The prayer that introduces our Pentecost Liturgy rejoices in the Spirit that has sanctified the Church in every people and nation from the beginning. It prays that we also, in our own generation, might be filled with the same grace and gifts of the Holy Spirit.
The familiar passage from Acts, describing Pentecost, highlights the wonders and manifestations that accompanied the Gift of the Spirit: the powerful wind that filled the house and the tongues of flame that settled on the heads of those gathered together.
We can only speculate on the nature of such manifestations, but their meaning and effects are beyond doubt. A bewildered, and perhaps even confused community, was united in a shared and renewed understanding.
Too easily we take for granted the precious gift of understanding. A moment’s humble reflection reveals that there are times when we fail to understand ourselves, still less those around us.
The undeniable consequence of this first outpouring of the Holy Spirit was an understanding that reached beyond the seemingly impenetrable barriers of language and culture.
“They were astonished and amazed. Surely, they said, all these men speaking are Galileans. How does it happen that each of us hears them in his own native language?”
What they had heard and understood, and had experienced within themselves, was the wonder of Christ’s healing presence in their midst. For us, as for them, this is a wonder that reaches beyond words. As we surrender our hearts to the Spirit’s presence, we also begin to know, in the depths of our hearts, Christ’s healing presence. This alone makes sense of the joys and sorrows, the trials and fears of the present moment.
In the words of Saint Paul, it is in the power of this Spirit that our confession of faith becomes something more than an empty formula. It becomes a confession of what we have become in Christ.
“No one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ unless he is under the influence of the Holy Spirit.”
Luke’s Gospel account of the first encounter of the Risen Lord emphasises different aspects of the Spirit’s presence. It was through the power of the Holy Spirit, manifested in Christ’s presence to his disciples, that a deep and healing peace supplanted fear and doubt.
“In the evening of that first day of the week, the doors were close in the room where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews. Jesus came in and stood among them. He said to them ‘Peace be with you. The disciples were filled with joy, and he said to them again. ‘Peace be with you.’”
May the Lord breathe that same Spirit of peace into our troubled hearts, and in the grace of that Spirit, may we come to know a healing and forgiveness that is both received and shared.