HE FEAST OF PENTECOST is the only feast in the liturgical year that is meant to honor the Holy Spirit specifically, even though every Mass that is offered gives equal honor and glory to God Whom we know is a triune God. And mention is made in many prayers of the Holy Spirit just as mention is made of God the Father.
During this Easter season especially, many of the Gospel selections which we have heard on Sundays have been taken from what we know as Jesus’ discourse to his apostles after the Last Supper. And in them Jesus frequently makes mention of the Holy Spirit, generally with the idea that when Jesus returns to His heavenly Father He is going to send the Holy Spirit. And this Holy Spirit is going to do all sorts of things for them. He is going to guide and teach them. He is going to strengthen them.
And on the first Pentecost we, as it were, see the first fulfillment of Jesus’ promise. We have the story in the second chapter of the Acts of the Apostles of how the Holy Spirit came down upon them in parted tongues of fire, they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they began to speak in foreign tongues as the Holy Spirit prompted them to speak. We might say that this was a ‘once in a life-time experience.’ While there may have been similar cases, such manifestations of the Holy Spirit are not the general rule. The Holy Spirit usually works in a much quieter and less noticeable way in our lives.
But before we consider how the Holy Spirit might operate in our lives, we might do well to ask ourselves, How important is the Holy Spirit in my life? Is He important enough that I pray to Him every day? Do I pray to Him when I have an important decision to make? Do I at least think of him when I’m saying the Third glorious mystery? Do I think of Him during the First Joyful mystery? After all, Mary conceived Jesus by the power of the Holy spirit. I know when our religious life was a lot more structured, we prayed to the Holy Spirit a lot more. Now that we are more on our own, I find myself praying less. If we accept as one of the definitions of prayer as being “conscious contact” with God, we might ask, how is my conscious contact with the Holy Spirit? Do I have it very often? When you want to know what is the next right thing to do, have some ‘conscious contact’ with the Holy Spirit by asking Him. See what he inspires you to do. You might be surprised at His answer. From the number of times that St. Paul speaks of the Holy Spirit in his writings, I suspect he must have had a lot of conscious contact with the Holy Spirit.
I WOULD NOT CLAIM THE FOLLOWING to be exhaustive, but I think three of the main things the Holy Spirit does for us is that He gives us guidance, strength and consolation. Guidance: to help us make the right decisions in our lives, especially as they affect our eternal salvation. This can refer to big and important things; it can also include the lesser or not so important things that can come up. And then we need the strength to carry through with our decisions. We all know how easy it is to make good resolutions, but how difficult it is to follow through. That’s where the strength of the Holy Spirit comes in. And finally the need for consolation. We all are going to face disappointments and failures in life. We will need someone to console us. And sometimes there may be no one who really understands our disappointment, but one like the Holy Spirit. I do believe that is why the Sequence for this Feast calls the Holy Spirit the Consolator Optime: O Best of Consolers!
When you studied to receive the Sacrament of Confirmation you probably learned that this Sacrament also gave you in a special way the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit. Possibly at the time you might have been able even to recite them by heart and maybe even give a definition. Believe it or not, but you still have these gifts. The Holy Spirit has never taken them back, even though you may have become somewhat unaware of them. That gift of Wisdom enables us to judge things correctly especially as to how they will affect our eternal salvation; Understanding, gives us insight into the mysteries of faith so that we may live by them; Counsel, the gift through which we receive the light to guide us in practical matters; Fortitude, gives us a Christ-like courage to love God in the face of obstacles; Knowledge, enables us to see God reflected in all creatures, but yet to see their comparative nothingness so that we will desire God alone; Piety, causes us to reverence God as our Father, and zeal in prayer and worship; Fear of the Lord, makes us have great awe and reverence for God and keeps us from offending Him by sin. St. Thomas Aquinas compares these gifts to the sails on a ship which helps the ship on its journey. These gifts help us on our journey toward heaven. This Feast of Pentecost should be a good reminder to us of how important the Holy Spirit should be on our journey toward heaven.
We hope you enjoyed this homily by Fr. Valentine Young, OFM.