Donum Dei Altissimi!
Pentecost Sunday (B) | Fr Lawrence Lew rejoices in the Gift that God wants to give us to lead us into the full Truth of our redeemed humanity.
Air gets everywhere – it fills our lungs, our rooms, our homes, and the whole world. What a fitting image it is, therefore, for the Holy Spirit, the ruah Adonai, the “Breath of God” who fills all creation and gives to it the gifts and blessings of the living and true God. For the Spirit of God is the air that the Risen Lord breathes over us his disciples, and over the Church, and over the whole world that creation might be given new life: “Receive the Holy Spirit”. Hence, in the account of the Pentecostal descent of the Holy Spirit, notice that the Spirit “filled the entire house”, and then the apostles were “all filled with the Holy Spirit”, and then they fill the streets of Jerusalem where, speaking in the languages of the known world, they signify that the Spirit fills the inhabited world with God’s blessings. As the psalmist says, “the earth is full of God’s riches”. The message of Pentecost, therefore, which was a great Jewish harvest festival, is that God fills the world with his riches, his manifold blessings and gifts, indeed, with his holy presence, and God desires that you and I should reap that harvest, and receive his blessings, and use his gifts.
St Paul describes well the world that we live in, a world that is wounded and torn apart by sin, a world over which the Devil is prince. So we are all somehow victims of sin. Each of us has been preyed upon by the Devil who, from the start, had lied to our first parents and has seduced us and influenced us, inducing us to choose sin. Often, against our better judgment, we think that by lying, fighting, quarrelling, indulging the desires of the flesh, and by grasping for more control, power, and money we can be happier. But we think this because we have been lied to by the world, by the lusts of the flesh, and by the Devil. At some level, we believed those lies because nobody acts in order to become more unhappy – we desired, rather, what we thought to be good, what we believed would lead to happiness and contentment. But, as St Paul says, these lies are “opposed to the Holy Spirit.”
Knowing our predicament, our merciful Saviour, therefore, promises to send the “Spirit of truth”. He is our “Advocate”, that is to say, he defends us from the assaults and lies of the Devil, and he is our Helper, for he comes to lead us “to the complete truth”. He comes like fire to burn away falsehood and lies. If we are led by the Spirit, then, we shall have “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, trustfulness, gentleness, and self-control”. Who does not long for such gifts? Who does not seek to live in such a world? But if we desire these gifts of God, then we have to receive the Holy Spirit, and seek daily to “be directed by the Spirit” as St Paul says. We must daily surrender to the Holy Spirit, reject whatever is contrary to God’s holiness, and so be filled with the Holy Spirit. Let us breathe in the Breath of God and be inspired by him.
As Pope Francis said recently: “Do not be afraid to set your sights higher, to allow yourself to be loved and liberated by God. Do not be afraid to let yourself be guided by the Holy Spirit. Holiness does not make you less human, since it is an encounter between your weakness and the power of God’s grace. For in the words of León Bloy, when all is said and done, “the only great tragedy in life, is not to become a saint”.” (Gaudete et exsultate, 34).
The Holy Spirit comes, therefore, to lead us into this great truth: that God has created you and me as potential saints; he has made us for loving friendship with himself. To attain this great gift of blessed union in heaven with him, he has given us the greatest Gift of himself, he gives us his Holy Spirit. So, everyday, let us receive the Gift of the Holy Spirit; let us listen in silence to his soft inspirations, and obey his Word.
“Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful, and kindle in them the fire of your love!”
Photograph by Fr Lawrence Lew OP of a window in St Patrick’s Cathedral, New York City.