Come Holy Spirit and set our hearts on fire!
Today is Pentecost Sunday, when the Holy Spirit came down on Our Lady and the Apostles, and so the Church was born. It is the end of Eastertide and after Mass today the Paschal Candle is removed. Pentecost is a unique intervention of the Holy Spirit in the world. There will never be a second Pentecost. Everything necessary was given to the Church on this one occasion for her Divine Mission. The Gospel shows us that even just before the coming of the Holy Spirit, the Apostles still hadn’t grasped what the mission actually was. They still doubted forty days after the Resurrection. Even on the eve of Our Lord’s Ascension, after having spent three years with Him, they asked: “When are You going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:6). In other words, “when will You be the temporal king of this nation so that it may rule the world?”
For the Apostles it was still all about the glories of this world, which makes the event of Pentecost all the more extraordinary, because finally, by the coming of the Holy Spirit, they understood what it was really all about. The man they had known and touched, the man they had spoken and conversed with for the past three years, this same man was God! And Our Lord had promised them: “You shall be My witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, in Samaria and unto the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8). And with the coming of the Holy Spirit this promise was fulfilled. They became the witnesses of JESUS. They began to speak and to preach, because they were finally convinced that JESUS was the Son of God, that He had returned to the glory of the Father, and they just couldn’t keep it to themselves. And this is why they began to preach. They spoke in tongues, which means all the listeners could hear them in their own language. And Peter preached:
“JESUS the Nazarene was a man commended to you by God … You killed Him, but God raised Him to life, and we are witnesses to that … You must repent, and every one of you be baptised in the name of JESUS Christ, for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2). That day about three thousand were baptised, and the Apostles worked countless miracles.
Nothing would deter the Apostles from preaching JESUS and His Resurrection. They were arrested and ordered to stop preaching and even forbidden from mentioning the name of JESUS, but they refused to be silent. Those men who had them arrested didn’t convert, and they were the predecessors of many today, who even within the Church, betray Our Lord and deny His teaching, or try to alter it to suit their lifestyles. But the Apostles just carried on preaching with even greater power and confidence. These were the effects of the Holy Spirit. And the Holy Spirit is just as alive now as He was then, and of that there is no doubt. The Sacraments give us the Holy Spirit now just as He was given at the time of the Apostles. Please keep in your prayers the thirty five parishioners who received the Holy Spirit from Bishop Patrick, a successor of the Apostles, when he confirmed them here last Tuesday. But are we ready to receive Him in the same way as the Apostles? Are we prepared to witness to Christ? We cannot be silent as society moves further and further away from God and His Laws. We must all preach JESUS Christ as the opportunities present themselves to us. But first and foremost we preach by example. We show our faith in Him by our love, and this love is shown quite simply by following our calling and doing what He tells us. “If you love Me, keep My commandments.” Don’t fear being unpopular, because it’s a privilege to suffer for the cause of JESUS Christ (Philippians 1:29). So let us strive to be worthy successors of those who received Him in abundance, and of those who gave their every drop of blood to witness to the Truth.
Fr Paul Gillham, IC