Jesus came into this world that we may have life and have it to the full (Jn 10:10). The life he offers is essentially eternal life in the glory of Heaven, the foretaste of which we do experience already on earth, in moments of true and deep peace and joy from God. To gain for us eternal life, Jesus our Lord freely laid down his life on the Cross, and through his Death and Resurrection he gave and still gives life to the world. To enable us to fully understand what he did for us through his Death and to enjoy what he has obtained for us, namely eternal life, he promised that he would send the Holy Spirit who will lead us to truth in its entirety. “When the Spirit of Truth comes, he will lead you to the complete truth” (Jn 16:13).
The event of Pentecost that we are celebrating today is the fulfilment of Jesus’ promise to send us the Holy Spirit who would continue his work in us. The Holy Spirit leads us to Jesus and to the truth of the eternal life he gained for us on the Cross. The Holy Spirit does not invent new things to teach us, nor does he teach anything other than what Jesus has already entrusted to us in the Church. “He will not be speaking of his own accord, but will say only what he has been told” (Jn 16:13). Jesus makes this clear in today’s Gospel when he says: “The Advocate, the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything and remind you of all that I told you.”
The coming of the Holy Spirit is really the culmination or the crowning of Jesus’ saving work on the Cross, and it is intimately linked to it. The event of the Pentecost cannot be properly understood outside the context of Christ’s Death and Resurrection. Christ died and rose in order to defeat Satan, his weapon sin, and the death that goes with it. Sin disfigured the beauty of creation, for it brought about separation from God, which in turn caused division and disharmony among people. The story of the tower of Babel is a perfect description of the ripple effects of sin: humanity became arrogant, did not find God relevant, and wanted to live as if God did not exist (cf. Gen 11:1-9). The whole plan collapsed. As a result of their sin against God, they could not understand one another, and they were scattered all over the earth. Their separation from God led to division among themselves.
God, however, never wanted this division. His plan was to reconcile the world to himself, to reconcile us with our brothers and sisters, and to bring about peace and harmony. God therefore restored creation and reconciled us to himself and to one another by the Blood of Christ on the Cross (Col 1:20). And so in the Mass the Church prays: “In him you have been pleased to renew all things… and by the blood of his Cross brought peace to all creation” (Common Preface I). All this is to say that a new order of creation has dawned with the Death and Resurrection of Christ. Without Christ’s Death, Resurrection and Ascension, there would be no coming of the Holy Spirit. As he said, “It is for your own good that I am going, because unless I go the Paraclete [the Holy Spirit] will not come to you” (Jn 16:7).
Ten days after Christ ascended, the promised Spirit comes on the believers to crown and continue the divine work of renewal and reconciliation. We can recognize the work of the Holy Spirit as reconciling us to God and to one another when we compare the historical event of Pentecost, as narrated in today’s reading from the Acts of the Apostles, with the event of the Tower of Babel. The Tower was the evil fruit of a life without God, a life of sin, which brings about chaos and misunderstanding. The coming of the Holy Spirit takes place in an atmosphere of prayer, which is a life of union with God. The Apostles were gathered at prayer, together with the Blessed Mother, “Mother of the Church,” when the Holy Spirit came upon them. Though people of many different nations, speaking many different languages, were gathered in Jerusalem, they could all understand one another. This is the work of the Spirit, to overcome division and to bring about unity in diversity. “For, when your children were scattered afar by sin, through the Blood of your Son and the power of the Spirit, you gathered them again to yourself, that a people, formed as one by the unity of the Trinity, made the Body of Christ and the temple of the Holy Spirit, might, to the praise of your manifold wisdom, be manifest as the Church” (Preface VIII of the Sundays in Ordinary Time).
At Pentecost, the Apostles were spiritually energized to fearlessly continue the saving mission of Christ here on earth. They were filled with joy, peace and fervor for the work of God. We have received the same Holy Spirit in Baptism and Confirmation. He has “kindled in us the fire of his love.” Therefore, we can enjoy the same “fruits of the Spirit” – love, joy, peace, patience, etc. – when we live by the Spirit (cf. CCC 1832). Jesus in the Gospel tells us what to do: keep his commandment of love. “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always.” Because the Spirit of Love is with us and in us, we can keep his commandments. We can live in the power of divine love!
In what ways have I experienced the Holy Spirit in my life? Do I seek unity that the Lord intends for all people, or do I cling to my own individualism? How do I share the “fruits of the Spirit” to others?
Excerpt from The Anawim Way, Volume 15, no. 5. More information about The Anawim Way may be found here.