Today the Easter season concludes with Pentecost Sunday, remembering that moment in the upper room where timid disciples waiting to see what would come next received an outpouring of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit emboldened them to become tireless apostles who would spread the Gospel throughout the world and throughout history. Today we also celebrate in a special way the Person of the Most Holy Trinity who expounded on the teaching of Our Lord and the words of the Father and paved the way to us to live a truly fulfilling life: life in the Spirit.
In today’s First Reading we see that at Pentecost the divisions and discord caused by sin, as the Old Testament story of the tower of Babel teaches us, start to be reversed by the Holy Spirit who enables believes to understand each other again and to welcome the Gospel into their lives. The work of salvation has been powered by the Holy Spirit from the beginning: it was in the power of the Holy Spirit that the Word became flesh in Mary’s womb, and raised Jesus from the dead.
After Our Lord’s Ascension the Holy Spirit gives that vital impulse to help the Church to grow and reach unheard of places, even today. The Spirit continues to make Our Lord present through the sacraments and pours grace into our hearts. The Spirit helps the Church’s shepherds to remain faithful to the Gospel message handed down from Christ through the Apostles. As the story of Pentecost reminds us, the Holy Spirit makes the Gospel understood by everyone of good will, and that knowledge leads to a new life.
In today’s Second Reading (Galatians 5:16–25) Paul reminds us that if the Spirit of God is within us we should live and be led by the Spirit, not by the desires of the flesh. The “flesh” is everything base and carnal. It is focusing on self-gratification to the exclusion of all else. The path of self-gratification is ultimately the path of striving after things that will never ultimately or completely satisfy us. We always need another, more intense “fix,” with the anxiety that more may not be forthcoming or what we have might no longer be enough.
The Spirit opposes those things because they separate us from him and close us off from the Kingdom of God. The Spirit strives to show us the right path, the path that will grant us peace in our earthly life and eternal happiness. The path traced out by the Spirit is deeper than just volatile feelings. It comes from deeper and nobler convictions that engender love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. These are all fruits of letting the Holy Spirit lead us to a life in the Spirit.
In today’s Gospel (John 15:26–27, 16:12–15) before his Passion and death the Lord promises to send us a new Advocate to help us after his Resurrection and Ascension, someone new in our corner looking out for our interests. We know from Saint John’s Last Supper Discourse that we abide in the Lord, and the Lord abides in us if we keep his commandments. Our Lord promises that Father and Son will send this Advocate to those who love and obey God. The whole Trinity is involved. The Holy Spirit comes to be in our corner, to Advocate for us, and to help us remain faithful to Our Lord’s teachings and Our Father’s will. Our Lord’s promise to send the Advocate to the Apostles is fulfilled on Pentecost. The Holy Spirit, sent by the Father in Jesus’ name, taught them and reminded them of everything. Through the Apostles’ successors, the bishops, the Holy Spirit continues to teach and remind the whole Church.
At Pentecost the Holy Spirit helped the Apostles translate the Good News into something all their listeners could understand, overthrowing the pride that lead to the linguistic chaos of Babel. The Good News for those first listeners was translated into a new life, a life led by the Spirit and not by the desires of the flesh. The Church continues to share the Good News, and the Gospel still needs to be translated into life. We start by translating it into our own lives, because others see our lives and, if they’re impressed, change their lives accordingly. The best evangelization we can do is living a Gospel life, led by the Spirit. Let your life, helped by the Spirit, be the best translation of the Gospel it can be.
Readings: Acts 2:1–11; Psalm 104:1, 24, 29–31, 34; 1 Corinthians 12:3b–7, 12–13; John 20:19–23. See also Pentecost Sunday.