts of the Apostles, St. Paul’s letters and the Book of Revelation tell us so much about the Holy Spirit.   The Scriptures proclaim that the Holy Spirit is the third person of the Blessed Trinity, who plays a vital role in God’s plan of salvation.
The role of the Holy Spirit is  be the great communicator.   The word ‘Spirit’ suggests the breath of life.    As God breathes his Spirit into us we come alive as God’s children.   Through the Spirit we are born from above to share God’s  own life.   From the same Spirit each of us receives different gifts.   That could easily cause divisions among the Christian community. But the Spirit who is responsible for our diversity is also responsible for uniting us in the one Body of Christ.
The Holy Spirit not only communicates God’s life, but also his saving truth..  Before his Passion Jesus promised to send the Spirit of Truth.   He would remind the community of Christ’s teaching after he had ascended to heaven.   The Spirit of Truth would guarantee that the Christian community would always remain faithful to Christ’s teaching.   The Church as a whole can’t go wrong in the essentials of what we should believe and how we should behave.
The rushing wind at Pentecost suggests the Spirit’s hidden power, giving the disciples the courage and strength to start preaching the Good News in a hostile world.         The title ‘Holy Spirit’ also suggests God’s breath of life.   Through the Holy Spirit we become alive in Christ, and share in the saving power of His death and resurrection.            
The nature of the Spirit’s activity was not only revealed in the rushing wind, but also in the tongues of fire, which rested over the heads of the disciples.            These obviously suggest the gift of eloquence, which would be necessary to preach the Good News to the whole world.  The fire also suggests a source of light, which would illumine the way to salvation.   In the power of the Spirit the disciples would burn with zeal as they carried out the mission Christ had given them just before He ascended to heaven.
It was most appropriate that the Holy Spirit should have been given on the Jewish feast of Pentecost.      Originally this was a harvest festival, which later developed into the celebration of God’s giving the Law on Mt. Sinai, 50 days after he had freed His people from slavery in Egypt.  
Through that Law God defined His covenant relationship with His people.    Jews from eastern Mediterranean lands and speaking a variety of languages made a pilgrimage to celebrate the feast of Pentecost.           This provided the apostles with the perfect opportunity to start preaching the Good News to the whole world.          People from foreign lands were already there in Jerusalem. God’s harvest was ready to be gathered in.           
And the Holy Spirit enabled the apostles to overcome the language barrier.  Strangers not only understood what the apostles preached, but also welcomed the salvation which the Good News offered them.      The Holy Spirit was effective in both the preachers and their audience. When they returned home they would have told their people about the faith they’d just received.   They would have been the first overseas missionaries.  The Holy Spirit certainly enabled the infant Church to get off to a flying start!     The gathering in of God’s harvest into His Kingdom made a dramatic start at the first Pentecost.
But the Holy Spirit, who descended on the apostles in such a dramatic way at Pentecost, is still with the Church, and always will be.  The Spirit of Truth, promised by Christ, guarantees that the Church would always be faithful to his teaching.   The Good News is now preached throughout the world in many different languages.      And the Spirit has inspired millions of people to welcome Christ and follow Him.          The old covenant proclaimed at Sinai and celebrated at Pentecost is now fulfilled and proclaimed in the New Covenant of Jesus Christ.
 On the feast of Pentecost we celebrate the gift of  the Holy Spirit as the great communicator.     Through the gift of the Spirit God shares his life with us.  Through the Spirit the Good News preached by Christ is handed on to the Church.  And the Spirit empowers the Christian community to hand on to the world the faith we have received.   Breathing in and out sums up how the Spirits helps us to spread the Good News.  First, He helps us to breath in and understand our faith. Then the Spirit enables us to breath out –to share the faith we have received.   
May we always be grateful for Christ sending his Spirit into the world to help us carry out the missionary task he has given us.  And let us rejoice on this, the birthday of the Church.

Peter and Isidore O.P.

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