By Father Richard S. Jones
Chaplain, UPMC Mercy Hospital
“Unless the eye catch fire, the God will not be seen. Unless the ear catch fire, the God will not be heard. Unless the heart catch fire, the God will not be loved. Unless the mind catch fire, the God will not be made known.”
–William Blake (1757-1827), English poet and artist
On the day the Church commemorates as “Pentecost,” the first disciples in Jerusalem were huddled in the Upper Room behind barred doors with locked hearts, scared out of their wits, racked with confusion and torn with conflict.
During this COVID pandemic we, too, have been “behind closed doors” in quarantineand tempted to ask –“Where is the Lord?”
He is with us, and wants to empower us with the Holy Spirit, as he did those first disciples.
Despite their fear, they were keeping the faith through the ancient Jewish observance of Pentecost, a celebration of new life and spiritual renewal. As they prayed together, the Holy Spirit entered the Upper Room with literal flames of inspiration, fired up their hearts and changed everything.
The disciples emerge from that room transformed, dynamic, burning, courageous, united, confident, joyful, peace-filled, and hopeful. They had experienced Jesus’ first gifts of the Resurrection – forgiveness and peace – and were overwhelmed with eagerness to share them.
Those who have experienced such conversion want to tell others, because they are overflowing with joy and want to transform the world through God’s love and mercy.
The Church was born from the joyous outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the first Pentecost. Some 3,000 people were baptized. The apostles spoke a universal language that day: the language of love, forgiveness, peace, joy, and hope. No fear, adversity, tragedy or death could keep Jesus from being with us. Jesus is with always!
Those first disciples shared that joy as far and wide as they could. Tradition tells us that Peter ends up in Rome, Thomas goes to India, James to Spain, and Mary Magdalene travels to France. They shared the saving Gospel of Jesus Christ with everyone they met, despite hardship and persecution.
Pentecost should shake us up! Perhaps we must overcome obstacles such as complacency or fear of rejection that prevent us from being ardent and sacrificial in our love of God and neighbor. Our joy may have been sapped by anger toward God or the Church, by resentments towards others, or lingering pain from the past. Pentecost calls us to pray fervently and faithfully to the Holy Spirit, asking the Divine Fire to burn away all obstacles, difficulties, and divisions that prevent us from fully living our Catholic faith.
The late Father Ted Hesburgh, a longtime president of the University of Notre Dame, once said that one prayer that is always appropriate in every circumstance is “Come, Holy Spirit!” May we allow the fresh breath of the Holy Spirit to breathe on us anew, so that we may be inspired, amazed, encouraged, and fired up!
If we do not have the Holy Spirit, our faith becomes an intellectual exercise, the Church an organization, the sacraments empty rituals, the Trinity a theory, the words of Jesus on the Cross mere history and the Resurrection an old legend.
With the Holy Spirit, all is transformed: the Gospel becomes the living Word of God; the Church is the very Body of Christ and the Holy Spirit unites everyone on earth and in heaven to build God’s kingdom as we sing His praises. Through the Holy Spirit, the Resurrection is our victory over sin and death; the sacraments are vessels of eternal life.
At Pentecost, we see a spiritual renewal that is explosive in its power. Its dynamics can be summarized in the acronym CPR: Community, Prayer, and Repentance. We need to open ourselves to the Spirit’s power by following that same pattern. Let us support, encourage, and build bonds of community life through our selflessness and sacrifices. Let us make a daily commitment to pray. Let us purge from our lives any deliberate or mortal sins through repentance and conversion.
May we petition the Lord to pour out the fruits of the Holy Spirit on our world, our country, our diocese, our parishes, our communities, our families, our schools, our workplaces, our prisons, and our hospitals as well as our pope, our bishops, our priests, our religious, our deacons, our lay ecclesial ministers, our teachers, and our catechists.Pray for a new Pentecost! All for Christ! All in the Holy Spirit! All for the honor and glory of God!