Sunday Scripture readings, May 31, 2020
1) Acts 2:1-11
Psalm 104:1, 24, 29-31, 34
2) 1 Cor 12:3-7, 12-13
Gospel: Jn 20:19-23
Christian life begins and ends in the power of the Holy Spirit
The experience of a pandemic will not be forgotten easily. The shared experience is a stark reminder of the vulnerability of the human condition. The opening chapters of Genesis introduce us to this perennial theme as Adam and Eve fell from God’s friendship.
Since then powerlessness is a necessary part of human existence. God intended a communion of trust, peace and love with the creatures created out of love. Human beings chose self-love, division and dominance. Power would no longer be received as gift and exercised in the order of love and service, but became a means of domination and control.
The Christian life is essentially a life of power, but a different kind of power. The Solemnity of Pentecost celebrates the real spiritual power given to, and through, the church in the gift of the Holy Spirit who overwhelms the church. The Holy Spirit inspires the church’s life, her members and her activities in the world.
For Christians, power is not an abstract energy hidden in the mind or a vague force sprawled across galaxies. Rather, spiritual power originates in God’s love and is poured out as a divine gift on the church, as described in today’s first reading and the Gospel account of the event of Pentecost.
The Holy Spirit is one of the three persons of the Holy Trinity, of the same substance with the Father and the Son. The Holy Spirit draws close to dwell within us at baptism, at confirmation and each time we partake of the spiritual food of the Eucharist, the body and blood of Christ. The church is the Spirit-filled place where we grow in the power of the Holy Spirit who walks with us in the daily moments of life.
The Holy Spirit is given various titles in Scripture — Paraclete or Advocate, Comforter, Wisdom and Spirit of Truth. The dove, water, anointing with oil, fire, cloud and light are all symbols signifying the presence and activity of the Holy Spirit.
The fruits of the Holy Spirit are charity, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, generosity, gentleness, faithfulness, modesty, self-control and chastity. And the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit — wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety and fear of the Lord — strengthen us to live a life of virtue in love of God and neighbor.
The Christian life begins and ends in the power of the Holy Spirit. To grow in friendship with God, we need the inspiration, power and strength that comes from the Holy Spirit.
When I open my life daily to the power of the Holy Spirit, God dwells in me to strengthen and sanctify me with his eternal love, mercy, wisdom, peace and joy. And that is real, life-transforming spiritual power. Today, we call on the Holy Spirit to dwell in our hearts and minds as we pray, “speak to me, Lord.”
How does the Holy Spirit draw close to you today?
Sullivan is a professor at The Catholic University of America.