The Solemnity of Pentecost (2020)
Psalms 104:1, 24, 29-31, 34
1 Corinthians 12:3-7, 12-13
Today we celebrate liturgically the completion of Christ’s Paschal Mystery, which Acts says happened forty days after Christ’s resurrection, and which our gospel from John says happened on the very same day as the resurrection. The ‘when’ it happened is unimportant; ‘that’ it happened is most important, for the Holy Spirit prepares us with His grace in order to draw all peoples to Christ. The Spirit manifests the risen Lord to us, opening our minds and making present the very mystery of Christ. This is precisely what happens moments before the consecration at Mass, when the priest calls down the Spirit by saying “make holy, therefore, these gifts, we pray, by sending down your Spirit upon them like the dew fall, so that they may become for us the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ.” It is Christ’s gift of the Spirit which reconciles all people to God, and it is to God the Spirit we prayed at the opening of this Mass, begging that the Spirit “fill now once more the hearts of all believers” and “renew the face of the earth.”
Saint Thomas Aquinas says that the Holy Spirit “interiorly perfects our spirit,” communicating to it a new dynamism so that it refrains from evil in order that we might choose to be loving. Fr. Ronald Rolheiser, OMI, suggests that part of the reason humans seem to be so deeply restless and oftentimes frustrated is that “our life is often out of sync with its proper spirit. We haven’t let Pentecost happen.” Fr. Rolheiser is not questioning the actual fact of Pentecost. Rather, he is suggesting that the cycle of life, so evident in Jesus’ final days, culminates in Pentecost and assumes all of the moments that went before – Good Friday, Easter, the Forty Days, and Ascension. For our ‘Pentecost Moment’ to happen, we too must welcome a similar cycle into our own lives, a cycle that mimics that of Jesus’ disciples. As Rolheiser states, “we need, constantly, to accept our deaths, receive the new life that‘s then given us, grieve our losses, let go of the old, and then receive the spirit for the actual life we’re living.” That is what the disciples experienced. That is what we are meant to experience.
What we celebrate today is not just some ancient event that we remember nostalgically. It is a forever event that is, or should be, happening each and every day. Fr. Rolheiser sums it all up when he says that “Pentecost is an ongoing, lifelong mystery. We suffer many losses – loss of youth, loss of health, loss of loved ones, loss of wholeness, and the loss of countless things that are precious to us. Yet, we’re never dead! We’re always given new life. But if we are trying to live that new life with our former spirit, we will find ourselves deeply out of sorts. We need Pentecost, daily, in our lives. It harmonizes our life with its proper spirit.”
As a result of the Holy Spirit, “It is quite natural for people who had been absorbed by the things of this world,” Saint Cyril of Alexandria states, “to become entirely otherworldly in outlook, and for cowards to become people of great courage.” This is what we observe in the apostles. Their lives were out of sync when they ran away from Jesus and hid themselves in an upper room, so afraid were they. After the gift of the Holy Spirit, the “cowards” became true evangelists, ready to lay down their lives for Jesus and the preaching of His word. The same is to be said of Paul, who moved from being the great persecutor of Christians to becoming one of the pillars of the newly formed Church. St. Paul was able to do this by finally allowing the Holy Spirit in, finally recognizing that it was “in one Spirit we were baptized into one Body, whether Jews or Greeks, slaves or free persons, and we were all given to drink of one Spirit.”
Let us truly celebrate this marvelous Feast, which not only brings to a close the marvelous Easter season, but also reminds us to open our hearts and minds to the gift of the Spirit, for through us great things can be accomplished. Indeed, when God sends forth His Spirit, He “renews the face of the earth.” We are privileged to be part of that renewal. Come, Holy Spirit, come! And from your celestial home shed a ray of light divine!…. Come within our bosoms shine. You, of comforters the best; you, the soul’s most welcome guest…. On the Faithful, who adore and confess you, evermore, in your sevenfold gift descend; give them virtue’s sure reward; give them your salvation, Lord; give them joys that never end. Amen. Alleluia.” (Sequence)