This Sunday brings us to the great and crowning moment of glory that closes the Easter season. The resurrection of Christ has shown us that our Jesus has conquered sin and death forever, and that the darkness of this world cannot any longer hold us away from the light and peace of heaven. His Ascension brings our human nature into that glory at the right hand of the Father, and carries our hearts, even now, into the eternal kingdom, above the angels. Today, we receive the great gift of the third person of the blessed Trinity, the Holy Spirit, who brings about the effects of that heavenly exchange in a staggering diversity among us Christians, spreading divine fire through the whole world until the day that our union with Christ and with the Father is completed forever.
But what is it that the Holy Spirit really does when He acts in the world, when He takes hold of a Christian soul? So of-ten, the work of the Spirit is simply equated with enthusiasm and high emotion. When we see people experiencing joy, inspira-tion, or catharsis in a prayerful setting, we often say “the Spirit is acting in them.” Wherever we find parishes or Church settings full of different programs, activities, and charities, all well-attended, we say, “this parish is on fire with the Holy Spirit.” Often, we look at the more exotic supernatural gifts, speaking in other languages, giving or interpreting prophecy, healing and so on, and reserve our identification of the Holy Spirit to these. While none of the above is wrong—certainly the Spirit of the Lord moves souls to great moments of conversion or consolation in prayer, inspires good actions among the faithful, and works miracles outside of natural possibility—focusing only on these can lead us to miss the quiet and constant ways the Spirit is working all around us at every moment.
Saint Basil the Great tells us that the Holy Spirit is often compared to a gentle rain or to “dewfall,” as we hear in one of the Eucharistic prayers, because just like water, which always remains itself wherever it falls, yet brings about different kinds of effects when it falls upon the earth, upon plants, and upon animals, so also the Holy Spirit, while always remaining Himself, brings about different effects in each soul. While water may erode rocks, bring forth flowers, fruits, and trees, and give drink to all the varieties of animals, the Spirit brings about life, desire for and union with God, in different ways in each heart. In the heart of one person, the Spirit brings about the thought, “maybe it’s time for me to go to confession.” In another person, He inspires fasting and penance, the desire to make physical offerings for the salvation of others. In another, He fills their heart with the gift of patience and gentleness in caring for their family and bearing with hardship. To another person he gives the gift of teaching, to another a spirit of hospitality and joy, to another deep sympathy with the suffering, to another the drive to fight for the dignity of the poor and the right to life, to another the ability to call souls into union with the Lord’s Body, the Church. All of these gifts are beyond commonplace, yet all are extraordinary in their divine origin. Wherever Christian souls are moved to-wards God in His Church, and moved towards true love of neighbor, the Holy Spirit is doing His work. The ordinary actions and movements of our lives as Catholics are not as ordinary as we might think!
This Pentecost, we should look in our own lives and recognize where the Holy Spirit has already acted, and is acting right now, pulling us towards God and towards one another in charity. We should beg Him to act more deeply, to remove any obstacles to His movement, to warm our hearts when they are cold, and to cool our souls when they are worn out by the heat of our labors in the world. In the end, if we allow Him, He will fill us with the love comes from Love Himself, and guide us into all truth, into the fullness of the life of heaven. Come Holy Spirit! Fill the hearts of your faithful! Enkindle in them the fire of your love!