Birthdays are times to do two things – offer thanks to God for the grace to turn one year older and reflect on the past year to see what we could do better in the future. Having offered thanks to God for past blessings, we “press on to what lies ahead – God’s upward call in Christ Jesus.”(Phil 3:13,14)
Allow me to wish you all Happy Birthday today as we celebrate the Solemnity of Pentecost, the day that the risen Christ fulfilled His promise and sent the new life of the Holy Spirit upon the Church and brought the Church to life. This birthday of the Church calls us to deep gratitude for the abiding presence and guidance of the Spirit in the Church. It is also a time to reflect deeply on the past and ask ourselves the questions, “What are the signs of the new life of the Spirit in my own life? What signs show that I am really living the life of the Spirit?”
Let us reflect on four sure signs of the Spirit in our lives.
First, a life of ongoing conversion from sin and selfishness towards God as our loving Father. The Spirit of God will never let us become comfortable with sin or complacent in the struggle against sin. Our First Reading shows us the disciples united and boldly speaking of “the mighty acts of God.” They are no longer the self-seeking men who struggled for the first place or the timid men who could not witness to Jesus before a little maid during the Passion of Christ. They have learned to forget themselves and unite in giving bold witness to Jesus no matter the cost.
The Spirit moves us to conversion in our thoughts, words and actions. We begin to see God as our loving Father and His laws are no longer rules to kill our joy but paths to deep freedom. We are not afraid to return to God with confidence when we fall into sin and beg for forgiveness. This constant and ongoing conversion to God in love is the first sign of the Spirit in our lives.
Secondly, a live of faith in Jesus Christ as Lord of all aspects of my life. St. Paul reminds us in today’s Second Reading that “No one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord’ except by the Holy Spirit.” If Jesus Christ is truly our Lord, then we expect all things from Jesus with confidence and we do and endure all things for Jesus Christ alone. With the Spirit in our lives, we are not self-seeking but we serve Christ Jesus alone with all that we have, “There are different forms of service but the same Lord…To each individual is given the manifestation of the Spirit for some benefit.” With the Spirit, we share in Christ’s own attitude to the Father, ready to express our needs with trusting prayer but also with complete abandonment to His holy will as Jesus prayed in His agony in the garden, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me; yet not what I will but what thou wilt.”(Mk 14:36)
Thirdly, we become instruments of the Spirit in fostering unity between Christ Jesus and other souls. Jesus Christ is the vine and we are the attached branches only because we have a share in His own Spirit and we are ready to bring other souls to Jesus. In the words of St. Paul, “Though many, we are one body in Christ.” When the Spirit makes us His instruments of unity, we remain united with Christ no matter what and we are ready to sacrifice all for the sake of growing in this unity with Christ and to bring other souls to Christ by our words and actions.
Fourthly, we have deep peace in our hearts, a peace that comes from being reconciled with God and not just from our situation in this life. The Resurrected Christ in today’s Gospel gives His peace and Spirit to the disciples. He offers peace first, “Peace be with you,” before He offers them the means to this peace, “Receive the Holy Spirit,” as well as what they are to do with this forgiveness that they have received, “whose sins you forgive are forgiven them.”
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, these signs of the Spirit’s presence exist together: we cannot pick and choose which we want and do not want. The Spirit in us will continuously move us to exhibit all these signs at different moments of our lives. We must ask how the Spirit is moving us today to ongoing conversion out of love for a God who has loved us first. How is the Spirit moving us to bring our lives completely under the lordship of Jesus Christ? How is the Spirit moving us to bring souls to Jesus Christ by our prayers, sufferings, actions and words? How is the Spirit moving us to keep the peace of heart that Christ won for us on the cross and bring it to others?
In today’s Gospel, Jesus Christ, rich in Spirit, gives His Spirit generously and immediately to His disciples who abandoned Him. This Spirit is good and gentle in us and He will never force us to respond to His inspirations and movements. Let us respond promptly and generously to His promptings so that these signs may be visible in our lives.
It is hard for us to respond to the Spirit’s movements in our lives. Our affection for sin is so strong sometimes, our weakness is great, it is so hard for us to pray, “Jesus, your will be done,” our selfishness does not allow us to see others as brothers and sisters to be brought to Christ and inner peace remains elusive. We can then do what many of the saints have done before us with remarkable results – turn to Mary. Mama Mary is the faithful and sinless spouse of the Spirit who did not hesitate to give herself completely to God when the Angel Gabriel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will descend upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.” Her faith in Jesus Christ as Lord did not waver even when she stood under the cross with Him dying in agony. She was a faithful instrument of the Spirit in bringing Jesus to Elizabeth, she made Jesus known at the wedding of Cana through her prayers and example, she did not hesitate to take the beloved disciple as her son on the commands of the dying Jesus and she freely consented to the sacrifice of her own son Jesus so that we too may be one in Jesus.
Every Eucharist is a Pentecost experience because the Holy Spirit is poured into our hearts and we experience His new life in us. It is a continuous birthday experience for us that demands that we thank God sincerely for this continuous gift of new life. It is also a time for us to reflect and strive with the help of the grace of the Spirit and the support of His faithful bride Mary to live lives of ongoing conversion and faith in Jesus Christ as Lord, freely becoming the Spirit’s instruments of unity of all with Christ so that the peace of the Holy Spirit will be in us always.
Glory to Jesus!!! Honor to Mary!!!