This Sunday, we commemorate Pentecost Sunday, the day on which the fullness of the Holy Spirit was poured out upon the first Christian disciples. As with all the celebrations of the Church’s liturgical year, today is not only a fond look back upon a unique day in ancient Christian history but makes the spiritual effects of that day present to us today. The Holy Spirit is being poured out right now, today. In his book on the Holy Spirit, The Life Changer, Fr. Francis Martin wrote, “The tragic fact is, however, that many people have received all the sacraments of initiation and yet do not know the Lord personally and do not experience his power in their lives...coming into the fullness of baptism is a life-changing process undertaken by God within us to which we say ‘yes’...the role of our will in this is not to produce results but to agree to the work of God within us...by which we submit to and embrace the reality of Jesus’ cross and resurrection. This pro-cess is like a spiritual open-heart surgery.” 

What are the effects of yielding our deepest selves to the fullness of the gifts of the indwelling Holy Spirit that we have received in Baptism, Confirmation, and Holy Communion? 

The indwelling Holy Spirit enlightens our conscience. There is a place at our spiritual center that transcends our “I”: a most secret core, a sanctuary where “I” am alone with God whose voice echoes in the depths of the heart, calling us to choose love and to avoid sin and selfishness. (Catechism no. 1776). This is the interior space where we dialogue with God concerning what is good and evil. However, our consciences need to be both informed and formed. The Holy Spirit informs our consciences through his guidance of the Church’s moral teachings. These can be found in Part Three of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, especially the sections concerning the Beatitudes and the Ten Commandments. The Holy Spirit also forms our consciences by helping us to make choices in conformity with God’s law of love. Simply recognizing the moral law does not bring life of itself, the love that comes from the Spirit of Love dwelling in us helps us to accomplish what we cannot on our own, unaided by Grace. (2 Cor. 3:6) Our dignity as moral agents comes from learning to distinguish good from evil and choosing to live according to the greatest good, unselfish love of God and neighbor. 

The Holy Spirit reveals and brings about unity. We live in a polarized time. Both in the Church and society, the focus is on what separates and divides us. Our debates center on who to blame and how malicious “their” motives are. However, the Spirit’s gifts of Wisdom and Understanding equip us with less polar-izing lenses. They help us to see the essential wholeness, harmony, and interdependence of creation, “there is one God and Father of all, who is over all, and is in all.” (Eph. 4:6) We are all children of the same Father, made living through the same “breath” of God with the same eternal destiny in Christ. (Gen 2:7, Eph. 2:5) The Church is a place where all are called and gathered by God, regardless of all the ultimately illusory divisions we make among ourselves, and all are brought into unity through the Spirit of Peace. Surely, there is mutually enriching diversity within this essential unity, but that wonderful diversity is harmonized in God’s great symphony of creation and redemption. 

The Holy Spirit empowers transfigured Life in Christ. Through baptism, we have become a new creation. (2 Cor. 5:17) As the Catechism of the Ukrainian Catholic Church puts it, “the primary goal of the Christian’s spiritual life is active and dynamic participation in the divine life. Such participation is called divinization (theosis in Greek). Divinization takes place in the cooperation between the human person and God, and consists of the person’s transfiguration in the Holy Spirit.” (Christ Our Pascha, no. 850) Divinization is not a human achievement, but a pure gift of grace in which we are called to steward to increase through virtuous living in the Spirit. “Through one’s own actions a person either becomes more like a divine Person or conversely diminishes one’s divine likeness. Such acts we define as moral” (Christ Our Pascha, no. 729) Living in the Grace of transfigured, eternal life in Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit is both a wondrous gift and the task of our life. 

These effects of the Holy Spirit’s outpouring can only become activated and transform our lives to the extent that we open ourselves up to the Spirit’s gifts, receiving them with gratitude and joy, yielding ourselves and our desires to God’s vision for our lives and our world, and stewarding them to generous increase for the blessing of all. 

May we open ourselves to the full outpouring of the Holy Spirit both personally and as a community of faith, hope, and love this Pentecost. Let the fire fall!

John

“Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs."  (Colossians 3:16)