Today we celebrate the birthday of the universal church. We celebrate the presence of the Spirit in this believing community today, just as it was present among the community in Jerusalem. In some countries this day is celebrated as the feast of the laity. It is the feast of every believer. The liturgy of the Word on this day suggests the theme of unity of the Church.
I would like to develop this reflection focusing on three possible meanings of this feast, exploring also what the Spirit – the Holy Spirit – and his presence can mean for us today.
Evangelist Luke considers the event of the resurrection (Easter) and the decent of the Holy Spirit (Pentecost) as two significant events, not necessarily as separate events. As the resurrection of the Lord is associated with the Jewish feast of the Passover, Luke considers it meaningful to situate the coming of the Holy Spirit within the Jewish feast of the Pentecost – a harvest festival that was celebrated fifty days after the Passover. On the other hand, according to the Gospel of John – as we heard it read in today’s gospel text (Jn 20:19-23), the descent of the Holy Spirit is on the day of the resurrection of the Lord. It reads: “In the evening of that same day, the first day of the week… Jesus came and stood among them… he said to them: ‘Peace be with you…’ After saying this he breathed on them and said: ‘Receive the Holy Spirit’! Therefore, the Holy Spirit cannot be separated from the Risen Lord. Pentecost cannot be separated from Easter!
One of the works of the Holy Spirit is to bring people together. In the final discourse of Jesus during the last supper, He prayed: “Father that they may be one” (Jn 17:21-22). That prayer of Jesus is realized today in our believing community by the presence of the Holy Spirit even through our own cooperation.
In the first reading of today we hear that one of the first signs of the descent of the Holy Spirit was that the Christian message, the Gospel, the Good News, was proclaimed in different languages. The same message in different languages!
One of the problems of the Church in some parts of the world is the Holy Spirit itself. How does the Spirit manifest himself? It is easy, but misleading, to identify the Spirit with miracles: deliverance and healing. We need to understand that the Holy Spirit can descend in powerful ways – tongues of fire, and powerful wind from heaven, with noise, as described by Luke in Acts 2:1. The Holy Spirit can also descend as a gentle breath (John 20:22). Both these manners are valid. As Jesus said to Nicodemus (Jn 3:8), “The wind blows where it pleases.” Today, the Spirit is present in a priest who is able to preach in a powerful way – may be accompanied by the gift of knowledge and healing. The same Spirit is also powerfully present when an elderly priest prays over the altar with a very feeble voice: “Lord, send forth your spirit.” The fact is Jesus is risen; therefore He is alive; and when we recognize that at the depth of our selves, the Holy Spirit is active in us.
On this important day, then, we want to allow the Spirit to work in us. In His own way! That we may be one! Let the Eucharistic celebration mediate an experience of the Spirit of the Risen Lord for each one of us.BACK TO LIST