“Lord, send out your Spirit!”
Marking the end of the Easter season, the Solemnity of Pentecost celebrates the descent of the Holy Spirit on the Apostles and the birth of the Church. The First Reading from the Acts of the Apostles and the Gospel of John make it clear that after he rose from dead, Jesus fulfilled the promise he made to send the Holy Spirit, the Advocate, to his disciples. Praying together, the earliest disciples used the words of Psalm 104, “Lord, send out your Spirit, and renew the face of the earth,” and their prayer was answered. The followers of Jesus were now constituted as the Church, and disciples became true apostles who were sent by our Lord to proclaim him to the world.
There is something very appealing about the way the Gospel and the Acts of the Apostles differ in the way they describe the giving of the Holy Spirit to Jesus’ followers. From the very first day of the Resurrection, the Gospel assures us that Jesus was breathing the Holy Spirit on his disciples. The creation account in the Book of Genesis, when God breathed life into Adam, is echoed now in the way our Lord breathes new life into his own and sends them with the power and authority to forgive sins in his name.
In the Acts of the Apostles, the Holy Spirit “appears,” “comes to rest on,” and “fills” those gathered “all in one place.” Just as the Holy Spirit hovered over the waters of chaos at the Creation and overshadowed our Blessed Mother at the Annunciation, so Holy Spirit now brings to life the community of followers who will come to be known as “Christians” and who become the Church. Filled with and enabled by the Holy Spirit, they began to proclaim the mighty acts of God to the whole world.
God’s sending of the Holy Spirit and the Spirit’s coming has not stopped. The prayer of the Church has continued to be, “Lord, send out your Spirit, and renew the face of the earth.” Saint Paul makes it clear that the divine action of Pentecost continues. The Church that was launched on that first Christian Pentecost continues to pray for and receive the Holy Spirit. Paul describes the ongoing experience and various manifestations of the Holy Spirit in the Church, the Body of Christ. Emphasizing that, “we were all baptized into one body… [and] we were all given to drink of one Spirit,” Paul reminds us that all the gifts, forms of service and workings are God’s gifts to us for the benefit and upbuilding of the Church. God’s gifts to us are never just for us, and we are called to make the best use of God’s gifts to strengthen the unity of the Body of Christ.
On Easter, we celebrated the Resurrection of our Lord, Jesus Christ and renewed the promises made at our baptism. Pentecost is an excellent time to recall the way we received and were anointed with the Holy Spirit not only at baptism but also at confirmation. Take a moment to reflect on the way the Spirit has descended on you. How has the strong driving wind and tongues of fire that descended on the earliest disciples found its expression in your life? Like the first disciples on whom Jesus breathed the Holy Spirit and gave the power to forgive sins, how might we be better instruments of God’s forgiveness and reconciliation in our world? Like the first disciples who received the Holy Spirit and the gift of speaking about the mighty acts of God, have we recognized God’s gifts to us and used them to witness to our faith in God who continues to work in our lives and the lives of those around us? Can we let the prayer of the Church at Pentecost be our prayer in the coming days of Ordinary Time: “Lord, send out your Spirit, and renew the face of the earth.”
About the Seminary: Founded in 1884, New England’s oldest Major Seminary, Saint John’s Seminary serves Catholic communities across the New England region and beyond by educating and training men to be Catholic priests and by providing a graduate education in Catholic Theology to laity, deacons, and professed religious who serve the Church in a variety of different ministries.