Solemnity of Pentecost Sunday
May 15, 2016
José Maria Alvim Cortes, F.S.C.B.
Sunday Reading Meditations
Today, we celebrate the Solemnity of Pentecost. We recall the day when the members of the early Church received the gift promised by Christ and were sent to proclaim God’s salvation to the world.
After Jesus ascended to Heaven, for ten days the Apostles were gathered in the Upper Room with Our Lady and some other women in devoted prayer, awaiting the coming of the Holy Spirit. There was tension. Expectations were high. Everyone was looking to Mary, to see how she was living the moment. They were trying to follow her example. All of them believed that something great was about to happen. Suddenly, they heard a noise like a strong, driving wind and tongues of fire descended upon each one of them.
The imagery of the sound of wind and tongues of fire helps us to understand what they experienced. The wind signifies the Holy Spirit, a gift that comes from the outside. We can hear it and feel it blowing. The outer experience became an inner experience as the tongues of fire came to rest in each one of them. The fire, descending from above, inflamed the hearts of those gathered in the Cenacle.
The Holy Spirit comes from above. His aim is to dwell in each one of us. This gift from the outside reaches the deepest recesses of our souls, from whence an impulse springs that impels us to move forward, leave the closed room and go into the outside world. The Holy Spirit sets us in motion and causes us to speak.
We have already received the Holy Spirit through our baptism and confirmation. Since then, the Holy Spirit has dwelt in us. As we celebrate the Pentecost Sunday, we should ask ourselves what we have done with this magnificent gift.
In today’s second reading, St. Paul tells us that we have two alternatives. Either we can live according to the flesh or according to the Spirit: “Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. But you are not in the flesh; on the contrary, you are in the spirit, if only the Spirit of God dwells in you” (Rm 8:9).
We need to examine our consciences and ask ourselves whether the Holy Spirit or the flesh is directing our lives.
St. Paul helps us discern whether we are being led by the flesh or the Holy Spirit. If we are living in fear, we are living according to the flesh. When we live according to the Spirit, we are not afraid: “[…] you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you received a Spirit of adoption, through whom we cry, ‘Abba, Father!’” (Rom 8:15).
We need to afford the Holy Spirit more importance in our spiritual lives. We need to invoke him more often. We need to ask Jesus to send the Holy Spirit to work within us and change us because Jesus says: “[…] ask and you will receive; seek and you will find […]. For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds […]. If you then, who are wicked, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the Father in heaven give the holy Spirit to those who ask him?” (Lk 11:9–13). In today’s Gospel, Jesus says: “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always” (Jn 14:16).
We need to increase our desire to receive the Holy Spirit. As St. Hillary wrote, “This unique gift which is in Christ is offered in its fullness to everyone. It is everywhere available, but it is given to each man in proportion to his readiness to receive it. Its presence is the fuller, the greater a man’s desire to be worthy of it.”[i] If our desire is the size of a cup, we will receive that portion of the Holy Spirit. If our desire is the size of a bucket, that will be our measure. If our desire is the size of a well, we will receive a far greater portion. Mary received the fullness of the Spirit by virtue of her infinite desire. The Holy Spirit was Mary’s inner strength, the source of her joy and moving force from the moment of the Annunciation to the Pentecost.
The disciples, assembled in prayer with Mary in the Upper Room, awaited the coming of the Holy Spirit. Like them, let us pray with Our Lady. Let us ask for the gift of the Holy Spirit. Let us live by the Spirit.
Come Holy Spirit, and fill the hearts of your faithful, and kindle in them the fire of Your Divine Love. Send forth Your Spirit and they shall be created, and You shall renew the face of the earth. Veni Sancte Spiritus, Veni per Mariam! Come Holy Spirit, come through Mary! Amen.
Sunday Reading Meditations
[i] Walsh, Milton, Witness of the Saints: Patristic Readings in the Liturgy of the Hours, Ignatius Press, San Francisco, 2012, p. 335.