Today, fifty days after the Resurrection, the Church’s longest liturgical season is brought to a spectacular conclusion. Fireworks and earthquakes and tornadoes mark Holy Spirit’s arrival at Pentecost. The Paschal candle burns brightly for the last time in our sanctuary until next year’s Easter Vigil, and we sing the double Alleluia after the dismissal one last time, recalling the Alleluias of the Easter Octave seven weeks ago. The Church was born on Pentecost, 1,982 years ago, for truly without Christ’s Holy Spirit Christianity would be no more than one more ideology thrown on history’s scrapheap of failed human ideas.
Two Stories of Pentecost
On the 50th day after the resurrection, the apostles were praying with Our Lady when a blast—a howling, whistling wind—filled the building. Sheets of fire descended on each of those present, and they began to speak in different languages. But, marvelously, the people could understand these strange languages—Parthians, Medes, Elamites, Egyptians, Romans, Libyans, and Arabs. The chaos of Babel was reversed! The Church was born, and it was born Catholic, a universal Church, a Church for all nations, as it is very much so even unto our time. And what did these Parthians and Medes and Egyptians hear, in their own language? They heard of the “Mighty Acts of God,” that “Jesus is Lord.” This one Lordship is what unified the people then, as it does today. In the following centuries, the Church would develop a universal civilization based on belief in a power greater than human reason, the power of a loving God. The Christian patrimony of law, education, science, health care, and human rights is the common culture of every nation on earth even to our own day.
A second account of the Holy Spirit’s coming is found in our Gospel, from John 20. Not 50 days after the resurrection, but that very evening, Jesus strides through the locked doors of the apostles’ hideout, the “Upper Room.” He bestows upon them the fruits of the Spirit: love, peace and joy: “Peace be with you,” Jesus says, “and the disciples rejoiced.” Joy is the proof of the Holy Spirit. Joy in adversity. Joy in illness. Joy in poverty. We must beg God for His Spirit, so that we will have that unshakable joy.
Jesus breathed on them, and then sent them out to bring this peace and joy to others. How? By hearing confessions. The first thing he says to them is this: “whose sins you forgive are forgiven them…” Is the sacrament of confession that important? Yes, it is. It was the first task Jesus gave his apostles after breathing the Holy Spirit into them. So take advantage of your priests when they offer confessions, as we do here at Star of the Sea before every Mass. Confession once a month is the way to health and happiness.
Life in the Spirit
And so the Holy Spirit brings the Church into existence, and continues, infallibly, the work of Christ on earth. It is for us to live spiritual lives, as St. Paul says in the second reading. Those in the flesh cannot please God. They cannot even please themselves. Joy and peace will elude whoever lives a merely carnal, worldly life. If you live according to the flesh, Paul insists, you will die. Yet most of us do live a good deal of our lives pleasing the flesh. Consider: what do you think of when you get up in the morning? Breakfast, of course. What do you think of after breakfast? How long until lunch, of course. Other tyrannies of the flesh, darker temptations, besiege us too. If we live “according to them,” life is not worth living. “We will die” in the words of Paul—we are already dead. We must continually insist on our spiritual lives, our prayer lives, and discipline the body with penances and mortifications, if we want peace with ourselves, with others, and the joy of knowing God.
Our Lady, Spouse of the Holy Spirit
In this month of May, we turn to Our Lady, spouse of the Holy Spirit. No human being knows the Third Person of God better than she, who submitted her body and soul to him at the Annunciation. As she brings us to her Son, so she brings us to her Spouse. When we pray “Hail Mary, Full of Grace,” we pray to her who is full of the Holy Spirit. Please, Blessed Mother, bring us to the Holy Spirit, that our lives may be spiritual, pure and beautiful, like yours.