Pentecost Sunday

So, we have reached the great Solemnity of Pentecost. As we hear the tale of that great day our imagination lights up with the extraordinary imagery of the event: the sound which came from heaven like a rushing wind, the appearance of tongues of flame coming to rest on them, the speaking in other languages, the Holy Spirit filling them.

There is so much to tell about this event. So much to unpack. But there are only two that I will mention today, only two incredible things for us to contemplate and meditate on. The first is what it means to say that the Holy Spirit filled them, and let’s not forget, by thinking about this we think on exactly the same Holy Spirit that fills us and in the same way. When we reflect on what is happening to the disciples here, we are reflecting on what is happening to us even now.

So what does it mean to say that they were filled with the Holy Spirit? What does it mean to say that we are filled with the Holy Spirit? Because the signs of that great day, the visible things the disciples saw, and the visible things we saw when we received the Holy Spirit at Baptism, are only visible manifestations of an invisible event. The invisible event is the moment of our sanctification, our salvation, as the love of God Himself is poured into our hearts. He is called the ‘Holy’ Spirit because of this effect, of this mission as He is sent by the Father and the Son into our souls. But the second part to His name, ‘Spirit’ speaks of the manner of this love. For the love we receive from God is not a dead thing, but a love which breathes life. The tongues of flame which rest upon the disciples signifies this crucial dimension of God’s love. The love we receive is not like our own love, but a blazing firestorm of divine love, which burns so deeply within us and so brightly, that if we but let the power of that love take a hold of us, can burn away every sin and division.

If that wasn’t incredible enough, there’s more, so much more. I mentioned that the invisible event of receiving the Holy Spirit is the moment of our salvation. But salvation only comes through Christ right? Well, remember that God is One, He is indivisible. Where the Holy Spirit is sent, so is the Word, the Son of God who wrought our salvation through his Passion, Death, and Resurrection. So the event of Pentecost, the event of our receiving the Holy Spirit, is not just the reception of Divine Love, but the reception of the Son of God into our very souls. So as the Holy Spirit transforms our will, as it burns deeply in us with divine love, as we are conformed more and more to the highest Good which is God, the Word of God transforms our minds, inspiring us and transforming it to receive the Truth itself. This is what it means to have Faith and Hope.

But there is more, so so much more! Because God is One. Where the Holy Spirit is, and where the Son is, the Father is also. But the Father does not have a mission, He is not sent to us like the other Persons of the Trinity. So He dwells within us, but as one who is not sent, but as one who already has His home within us. The Father dwells in us as if it were His true home. The Father having His home within us is so deep, so true, that it is the same as having our home with Him. This indwelling we call Charity, a true and complete union with God in very depth of our souls. So at Pentecost, and in our lives as Christians we have God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit dwelling in us, bringing us to completion in Faith, Hope, and Charity.

And that is only the first thing to mention. That is the depth of our union with God that began on Pentecost Day and began when we first received the Holy Spirit into our own hearts. The second thing to mention is this. Pentecost Day inaugurated in new era in the history of Mankind.

We might tend to think, as we read the Book of Acts, the history of the first disciples, that those were the glory days of the Holy Spirit, and that now we live in a much darker time. But I’m here to tell you that you’ve got it backwards. On that Day of Pentecost the era of the Church began, the era of human history when not just Mankind, but when God Himself abounds across the earth through His faithful people. The era when the fire of Divine Love burns across the face of the earth, bringing the Gospel to every corner of the world. And we, we are not spectators to this incredible era, we are not bystanders to the mission that the Holy Spirit infuses into the Church. We are the very people God has sent into this world. We are the ones who have received the mission of the Church in this place and in this time. He pours into us every grace and blessing we need for this time, to proclaim the Word of God, and let the fire of the Holy Spirit blaze ever more strongly among the Holy Spirit. In the face of challenge, in the face of fear and disappointment, in the face of uncertainty and difficulty, the Holy Spirit which blazes within us does not shrink, but rises to triumph just as He has in every age that has come before us.

So as we look into another week of our situation, as we look towards our uncertain future, let us look with confidence and hope. Let us receive anew the Holy Spirit, and let us open our hearts afresh to the firestorm of love he gives to us to blaze out in the world in His Name. Let us pray to receive that today and for this town and this country and this world to receive Him too!

Reflection from Fr.James Barber