“I Believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the Giver of Life.”
You might not know the name Angelo Dundee, but you’ve undoubtedly heard of Muhammad Ali, probably the most famous professional boxer of all time. For more than two decades, Angelo Dundee was in Muhammad Ali’s corner, literally. He was Ali’s corner-man! He’s the one who made Ali float like a butterfly and sting like a bee. He also trained fifteen other world boxing champions. Angelo Dundee described his job as a corner-man this way: “When you’re working with a fighter, you’re a surgeon, an engineer, and a psychologist.”
As followers of Jesus Christ, we have something even better than a surgeon-engineer-psychologist in our corner—the Holy Spirit.
“I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life.” This Sunday, we affirm and celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit upon the apostles. This is what we call Pentecost. The word Pentecost comes from the Greek (πεντηκοστή), which means the fiftieth day. Fifty days after the Resurrection, Christ fulfills his promise by sending the gift of the Holy Spirit upon the disciples. Pentecost is one of the most prominent and colorful celebrations in the liturgical year.
Today is Pentecost Sunday. The celebration of our birthdays is always a moment of great joy and feast. We have a great reason to be happy, celebrate, and exchange good wishes because today is the birthday of Holy Mother Church. Easter is the feast of the light, of the new life that begins with Christ’s resurrection. Pentecost is the celebration of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. It marks the beginning of the new covenant and the birth of the public life of the church.
Our First Reading relates the events of the coming of the Holy Spirit as a great manifestation of God’s power. The speaking in different tongues that were understood by all the Jews that came to Jerusalem for the celebration of the feast of Pentecost was a miracle. It was a clear manifestation of the mission of the Universal Church. It is a call for the church to be a sign of human unity, irrespective of race, color or language.
In the Second Reading, Paul reminds us of the fact that, by virtue of our “Pentecostal experience” today, an indelible mark has been placed upon us. Hence, we have been specially configured for God’s mission. This means that it is the Holy Spirit that gives life and directs our mission. Therefore, through today’s outpouring of the Holy Spirit, we are truly and fully marked as God’s children. Though adopted, we are fully heirs to God’s throne and heritage.
Today’s Gospel reminds us of the principal roles of the Holy Spirit. These include: advocating, teaching, and reminding us of the things we ought to know. However, for this to be possible, we must be ready to cooperate with him. He can only advocate for us if we trust him, and allow him to be in charge of our case. He can only teach us if we pay attention to his counsels. He can only remind us of the things we ought to know, if we humbly, and willing say to him all the time: “Help me, Holy Spirit, because I am ignorant. Enlighten the eyes of my mind, O Holy Spirit.”
What then will the Holy Spirit that we have received today help us to accomplish? First, the Holy Spirit we have received today is not a spirit of fear and timidity. Instead, it is the Spirit that empowers us and makes us children of God. This means that we are now bold to call God as Abba Father.
The Holy Spirit is given to us in order that we might bear good fruits that will last (Gal 5, 22). It was given to us in order to help and also empower others. It was also given to us in order to lead us into the kingdom of righteousness, peace, and to bring us to the fullness of life. So, as we rejoice at this wonderful gesture that God has extended to us today, let us ask him for the grace to be docile to the Holy Spirit we have received.
Finally, Happy Birthday to our One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. Happy Birthday to all the Faithful of God all over the world. Happy Birthday to all our beloved confreres of the Congregation of the Holy Ghost Fathers and Brothers (Spiritans). May the Holy Spirit continue to lead us all: “To the ends of the earth.” Long live the Holy Mother Church!
On this Pentecost Sunday, you and I are invited to open ourselves to the presence and power of the Spirit of Jesus, who dwells within us. This is the Spirit who inspires us to proclaim “Jesus is Lord.” This same Spirit enriches us with gifts for service to the Body of Christ. We are sent forth from this liturgy to speak the language of the Spirit with our lips and with our lives. When we do, like that young Italian mother in Assisi, others are able to hear and understand, each in their own language. Others, young and old, are drawn to Christ and to the community of his people. As many of our “Catholics on Call” participants remind us, the language of the Spirit is not always a popular language in the world today. Often it is barely audible, drowned out by words of indifference, violence, prejudice and greed. And so we need to encourage and support one another in speaking this language of the Spirit of Jesus, the Spirit of the One who laid down his life for us.
We are able to accept this mission to speak the language of the Spirit to our world because of the presence and action of the Spirit in our lives. It is this Spirit who, even in our weakness, empowers us to speak with our lives. The exquisite words of the Pentecost Sequence that we sing before the Gospel celebrate this action of the Spirit within us: “You, of comforters the best; You, the soul’s most welcome guest; sweet refreshment here below; In our labor, rest most sweet; grateful coolness in the heat; solace in the midst of woe. O most blessed Light divine, shine within these hearts of yours, and our inmost being fill.”
May the Holy Spirit fill our inmost being and enable us to speak a word of hope to a world in need.
Fr. Gaspar Fernandes, OFM Cap.