Acts 2:1-11; Gal 5:16-25; John 15:26-27; 16:12-15
Some things cannot be proven to exist. Take love for example. We know it exists but forensic science cannot prove it as a fact. If you ask the finest and most sophisticated science laboratory to give you a report on how love is constituted the report will never be given. It cannot be proven to exist in itself. It is found only in certain human behavioral characteristics. The same would be true of friendship. Like love, it cannot be proven to exist in and of itself, it can only be found and identified in the way humans behave with each other.
Now the same is true with the Holy Spirit. That aspect of God, the Third Person of the Blessed Trinity, can only be discerned in the way God acts, discerned and “seen” in the actions of the Holy Spirit, more precisely in the interactions of the Holy Spirit with human beings.
Speaking about the Holy Spirit is difficult because the Spirit of God transcends human categories and human concepts. Our human intelligence and vocabulary are inadequate to the task of trying to penetrate into the infinity mystery of this Person of the Holy Trinity. But that does not mean we should not try. And so on this Day of Pentecost I am called upon to make an attempt.
Allow me to begin by giving a bit of attention to what St. Paul was talking about in today’s second reading. He noted: For the flesh has desires again the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; these are opposed to each other, so that you may not do what you want. We need to understand that the word “flesh” doesn’t refer to skin, it refers rather to unredeemed human nature, human nature wounded by sin. What is of the flesh is humanity divorced from God’s life.
Now let’s take a look at what the Holy Spirit is all about and in doing so realize that the “work” of the Holy Spirit, His mission to us, is to bring our unredeemed humanity into the life of God. He is the “Vivifier,” the One who gives us Life, the One who brings us into interactions with the Living God. The Holy Spirit is present within us. He dwells within us. He is the re-creating, rejuvenating gift of God’s presence within. We are temples of the Holy Spirit, the same Spirit that created the world in the first place and gave us God’s life within us. It is for us to allow ourselves to become aware of His presence, to take the time and make the place where we can be aware of that inner presence of God. God offers, we respond. But nothing happens unless and until we respond. And how do we respond? By receiving, by being open and inviting, by being at the disposal of God, by being available to God.
Whenever we profess the Nicene Creed (and normally we do that every Sunday during Mass) we profess that “we believe in the Lord, the giver of life.” If we recited the Nicene Creed in Latin we would say that we believe “in Spiritum Sanctum, Dominum et vivificantem,” in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and giver of life. The Holy Spirit is all about life… creating, re-creating and renewing life. The word “vivacious” means “full of life,” “active,” “vigorous.” The phrase “Vive la France” means “long, live France.” So also the phrase “Viva il Papa” means “long life to the Pope.”
So let’s now turn to the meaning of Pentecost, the day in which God sent His life-giving Holy Spirit into the followers of our risen Lord, Jesus Christ, thus forming them into one Body, that which we call the Church. He is the Gift of God the Son to us.
Think for a moment of your human body. It is billions of cells all held together by your inner spirit, your soul. So long as your spirit is in your body it is all held together in one unity. But when it leaves, when you die, your body loses its unifying and vivifying spirit and begins to disintegrate. Your integrity, the truth of who you are, leaves when your soul leaves your body. Your body thereupon breaks down, decomposes and disintegrates.
God gives us His Holy Spirit so that we might live together in God’s unifying and life-giving Holy Spirit, that we might live with others in peace, harmony, and fairness. That’s why many refer to Pentecost as “the birthday of the Church.”
Our interactions with the Holy Spirit cause an inner urge to experience the closeness of God; our desire to seek God, to experience God’s love and God’s power at work in the ways we live with others. The Holy Spirit gives us inspirations or felt “movements” of God’s love for us and God’s love within us. The Holy Spirit gives us calls, attractions, and insights, those “Ah, ha!” moments when we see things in new ways. The Holy Spirit gives us times when we are aware that we are doing what God wants us to do. These are moments that are “outside” and “above” of what we ordinarily do.
I want to share with you now some thoughts St. Paul wrote in his letter to the Galatians:
Brothers and sisters, live by the Spirit and you will certainly not gratify the desire of the flesh. For the flesh has desires against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; these are opposed to each other, so that you may not do what you want. But if you are guided by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are obvious: immorality, impurity, lust, idolatry, sorcery, hatreds, rivalry, jealousy, outbursts of fury, acts of selfishness, dissensions, factions, and occasions of envy, drinking bouts, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. In contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self -control. Against such there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ Jesus has crucified their flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also follow the Spirit. (Galatians 5:16-15)
Pentecost does not belong to the past. It is here with us today calling us to overcome our reluctance to be pushed forward by God’s Spirit and to do what we know and see to be right and just and truthful. The Holy Spirit inspires us to do what God wants us to do.
Let the Spirit make you free, free to walk in the glorious freedom of the sons and daughters of God, not just for our own sake but more importantly for the life of the world. Cast aside you inner fears, for the Evil One’s greatest weapon is fear. It is through fear that Satan controls us. Let the blessings and the love of the Holy Spirit take a hold of you.
“Fear not,” God says, “I am with you. My Spirit dwells within you.”
May you and I live, love, and act in the Holy Spirit who, because of Pentecost, dwells within us.