Pentecost, the Spirit

Pentecost is a day of peculiar significance in the Acts of the Apostles. First, while the Old Testament knew from the prophet Joel that God would one day share His Spirit with the world of believers, the one who actually pours out the Spirit is Jesus - he who received the Spirit from his Father for this purpose. The wonder that is Jesus never ceases to amaze those who have dedicated their lives to him. Second, As one moves through the public life of Jesus, from Nazareth to Jerusalem, one becomes aware that only upon Jesus has the Spirit descended; the Spirit of God acts in Jesus alone. But with Pentecost all believers receive the Spirit; they become the Spirit’s world to inspire, console, encourage, defend. One of the major gifts to believers is prophecy. This gift is essentially a power and an enlightenment given so that one may speak truthfully on behalf of God, whether about the past, the present or the future. With this gift one becomes an instrument by which God speaks to us, reveals to us. Revelation from God belonged to Jesus in the Gospel, now it belongs to God’s sons and daughters. Finally, the Spirit was given in accord with God’s plan, that all Christians, one way or another, bear witness to Jesus; some do it by preaching (e.g. Peter and Paul), some by martyrdom (Stephen), some be bearing up under persecution and false accusations (the Jerusalem Church) and most do it by living out to the full the Great Commandment, expressed as ’love of God and love of neighbor (no one in the community was, or should be left in need). The Spirit inspires and sustains, acts which our sorry world needs so much. Jesus’ was the immense task of preaching and martyrdom; the Spirit’s no less a challenge, to move secretly to move hearts and wills. As St. John says, no one knows where the Spirit comes from, nor when. But as St Paul assures us, no good thought and no good choice happens without the effort of the Spirit to inspire and support. Not visible as was Jesus in his public life, the Spirit is in our world, trying his best to shape our free choices to the benefit of our eternal happiness and perfection. John Kilgallen, SJ

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