Today we celebrate with great joy and gratitude the Gift that keeps on giving-the Holy Spirit. This Most Mysterious of Gifts that proceeds from the Father and the Son yet the least understood. The Holy Spirit is a Person, not a “force,” but a person you can have a relationship with, if you only ask and be open to His ways. Yes, today is the end of the Easter season, but Pentecost is more than commemorating an event that happened 2000+ years ago in the Upper Room to the Apostles and Mary. Like all the Sacred Mysteries in the life of Jesus Christ and His Church, these mysteries are ongoing in the continuing salvation of the world. Pentecost and the work of the Holy Spirit doesn’t just happen at our Baptism and Confirmation, but is meant to happen often and abundantly throughout our faith walk with the Father and Jesus Christ. He is the promised Advocate sent by the Father in the Name of Jesus to teach, nurture and guide us throughout our lives. The current predominantly scientific way of thinking would say The Holy Spirit doesn’t exist, but Jesus said He does and Jesus is God en-fleshed and God Our Creator would never lie to us. How do I get to know Him, love Him and be loved and taught by Him, when I can’t see or touch Him? Let’s listen to God’s voice in today’s readings from Sacred Scripture and see what He has to tell us.
St. Luke tells us in Acts of the Apostles 2:1-11 that on the day of Pentecost “there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house in which they were. Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on them. And they were filled with the Holy Spirit….” This shows only a tiny taste, a small glimpse of the humility of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the love of the Father and the Son. He is not about destroying, crushing and showing off His Divine Power. He entered the noise and the noise sounded like a strong driving wind. The Holy Spirit is not here to prove Himself to us. He was sent by the Father in the Name of Jesus to help sanctify us. He is Present in all the Sacraments of the Church, which are instituted by Christ to bestow Divine Grace. With Him we live, move and have our very being. After all, He is called the Lord, the Giver of life, yet billions don’t know He exists and millions of Catholics don’t pay Him much attention, let alone ask Him for help or guidance, which take quiet, receptive, listening prayer. The Holy Spirit “parted” at the first Pentecost and gave all present specific and unique gifts they themselves needed. Since we are created uniquely, and not on some assembly line, the love and gifts God wants to bestow on us are unique for us personally and for us to share with others, which only we can do with His guidance. A relationship with the Holy Spirit must be rather important since St. Paul mentions Him eighteen times in chapter 8 in his Letter to the Romans.
In todays Second Reading we read in verse 8-17 that St. Paul refers to the “flesh” and the “spirit.” As Saint John Paul II teaches us in his catechesis “Men and Women He Created Them-A Theology of the Body,” St Paul does not mean body (flesh) bad and spirit (soul) good. Remember: God creates both the human body and soul in His image and likeness. When St. Paul refers to the “flesh” he is referring when we are centering on the “self” and being self-centered and self-absorbed due to original sin. It is the persistence in sin that is damaging to the entire human person and darkens the conscious. The mind becomes darkened and we can grow in intellectual blindness, just look at the view of the Church’s moral teachings, which come from the guidance of the Holy Spirit, yet so many people today, including Catholics, due to consciences darkened by sin, can’t recognize their own error and see the Truth and beauty of God and His Church. Continuing bad choices will weaken a person’s will and the ability to choose the good, beautiful and holy will be greatly diminished. The heart will gradually become hardened and grow cold and indifferent to the love of God as we become more centered on pleasing the self rather than living lives pleasing to the Father who loves us and created us. St. Paul is reminding us who we truly are, our origin, our dignity and that God aspires to be wed to us now and dwell within us to share in His Divine Life. (c.c.c. 1) St Paul is reminding us as He did in Colossians 3:1 to seek the things that are above and not choose our base fleshly desires driven by affective feelings, emotions and passions only, due to our fallen human nature. For St. Paul the “spirit denotes loftier, holier desires for God who alone can feed us. The Son, who alone knows the Father, will guide us to live upright lives, which the Father wills for us. However, this is not an automatic, path. We need to be open to the promptings of the Holy Spirit, and be led by Him, as Jesus was led into the desert. We were not baptized into the life of the Trinity to fall back into fears, which enslave us in sin and vice. We were baptized into His Death and Resurrection, calling us to rise with Christ in the Spirit. The Holy Spirit is within us, who dwells in our soul. We are the Fathers children, and since children, heirs of His Kingdom, joint heirs with our brother Jesus. Do you see what an amazing family we have been re-born into – the Trinity. Our earthly families are supposed to be a reflection of our Heavenly Family. This is also a foundational principle for Saint John Paul II in The Theology of the Body, that the visible body makes known the reality of the invisible God.
In the Gospel of John 14:15-16, 23b-26, reiterates the divinely revealed fact of the indwelling Presence of the Trinity within us causing us to be vessels of honor, one of the titles for Mary in the Litany of Loretto. As long as we are choosing God and not remaining in mortal sin-God is within us. “Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him.” These are not some nice platitudes or fuzzy warm sentiments constructed on a greeting card. These are the revealed and recorded words of God Himself; so they must be True -since Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life to the Father. Jesus is stating that we have true Divine Life within us we need to have Christ within us by feeding on His Body and Blood, loving Him with all our heart, then the Father will dwell in us and the Holy Spirit is sent to us to help us, guide us, teach us and remind us “of all that I told you.” This is done through His Church – His earthly Body. But, we have to pray and have a lived faith, working out our salvation not with presumption that we all go right to heaven, but living lives worthy of our vocational calling and reflective of our honor due to the indwelling Presence of the Blessed Trinity within us. This takes silence and quiet reflection to receive and listen to God’s voice trying to speak to us within the ultra-busy chaotic lives we have been convinced we need to have in order to be happy and live the American dream.
The sequence of Pentecost is a reminder of this since it reminds us that He is the Father of all the poor (in Spirit) and resides within our bosoms and that the spirit is a welcome guest in our soul and that our inmost being will be filled to give us solace in the midst of woe, and rest most sweetly with beautiful refreshment to heal our wounds, renew our strength, pour dew on our dryness, and melt our frozen hearts with a joy that will never end. If only us Catholics truly begin to believe in the indwelling Presence of God within us, we would love Him more deeply, honor and love ourselves more purely and our neighbors as ourselves. Amen. Come Holy Spirit and fill the hearts of Your faithful and enkindle within us the fire of Your love. Amen.
Father Tom DeSimone was ordained a priest on May 13, 2006, the Feast day of Our Lady of Fatima. He most recently served as Parochial Vicar of Our Lady of Sorrows Parish in White Plains, NY. He joins the staff of the Theology of the Body Institute on a three year leave from the Archdiocese of New York, to become the Institute’s first full time spiritual advisor and Director of Clergy Development.