Today we celebrate the great feast of Pentecost. It is the culmination of our Easter celebration. Our three stain glass windows depict the wonder of it all; Resurrection, Ascension and Pentecost.
What Mary and the Apostles experienced at Pentecost was something beyond words, something mystical. Luke tries to put the experience into words by using images. We can imagine him saying, “They told me some kind of sound came from the sky, something that sounded like, uh, oh, let’s see, uh, wind! That’s it. It wasn’t wind but that is the closest I can get. And then things that looked sort of like tongues, you know, like tongues of fire. Only it wasn’t really fire or tongues either. But they were sure that it was the Holy Spirit, and it descended upon each person.”
Most of us don’t have these manifestations of the Spirit in our lives. We hear of people slain in the spirit, or people speaking in tongues but for most of us this isn’t how we experience the Holy Spirit in our lives. We know the Holy Spirit came to us in our Baptism giving us the boldness to call God, Father. We know the sacrament of Confirmation strengthened that original gift. We know the Holy Spirit is with us always helping us in our efforts to live Christ like lives.
In our second reading St. Paul is quite clear that the gifts of the Spirit are given to us not for ourselves but for others. Paul speaks of God activating our gifts for the common good. That’s a word we don’t often hear, the common good. We usually ask, ‘what’s in it for me, what can I get out of this?’ This is not the mind of the Spirit. Whatever gifts with which we’ve been blessed are given us for the benefit of others. They are given us to build up the body of Christ, the Church. Our gifts are given us for the betterment of the society in which we live. As we pray during this Eucharist ” and that we might live no longer for ourselves but for Him, He sent the Holy Spirit from you Father to complete His work on earth and bring us to the fullness of grace.”
This is a feast of power. A violent wind whips up the Apostles and drives them out of their closed room out into the streets to broadcast the news “Jesus is Risen, Jesus is Lord” The Spirit gave them voice to proclaim to one and all God’s deeds of power. That was a long time ago. Today I don’t think the Spirit ‘whips us up’, rather I think the Spirit nudges us, elbows us to complete God’s work and bring us to the fullness of grace.
Whether we appreciate it or not we experience the nudging of the Spirit when we are grateful for the gifts that enrich our lives, family, friends, faith, health and career. The Spirit elbows us to appreciate the goodness that is within us, when the Spirit helps us know we are ‘good people.’
The Spirit activates the love within us when we resist racist or sexist attitudes, the Spirit activates His gifts when we are willing to open our hearts and lives to men and women of other faiths, cultures and life styles.
Whenever we find patches of charity or joy in ourselves, or patience and kindness, or the ability to endure hardship and injuries; when we are tempted toward mildness and modesty, then we can be sure that the Holy Spirit is at work within us.
On this feast of wind and flame and as we continue to celebrate this Eucharist we can pray for ourselves and for each other that the Holy Spirit activate in each of us an appreciation of the full meaning of this sacrifice. May we appreciate the words of Jesus as He gives Himself totally to us saying – this is my body, this is my blood, this is my life given to you. Inspired by these words of love may we have the courage and generosity to live” no longer for ourselves but for Him to complete His work on earth.”