"The Advocate, the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything and remind you of all that I told you."
With these words, Our Lord is telling us that the last act in His salvific mission will not be His resurrection or Ascension, but the sending of the Holy Spirit. The Acts of the Apostles recounts the fulfillment of this promise at Pentecost.
When we read that account, it seems so wondrous. The Apostles are gathered in prayer in the upper room. They hear a strong wind. They see what appear to be tongues of fire hovering over them. When they begin preaching, people of differing lands and languages hear them speaking in their own native tongues. It all seems so fantastic.
When we proceed through the Acts of the Apostles, we hear even more fantastic stories. Peter, while on his way to the temple to pray, heals a crippled man. He and Paul are miraculously freed from prison. Peter boldly preaches about Jesus' resurrection, a marked contrast from his actions on the night of the Last Supper. Finally, we hear about the conversion and baptism of the Gentiles.
In other words, when we read the Acts of the Apostles, we hear about a time when the work of the Holy Spirit seemed to be made manifest in some pretty remarkable and bold ways. One might wonder what has happened since then. Why do we not seem to hear about such things now? Is the Holy Spirit still at work in the Church?
The answer is a resounding yes. Yes, the events of Pentecost were truly astounding. But the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, the eternal flame of God's burning love which can never be diminished, continues in our sacramental celebrations.
A man named Didymus once wrote about the work of the Holy Spirit in our baptism: "The Spirit frees us from sin and death, and changes us from the earthly men we were, men of dust and ashes, into spiritual men, sharers in the divine glory, sons and heirs of God the Father who bear a likeness to the Son and are his co-heirs and brothers, destined to reign with him and to share his glory."
The sacrament of confirmation is a renewal of Pentecost. The Holy Spirit strengthens those being confirmed with the gifts of wisdom, knowledge, counsel, fortitude, fear of the Lord, piety and understanding. With these, He strengthens those who receive Him with all that they need to be true witnesses of Christ — soldiers for Christ, as it was once said — in the world.
And do we not see the fruit of that first Pentecost each time we gather for Mass? Parthians, Medes, Elamites, Cyrenians, etc., all heard the word of God in their own language. The Holy Spirit gathered men of every race and tongue into one Church, into one body. Today, we see many from the Philippines, Vietnam, Korea, Africa, Central and South American countries worshipping in our churches. Indeed, the Holy Spirit still gathers people of every race and tongue into one faith and one Church.
Finally, we can see the Holy Spirit at work in devout souls, those who would inspire us with their examples of patience, humility and charity. In other words, we see the Holy Spirit at work in truly saintly souls. Does not Our Lord say, "Whoever loves me will keep me word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to make our dwelling with him"? The dwelling place of the Spirit is a holy soul. He is at work in the soul that converts and turns away from sin.
Maybe the Holy Spirit does not manifest Himself in strong wind and tongues of fire, but He is very much at work in the world today. We just have to know where to look.