Not a bird

Pentecost Sunday.

Dear sisters and brothers in Christ,

This Sunday we celebrate the Solemnity of Pentecost, the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the disciples, the event that marks the formal beginning of the mission of the Church.

In the liturgical calendar of the Church, Easter season ends on Pentecost Sunday and Ordinary time begins. On Monday after Pentecost, the Paschal Candle will be moved to the side of the baptismal font and will only be lit during the celebration of Baptisms or funerals.

The Lord Jesus had promised to send the Spirit and, indeed, he does. Just as His Ascension was not a separation, He did not disengage from the world by His return to the Father. The outpouring of the Holy Spirit did not just happen once and for all at Pentecost, for the Holy Spirit is very much present and acting in our midst, directing human history to its consummation in God.

In fact, the Holy Spirit has been active in the world since the beginning of Creation. The opening verses of Scripture make reference to the Spirit of God hovering over the formless waters.

Yet, the event at Pentecost marks the beginning of the mission of the Church. Christ remains present in the Church until the end of time, but it is now the time for the Church to be his presence in the world, to be his healing hand, his feet walking distances to announce the Good News of salvation in God. She can keep on announcing Christ and bringing Him to the world, precisely because of the Spirit that has been given to her at Pentecost, a life-giving principle that remains present and active in her and through her.

The Holy Spirit keeps descending upon us to sanctify us and lead us to ever greater communion with God and with one another. The action of the Spirit can be readily seen in our midst. Every example of holiness, everything good that the Church does, and indeed she is a great force for good in our torn world, is possible because of the presence and action of the Holy Spirit animating human history through her.

The Sacraments, instituted by Christ and entrusted to the Church for her care, are efficacious because of the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Christ and the action of the Holy Spirit. They are the ordinary means of sanctification and they are primarily an action of God.

That is the reason why the most noticeable action of the Holy Spirit in our midst is, of course, the celebration of the Eucharist. Every time we come to Mass a miracle unfolds before our very eyes. The bread and the wine become the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. This transubstantiation of the species, the changing of the substance of bread and wine into the substantial and real presence of the humanity and divinity of Christ is accomplished by an action of the Holy Spirit invoked by the priest during the Eucharistic prayer. There are several options in the Missal that the priest may use. These beautiful prayers are very eloquent and clear. For example, in Eucharist prayer II, which is the shortest prayer, we find the following invocation: “Make holy, therefore, these gifts, we pray, by sending down your Spirit upon them like the dewfall.” In Eucharistic prayer III, we pray: “Therefore, O Lord, we humbly implore you: by the same Spirit graciously make holy these gifts we have brought to you for consecration.” In Eucharistic prayer for Reconciliation II, the Church prays: “And now, celebrating the reconciliation Christ has brought us, we entreat you: sanctify these gifts by the outpouring of your Spirit.”

The Spirit is also active in our own life. It leads us all to greater communion with God and with one another by shedding its light on our consciences with regards to sin, judgment, righteousness. The Spirit of God enlightens us so that we can live and walk in the truth and open our hearts and minds to grace that heals our nature and lifts us up so that we can soar to the contemplation of God and participate fully in His love and life.

My professor of Scripture in the seminary used to say: “The Holy Spirit is not a bird.” Neither is it a tongue of fire. It is the bond of love that exists between the Father and the Son. A bond so real that it is a person. A love so radical and passionate that is described as consuming fire. A love that has been active since the beginning of the world, so much so that It hovered over the waters at the time of creation and came down on the Blessed Virgin Mary so that she may conceive a Savior for us, becoming the Mother of God. She is also the Mother of the Church, Christ’s continued presence in the world whose mission is made possible, fruitful and fecund down the centuries precisely on account of the presence of the Holy Spirit.

Fr. Roberto M. Cid