Pentecost Sunday, one of the most ancient feasts of the Church, is May 11. As he often does, Stephen Lynch provides a reflection on the significance of the Holy Spirit in our lives.
Pentecost is a Greek word meaning 50th, and relates to the special outpouring of the Holy Spirit that occurred 50 days after Easter. Another title of the Holy Spirit is paraclete or advocate. The term paraclete is primarily applied to Christ himself. “If anyone should sin, we have, in the presence of the Father, Jesus Christ, an advocate (paraclete).” 1 John: 2.1
The first outpouring of the Holy Spirit was at creation; the second outpouring of the Spirit was at the incarnation, when the Spirit of God overshadowed Mary, resulting in the conception of Jesus Christ, the original paraclete. Jesus fulfilled this role of “advocate” by becoming our redeemer. Finally, the third outpouring of the Holy Spirit was at pentecost, when the Holy Spirit descended upon the apostles, establishing the birthday of the church.
Goodness Heals and Renews
In the Book of Ecclesiastes, the Wiseman Qoheleth, says, “Again I looked and saw all the oppression that was taking place under the sun: I saw the tears of the oppressed and they had no comforter, no paraclete. Power was on the side of their oppressors.” Misuse of power and the outpouring of the mystery of iniquity go together. Evil has always been the primary cause of human suffering and injustice. Goodness, on the other hand, heals and renews. Even at the beginning of the human race, we see the outpouring of the mystery of iniquity. The first flash point of evil came with the disobedience of Adam and Eve. Their disobedience was followed by fratricide when Cain killed his brother Abel out of jealous hatred. Disobedience and fratricide still plague humanity. Conduct such as violence, torture, hurting for the sake of hurting, revenge and deception are expressions of evil that go against the fiber of our human dignity and mutual respect.
Jesus warns us that without the help of the Holy Spirit, the human race will be pulled headlong into the vortex of evil, which could ultimately threaten human survival. On the other hand, the transforming love of the Holy Spirit can heal our brokenness, create God-consciousness, and, in the words of the Prophet Micah, empower us to do what is right, to love tenderly, and to walk humbly with our God. Only the Holy Spirit can heal the church’s present crisis of wounded trust and integrity. We should also pray for the leadership of the church, that it might have the Holy Spirit’s gift of discernment and good judgment in managing church affairs.
God, speaking through the prophet Ezekiel, reminds us: “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you. I will remove your stony hearts, so you shall live according to my commandments.” Ez. 11:19
Whose Sins you Shall Forgive, Are Forgiven
Jesus especially associated the Holy Spirit with the forgiveness of sins. “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven. Whose sins you shall retain, they are retained.” St. Paul reminds us, “The love of God is poured forth in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who is given to us.” The Holy Spirit brings forgiveness, healing and peace. Jesus Christ sums up God’s challenge to humanity: “Love one another as I have loved you.” It is the Spirit of God who enables us to live by the golden rule: “Treat others as you would have them treat you.”
Pope Paul VI, before he died, commented, “The gift of gifts in the church is the gift of discernment.” Discernment means the ability to make God-centered and God-directed judgments, to see things as God wants you to see them.
St. Francis of Assisi closes his Testament with this trinitarian blessing for his new Order of Brothers: “And whoever observes these things will be filled in heaven with the blessing of the most high Father, and on earth he will be filled with the blessing of his beloved Son, with the Holy Spirit, the comforter, and all the powers of heaven and all the saints. And I, Brother Francis, your servant, insofar as I am able, internally and externally, confirm for you this holy blessing.”
— Fr. Stephen, a resident of Providence, R.I., contributes frequently to HNP Today and other religious and secular publications.