Msgr. Joseph A. Pellegrino
The Solemnity of Pentecost: Spiritual Dynamism
Today we celebrate a major solemnity in the Church: Pentecost. The Liturgy of the Hours provides very beautiful readings in preparation for Pentecost. I want to zero in on Friday’s Office of Readings. Here St. Hilary of Poitiers explains our need for the Holy Spirit. He says that just as a fully functional eye cannot see unless there is light and a fully functional ear cannot hear unless there are sound vibrations, the human soul needs the Holy Spirit to experience God. Let me flesh this out a bit more. When I was in college, I spent a couple of summers at a retreat camp in the foothills of the Catskill Mountains in New York. On days off we often took long hikes through the hills until we came to a small opening in the ground that was the entrance to deep underground caves. When we climbed into them and kept descending we would eventually find that the floor of the caves was covered in ice. We were very careful carrying ropes and flashlights, but it was still quite an adventure. Deeper and deeper we would go, following the ice. Before we turned back, at the deepest point of our exploration, we would all shut off our flashlights. We would be in pitch black. Seriously, we could not see our hands even when we waved them in front of our faces. Now, our eyes were working fine. They were fully functional. But our eyes could not see without any light. So, by analogy, we can have fully functional souls, but the encounter with God begins with the Holy Spirit. That is what St. Paul meant when he wrote in 1 Cor 12:3, “No one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except by the Holy Spirit.”
The Holy Spirit is the dynamism of God, the Third Person of the Trinity. This dynamism, this power, was first experienced on Pentecost Sunday, the fiftieth day after Passover when the Jews celebrated the Festival of Weeks. Everything changed for the disciples when they experienced the descent of the Holy Spirit in the signs of tongues of fire and the sound of the wind. They finally began to understand the central event of mankind: the Christ event, the incarnation, passion, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. They left the Upper Room where they had been hiding from the Jewish authorities, and courageously proclaimed the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The scripture says that people from all over the world heard the disciples, now apostles, speaking in their own languages. It was the Spirit speaking to them through the disciples. The scripture goes on to say that on Pentecost Sunday 3,000 people became followers of Christ. Within a few decades Christianity spread to most of the major cities of the Roman Empire. Eventually it would spread to the entire world.
It is clear that it was the work of the Spirit, the dynamism of God, that was responsible for the miracle of evangelization. The apostles would all die, most put to death, but nothing could stop the growth of the Church. The Church expanded due to the Presence of the Holy Spirit within the apostles and within those who came after them. The Church continues to grow due to the dynamism, the Presence of God working within us and through us. When we live our faith, the Spirit within us draws others to Christ.
Living our faith means that we, like the first apostles, have to have the humility to allow God to give us a knowledge beyond the grasp of the human mind. Living our faith means that we be willing to leave that safe place, our own Upper Rooms. Living our faith means trusting in the dynamism of God that is the Holy Spirit.
Come Holy Spirit! Give us the courage we need to proclaim Christ.
Come Holy Spirit! Give us the ability to speak to peoples’ hearts with powerful words, mystical words, words we might not know but words that come from you.
Come Holy Spirit! Be the dynamism of God within us.
May we be people of Pentecost.