At long last, our Easter celebration comes to a triumphant close this weekend with this solemnity of Pentecost, making present for us the day when the Holy Spirit definitively came down upon the first Christians. Certainly, the Holy Spirit was already present in the lives of the disciples—Mary had conceived by the Holy Spirit’s power, and Christ had breathed the Spirit on the Apostles the night of the first Easter—but this new outpouring fills each of them entirely with the gifts that allow for the young Church to preach fearlessly and move myriad hearts. On this day, we ought to ask, who is the Holy Spirit really, and what effect does the Holy Spirit have in the lives of those who receive Him?
First, we have to ask who the Spirit really is; not an easy question to answer. While Christ describes the Father for us through the Gospels, using parables, direct teaching, and at all times imitating the Father, making Him present, we do not have much witness to the nature of the Holy Spirit. While we meet the Son through the words and deeds of His earthly life, the Spirit does not become incarnate, does not take on a human nature that would make Him more accessible to us. We know little, and what we know is mysterious. We know that He is the Spirit of the Father, but that since the Son is the one who sends Him, He is also the Spirit of the Son at the same time. We know that He is present at creation, and at work in all the Lord’s acts of salvation, but He does not speak about Himself. He remains mysterious, always bringing life and pointing us to the Father and Son, but remaining hidden.
We come to know the Holy Spirit a little more clearly in His actions. Christ tells us with more specificity what it is we can expect the Holy Spirit to do. We hear that “He will convict the world of sin, righteousness, and of judgement,” that “He will guide [us] into all truth,” and that “He will take from what is [Christ’s] and declare it to [us.]” In the Acts of the Apostles, we see that Holy Spirit empowers the Apostles to leave their hiding place, set aside their fear, and call the whole world away from sin and towards the Author of Life. The Holy Spirit on that first Pentecost overcame the diversity of peoples and spoke to them all as they required so that in place of the many languages and division, there might be only one people, believing and worshipping together. So then to sum up, we can say that the Holy Spirit seems to act in drawing people away from their sins and worldly ways of thinking, in bringing them together into the Church and in leading the Church to Christ and to the Father in right worship.
This gives us a way to understand where the Holy Spirit is working, and where He is not at work. Wherever we see people denouncing sin without hating the sinner, the Holy Spirit is at work. Wherever supernatural vision challenges merely worldly ways of thinking, the Holy Spirit is at work. Wherever people deepen their relationship with the Church and with one another, wherever Christian unity in the Church triumphs in diversity and over division, wherever people delight in knowing who God is, in speaking and believing correctly about God, and wherever human hearts alive in faith, hope, and charity offer worship to the Trinity, the Holy Spirit is working. Wherever, instead, people become comfortable in their sins and avoid conversion, wherever mere common wisdom prevails, wherever people leave the Church or pull away from its complete teaching and practice, wherever people cause or delight in division or disunity in the Church, wherever people ignore and discount clear teaching about who God is, and wherever daily life comes before worship, the Holy Spirit is not at work. So we, then, if we want to follow the Spirit’s lead, know the direction we must follow and the choices we must take.
If we resolve to pursue the Spirit’s desire, that all people should come together in one living body to be loved by God and love Him in return, we can be assured that the same joyful creator Spirit will fill us with His gifts, and provide whatever we need for the work of evangelization. And if we remain faithful, He will draw us not only into the mission fields, but one day into the joy of seeing clearly what we have desired, the love of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit that satisfies all things in eternal glory.