Sunday Sermon for June 12, 2011, Solemnity of Pentecost
Readings: Acts 2:1-11; 1Cor 12:3b-7, 12-13; Jn 20:19-23
In the Gospel reading today our Lord gives His Apostles two gifts: His peace and His Holy Spirit. Both of these gifts are very much in evidence in the first reading where we see the Apostles, who just fifty days earlier were terrified of being associated with Jesus, not only speaking publicly of Jesus so that each person heard in his own tongue, but they display interior peace and confidence as they preach.
We understand that the Holy Spirit was working in profound and miraculous ways, not only so that the early Church would be built up with new members, but also so that the Apostles would have the faith they needed to know that the Lord was with them in the work they were about to undertake.
Our circumstances do not normally require that we have to speak in tongues, although this is certainly possible if truly needed, but perhaps more than ever we need an outpouring of the Holy Spirit. We live in a world where there is so little faith and so many attacks designed to undermine our faith. We need the Holy Spirit to help us to remain faithful and to make the necessary distinctions that will allow us to reject the subtle lies of the evil one.
It is not necessary that the Holy Spirit show Himself in powerful and miraculous ways to us because we have the assurance of His presence among us. In case there is any doubt, St. Paul tells us in the second reading that no one can say that Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit. So, you can conduct a little test on yourself: if you can honestly say that Jesus Christ is Lord and Messiah, then the Holy Spirit is at work within you. Interestingly, it is possible to say that Jesus is God, that He is the second Person of the Holy Trinity, that He became man in the womb of the Virgin Mary, and so on without the help of the Holy Spirit. These are all objective theological truths which even the devil can state.
However, to say that Jesus is Lord or that He is the Messiah is a subjective statement regarding the salvation of our souls. The vile creature cannot acknowledge these truths, even though he knows they are true. Neither can anyone who rejects Jesus acknowledge that He is Lord because if they were to make that statement, it would be a statement of faith not only in the Person of Jesus, but more to the point, a statement of faith about what Jesus has done for me. Therefore, if I refuse to believe in the work of Jesus as the Christ, logically I have to reject that He is the Christ. How can I say that He is Lord if I have given my loyalty to another?
Therefore, to make the statement that Jesus is Lord is a clear an unmistakable proof of the presence and working of the Holy Sprit in your soul. This knowledge should bring us a great deal of peace not only because we know that the Lord is with us, but because we know that by His grace He will lead us, enlighten us, strengthen us, help us, and so on.
It is also good to know that the Holy Spirit will help us to do the work to which God has called us individually. St. Paul reminds us that there are many forms of service and a variety of different workings, but that the manifestation of the Holy Spirit is given to each individual for some benefit. So, if you were called to preach as a missionary, perhaps the Holy Spirit would be manifested in you through speaking in tongues. Since this is probably not what God has called you to do, the Holy Spirit will show Himself in and through whatever God’s will is for you as an individual.
This means that it is necessary that we are praying and asking the Holy Spirit to enlighten our minds so that we can know God’s will. Once His will is known, then we need to ask for help to carry out that will. Jesus told us that if we know how to give good things to our children, how much more will God give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him.
This is the time to ask! Even if God did not have a particular work for you to do (which He does) the assistance of the Holy Sprit would still be a necessity just to live an authentic Catholic life. We need the Holy Spirit, the breath of God, to keep us at peace and to guide us in the ways of God because the ways of the world (and its prince) are many and some are very subtle.
Fr. Altier’s column appears regularly in The Wanderer, a national Catholic weekly published in St. Paul, Minn. For information about subscribing to The Wanderer, please visit www.thewandererpress.com.