Today the Easter season concludes with Pentecost Sunday, commemorating that day in the budding Church when the Father and the Son poured out the Holy Spirit in a special way on the Apostles and they took up the mission of proclaiming the Gospel throughout the whole world. The Holy Spirit throughout the Church’s history has showered down gifts upon her to keep her faithful to the teaching she’s received from Our Lord, and to keep the fires burning to inspire hearts to turn to Our Lord and be reconciled with God and with man.
In today’s First Reading with wind and fire the Holy Spirit is poured out upon the Twelve in a way that cannot be contained. It’s a sign no one can ignore. A rushing wind and tongues of fire. It draws a crowd. It’s a sign everyone is able to understand. It goes beyond the barriers of language to help humanity reunite once again in the Spirit. It’s the sign everyone has been seeking: the truth about God, the world, and man. Every point of origin the shocked witnesses mention today was a full-fledged Christian communion by the time St. Luke wrote the Acts of the Apostles. The fire of the Holy Spirit spread like wildfire, uncontainable.
In today’s Second Reading Paul reminds us that the presence and action of the Holy Spirit is often perceived as gifts, gifts for the edification and unity of the Church. The Holy Spirit gifts us the gift of prayer to express in faith that Jesus is Lord. The spiritual gifts are unified in the Church through their source: the Holy Spirit. The ways we serve are unified in serving Our Lord. All the workings of the Spirit in us come from God. Each gift is for our benefit, another’s, or both.
In today’s Gospel we’re reminded of one of the Spirit’s greatest gifts, a gift Our Lord conferred to the Apostles on the eve of his Resurrection: the gift of reconciliation with God. Our Lord first bestows the gift of reconciliation with his dearest friends, the friends who abandoned him in his moment of need: “Peace be with you.” It’s no coincidence that he repeats this desire for reconciliation even as he is breathing the Holy Spirit upon them. It is the Holy Spirit who makes reconciliation possible. The Spirit raised Jesus from the dead and gave him new life so that reconciliation would be possible.
One of the most saddening ways to break off a relationship with someone is to say, “you are dead to me;” In God’s eyes, even in those situations the Spirit can make that person come alive again through the grace of mercy, whether mercy received or mercy given. The separation between God and man, recalled by the story of the Tower of Babel, is reversed by the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost: in pride man distanced himself from God and his fellow man, and communication broke down. Through the gift of tongues the Holy Spirit reestablishes the lines of communication. In the Spirit man reconciles not only with God, but with his fellow man.
The gifts of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost Sunday were crowning gifts for the good of the Church and the world. This Sunday is not just a moment to ask the Spirit for more gifts, although they are abundant; it is a moment to take stock of the all the spiritual gifts we have received in gratitude. People receive gifts that they don’t think they really need and chuck them in the closet all the time. Have we relegated any of the Holy Spirit’s gifts to the closet? Paul reminds us today that gifts are for the benefit of someone.
Ask the Holy Spirit to show you how you can best use his gifts.
Readings: Acts 2:1–11; Psalm 104:1, 24, 29–31, 34; 1 Corinthians 12:3b–7, 12–13; John 20:19–23.