Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Pentecost Sunday - Year B

Acts 2:1-11; Galatians 5:16-25; John 15:26-27; 16:12-15

Some day, when you're all alone and feeling reflective, hold your fingers in front of your mouth and say aloud 'Let there be light.' You'll hear your words and, if you're doing it right, you'll feel your breath on your fingers.

The word and the breath are distinct but inseparable. You hear the word, you feel the breath; they belong together, they arrive together. The word is not the breath, the breath is not the word, therefore they are distinct, but they act together, inseparably.

This image of the speaker, the word, and the breath is very helpful when coming to think about the Blessed Trinity. The Father is the speaker (creator), the Son is the Word, and the breath is the Holy Spirit. The Father is God, the Word is God, and the Breath is God.

I remind you that the word breath in Hebrew is ruah and that it can also mean wind or spirit. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church puts it (para 689): When the Father sends his Word, he always sends his breath.

So now we have a beautiful image we can use to imagine that first moment of creation when the Father spoke the words: Let there be light. Was that moment the Big Bang, as the theory proposes? We don't know for sure. What we do know is that, in this first moment of time and space, the Three, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit acted together; the Word and the Spirit issued forth from the Father: and there was light.

The Word and the Spirit therefore have a joint mission. Where the Word is, there is the Spirit; where the Word goes, there goes the Spirit with him; what the Word does is always in union with the Spirit. So when, in the womb of the Virgin Mary, the Word became flesh it was through the action of the Holy Spirit: Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit and what's more, it is the Holy Spirit who reveals him to us.

Without the Holy Spirit we would look at Jesus and see only a man. This was the problem of so many who met the Lord. The religious leaders of his day thought themselves righteous and holy but their lack of openness to God was proved by their inability to recognise the true identity of Jesus and to believe in him: The Jews answered him, 'We are not stoning you for doing a good work but for blasphemy: you are only a man and you claim to be God' (John 10:33).

With the Holy Spirit in us we see the Word of God made flesh, the Son of God, the Anointed One of God: ...no one can say, 'Jesus is Lord' unless he is under the influence of the Holy Spirit (1Cor 12:3).

In paragraph 690 the Catechism tells us, 'Jesus is Christ, "anointed," because the Spirit is his anointing. The word 'Christ' actually means 'Anointed One". Therefore, everything Jesus said and did, from the Incarnation onwards, derives from the fullness of his anointing with the Holy Spirit.

'When Christ is finally glorified, he can in turn send the Spirit from his place with the Father to those who believe in him: he communicates to them his glory (690).' Which brings us to today's feast.

From the moment of his leaving us, the Ascension, the joint mission of Jesus and the Holy Spirit was to be manifest in us, the children given the adoption of the Father through Baptism. It is the mission of this Holy Spirit of adoption which Jesus sent among us and within us, to unite us all with Christ and to make us live in him.

And so the Gospel today tells us: When the Advocate comes, whom I shall I send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who issues from the Father, he will be my witness. And you too will be witnesses...

I still have many things to say to you but they would be too much for you now. But when the Spirit of truth comes he will lead you to the complete truth, since he will not be speaking as from himself but will say only what he has learnt; and he will tell you of the things to come. He will glorify me, since all he tells you will be taken from what is mine.

Those who recognise their need for the Holy Spirit will make their own the beautiful appeals of the Pentecost Sequence read a few moments ago:

Come, thou Father of the Poor,
come with treasures which endure;
Come, thou light of all that live.
Light immortal, light divine,
Visit thou these hearts of thine,
And our inmost being fill.

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