The Feast of Pentecost is the celebration of the sending of the Advocate—the Spirit of Truth promised by Christ at His Ascension to those gathered on the mountain that then assembled in the Upper Room, waiting to receive the Paraclete.
Who is the Holy Spirit? While we have a sense of understanding of God the Father through relationship with our own fathers, and God the Son through our relationship and understanding of children and the love flowing between parent and child, our comprehension of the Holy Spirit may be a bit more difficult to wrap our minds around. How do we enter into relationship with Spirit? All three are manifestations of God—three in One, the Holy Trinity—yet the Spirit is a mystery.
St. Therese of Lisieux understood the Holy Spirit to be the love flowing between God the Father and Son, which extends from them to us, thus joining all into unity and communion. What a beautiful and powerful image!
To better understand thePower of the Spirit, we can look at the fruits—the outward actions realized when the Spirit is alive in us. St. Paul lists these in Galatians, where he notes they are: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
Another outward sign of the manifestation of the Holy Spirit is the lens through which the world is seen. Here I want to compare the story of the Tower of Babel in Genesis 11 and Pentecost, as described in Acts 2.
In the Old Testament story, it is noted that all men had the same language and the same words. Problem is they also thought they could get to heaven on their own—with no need of God. Using their common language, they worked together to build a tower reaching into the sky. While it is good they were all cooperating—the ‘fruits’ of their work were not. The goal of their activity was to make a name for themselves—lest they be scattered and separated. Pride once again reigns. The fruit of their labor was not love, but vanity. The separation between God and man as a result of the Fall was brought about by the pride of Adam and Eve, who desired to be like God. Same holds true in Genesis 11 with respect to reuniting with God. There is but one that can restore unity between God and man—and that is God. In short, we cannot save ourselves—it doesn’t matter how tall the tower is! Man’s building project in Chapter 11 results in the coming down of God from heaven, saying: Let us go down and confuse their language, so that no one will understand the speech of the other (Gen 11:7).
The ‘us’ in that passage is the Trinity: Father, Son, and Spirit. It takes all the way to the New Testament and the sending of the Savior, Jesus Christ, to see the undoing of this action through the work of God. Unity is restored through the Advocate sent by Christ: the Holy Spirit—the Spirit of Truth given and received at Pentecost. Acts of the Apostles 2:4-6 notes: And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim. Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven staying in Jerusalem. At this sound, they gathered in a large crowd, but they were confused because each one heard them speaking in his own language.
The gift of tongues—one of the charisms of the Holy Spirit— is not babbling as the Catholic Encyclopedia notes ( Faithful adherence to the text of Sacred Scripture makes it obligatory to reject those opinions which turn the charism of tongues into little more than infantile babbling, (http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/14776c.htm))--but rather, the gift of tongues is the ability to evangelize, to proclaim the Word of God in a way that is heard by all.
The Word of God brings unity and peace. God is love and if this is the case—the unifying ‘language’ we are called to proclaim is love, profoundly lived. The example we are to follow? Jesus, Love Incarnate who so loved the world that He laid down His life for us (jn 3:16).
This profound love for another is the living witness of the Gospel message. Sounds simple, doesn’t it? Love one another as I have loved you (Jn 15:12). When we live love this profoundly, we will be true witnesses of Christ in the world. When we speak love this purely, we will proclaim His Name to all who have the ears to hear. When we manifest His love in our lives, we will become images of the Divine Love the world so desperately needs to see, hear, and experience. When we live love in the image and likenss of God, our lives will bear fruit and the world will know the Savior. The Name of Jesus will be on our lips, in our hearts, before us, and in all we see and hear. How beautiful the feet of those who bear the Good News! (Romans 10:15)
Come Holy Spirt, fill the hearts of your faithful and enkindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created. And you shall renew the face of the earth!