When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.
Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each.
Amazed and astonished, they asked, "Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language? Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs-in our own languages we hear them speaking about God's deeds of power."
Bless the Lord, my soul!
Lord God, how great you are,
How many are your works, O Lord!
The earth is full of your riches. (R./)
You take back your spirit, they die,
returning to the dust from which they came.
You send forth your spirit, they are created;
and you renew the face of the earth. (R./)
May the glory of the Lord last for ever!
May the Lord rejoice in his works!
May my thoughts be pleasing to him.
I find my joy in the Lord.
Lord, send out your Spirit and renew the face of the earth.(R./)
Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. But you are not in the flesh; you are in the Spirit, since the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit that dwells in you.
So then, brothers and sisters, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh- for if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, "Abba! Father!" it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ-if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.
Jesus said to his disciples, "If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever, .
Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words; and the word that you hear is not mine, but is from the Father who sent me. I have said these things to you while I am still with you. But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you."
The Holy Spirit used to be the forgotten person of the Trinity . Perhaps he suffered from being a spirit, since for many of us, only concrete things are real. The Father and Son make an impact because one took flesh and the other was given a beard. Have you ever imagined the Holy Spirit with a beard? Whatever the reason, even among devout Christians the Holy Spirit had been overlooked. He had been cast in the role of a third candidate, valued for his transfers to the front-runners, but never earmarked for a seat in the House, much less a post in the Cabinet. It's only recently that he has been coming into his own. And about time too! There are several reasons why we should never forget the Spirit. The first is that he wasn't forgotten by Jesus. On the contrary. On the eve of the Passion, he promised to send the Spirit to the disciples. In fact, he took pains to emphasise the importance of the Spirit's role. Here was no poor substitute, a duckling doing "locum" for a swan. He would be helper, advocate, counsellor, teacher, a replacement for Christ himself. Indeed, Our Lord states this clearly: "Unless I go, the Paraclete will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you" (Jn 16:7).
Another reason for seeking the Spirit is the example of the early Christians. He made such a difference to their lives that they could never forget him. Before his coming they were timid and afraid, like children huddling together in a storm. When he descended upon them in a miraculous confusion of wind, fire and speech, they were utterly transformed. "They were all filled with the Holy Spirit" (Acts 2:4), St Luke tells us, and we think of billowing sails or mothers filled with child. But some of the bystanders were less poetic in their reaction. "They're drunk" (Acts 2:13), they sneered, and for once the cynics were right, drunk they were, drunk with the Spirit of Christ's love and their own furious eagerness to proclaim his message. The Spirit was breathing where he would and from now on "Jesus is Lord" (1 Cor 12:3) would be shouted from the housetops. They stayed drunk for life, in this sense. They were never to be sober again. For as long as they lived, the Spirit would stay in the bloodstream. Every decision they made would be Spirit-shaped: the choice of seven deacons; the admission of Gentiles to the Church; the sending of Paul and Barnabas on their first missionary journey. And the influence of the Spirit was not confined to decision-making at executive level. It was felt at the ordinary level too, at what politicians love to call the "grassroots." It was felt in the gifts that were Spirit, sent for the service of the Church, unusual gifts like healing or prophecy, designed to meet the needs of an infant Church, but ordinary gifts too, required to meet the needs of God's children everywhere, "love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, trustfulness, gentleness and self control" (Ga 5:22).
It is by exercising these gifts that we honour the Spirit. Whenever we are loyal to a demanding partner, whenever we console the bereaved, support the old or encourage the young, we are doing the work of the Holy Spirit. When we curb our evil instincts, we honour him. When we respond to the better impulses, we let the Spirit work in us. The Holy Spirit is the rising sap moving all that is best in us. It is through and with our better instincts that the Spirit works. Our part is to grunt and heave with him and to push our stalling lives to the top of the hill.
When you look around our church you will find that there is no shortage of images, mostly in the form of statues, paintings, stained glass, carvings and plaster moulds. They are mostly images of Jesus, Mary and of the saints. There are also images of some figures from the Old Testament, such as Abraham and Melchizedek to the front of the altar. There is a long tradition of images within the church, beginning with the paintings in the Catacombs in Rome. The Holy Spirit, whose feast we celebrate today, does not lend itself all that easily to imagery. The traditional image of the Holy Spirit is the dove. That is drawn from the gospel accounts of the baptism of Jesus. However the language of the evangelists in that passage is very tentative; they simply saw that the Holy Spirit descended on Jesus like a dove, in the way that a dove might descend. There are two other images of the Holy Spirit in today's reading from the Acts of the Apostles. There again the language is very tentative. Luke says that all who gathered in one room heard what sounded like a powerful wind from heaven; he goes on to say that something appeared to them that seemed like tongues of fire. Just as the evangelists do not say that there was an actual dove at the baptism of Jesus, Luke does not say that there was an actual wind and fire at Pentecost. The Holy Spirit does not lend her/himself to concrete representation, because the Holy Spirit cannot be seen as such. Yet the Holy Spirit is profoundly real .
There is much in our universe that is real but invisible to the naked eye. What we see with our eyes is only a fraction of our physical world. The Holy Spirit belongs to the spiritual world, and it naturally cannot see the Spirit with our eyes. Yet, there are helpful ways of imagining the Holy Spirit. St Paul uses an image drawn nature when he says that the Spirit bears fruit. He means the visible effect of the Spirit on one's life. We may not be able to see the Holy Spirit, but we can see the effect of the Spirit in our life, just as we cannot see the wind but can see the effect of the wind on people and objects of various kinds. Paul is saying that wherever we find love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, trustfulness, gentleness and self-control, the Spirit is there at work. The Spirit becomes visible in and through these qualities and virtues. The person who most of all had those qualities was Jesus because he was full of the Holy Spirit, full of the life of God . The Holy Spirit is essentially the very life of God, and that life is a life of love. It is that divine life, that divine love, which was poured out at Pentecost, initially on the first disciples but through them on all who were open to receive this powerful and wonderful gift. Paul expresses it simply in his letter to the Romans, 'God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us'. It is that Spirit of God's love we have received who bears the rich fruit in our lives that Paul speaks about in today's 2nd Reading. The Spirit is constantly at work in our lives, making us more like Jesus. The ordinary, day to day expressions of goodness and kindness, of faithfulness and self-control, of patience and gentleness, are all manifestations of the Spirit that has been given to us by God. We can recognize the Spirit's presence in the common happenings of everyday life. The spiritual is not something other-worldly; it is humanity at its best.
Humanity appears at its best in today's first reading. Pentecost brought about a wonderful bonding of people from all over the Roman Empire. They were united in hearing in their own native language the preaching of the first disciples about the marvels of God. In spite of differences of language and culture there was a profound communion among them. Wherever communion of heart and mind exist among people of different backgrounds, there the Holy Spirit is at work. Unity in diversity is the mark of the Spirit. Jesus points out another manifestation of the Spirit: the pursuit of truth. Only the Spirit can lead us to the complete truth. If someone has a genuine openness to truth, a willingness to engage in the search for truth, there the Spirit is at work. Full truth is always beyond us; we never possess it completely. In John's gospel Jesus declares himself to be the truth and he is always beyond us; we never fully possess him in this life. The Spirit is meant to lead us towards the complete truth, in all its height and depth.