‘If a man loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him’ (Jn. 14:23). ⧾
Today we celebrate the great Feast of Pentecost. The seven weeks of Easter have come to an end and Christ Our Lord’s Passover is fulfilled in the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, manifested, given and communicated as a divine person: of his fullness, Christ, Our Lord, pours out the Spirit in abundance (The Catechism of the Catholic Church, 731). The gift of the Holy Spirit begun at Pentecost never ceases and the fruits of the Holy Spirit’s gift are manifested in a holy or godly life; a life defined by the fruits of the Holy Spirit who was given to us sacramentally at Baptism and at Confirmation and whose outpouring we receive anew on this Pentecost Sunday.
‘When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth’ (Jn. 16:13). What can we say of this truth? For one, it is objective and eternal. In other words, truth is not a matter of consensus. We don’t fashion truth to suit our opinions or desires. Rather, we conform to the objective truths revealed to us by God; and if we are humble and strive to be faithful, then the Holy Spirit will gently lead us and transform us into God’s own likeness, making us, good, pure, modest, loving, joyful, patient, kind, gentle, faithful, temperate. If we accept this, we know that this places us on a path of direct confrontation with the greater culture which denies the existence of objective truth and which tragically to its own detriment mocks and derides these virtues. Consequently, we need to foster in ourselves and in one another the virtue of fortitude by which we can resist the spirit of the world. To receive the Holy Spirit’s gift which we so greatly need, requires first and foremost the expression of this desire through our own personal prayer; a humble invitation that expresses our willingness to be sanctified and transformed into Our Lord’s own likeness. A simple a prayer as this is quite enough: Come Holy Spirit. Though the words from the Sequence get to the very heart of the matter: Come, thou Holy Paraclete … What is soiled, make thou pure; What is wounded, work its cure; what is parched, fructify; What is rigid, gently bend; What is frozen, warmly tend; Strengthen what goes erringly … Grant salvation in the end (Sequence Veni Sancte Spiritus).
In the prologue of St. Benedict’s Rule for monasteries, arguably one of the most influential books of all time, St. Benedict exhorts his sons and daughters with these encouraging words: This, then, is the beginning of my advice: make prayer the first step in anything worthwhile that you attempt. Persevere and do not weaken in that prayer. Pray with confidence, because God, in his love and forgiveness, has counted us as his own sons and daughters. Surely we should not by our evil acts heartlessly reject that love. At every moment of our lives, as we use the good things he has given us, we can respond to his love only by seeking to obey his will for us.
St Benedict ends this spiritual masterpiece, the introduction to a book that has inspired and sustained an enduring vision of Catholic culture, with these beautiful words: As we progress in this monastic way of life and in faith, our hearts will warm to its vision and with eager love and delight that defies expression we shall go forward on the way of God’s commandments. So it is, please God, with each of us as we walk along the path of discipleship, the path of devout humility; and in our time endeavour to restore Catholic culture. Let us give thanks to God for the graces that we have received during this Easter season and dispose our hearts to receive anew the outpouring of the Holy Spirit; that we may go forward on the way of God’s commandments with ever greater determination and zeal. The Holy Spirit will sustain us and strengthen us, sanctify us and transform us and we will find our fulfillment in God, in the beauty of His creation and in His immutable truth with a delight that defies expression.
The fruits of the Holy Spirit are the evidence of the His indwelling and these fruits when abundant, benefit everyone, without exception. This is why St. Paul could with all conviction say that we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing (2 Cor. 2:15). To be aware of this is a great grace and it is a life-changing grace because this awareness brings about a complete change in our outlook on everything. Such a grace may be described as a personal Pentecost, an experience of the Presence of God that changes the way we understand ourselves in relation to God and everything in the world; such that our life and lifestyle are permeated with the love of God and neighbour; and the desire for the salvation of souls, especially the souls of poor sinners.
All of this begins with prayer, as St. Benedict teaches us. And so, we ask the Holy Spirit to deepen the spirit of prayer in each one of us and in our parish community that we may encourage one another and build up one another (1 Thess. 5:11) serving the common good to the benefit of all: Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of thy faithful and kindle in them the fire of thy love. Send forth thy Spirit and they shall be created. And thou shalt renew the face of the earth. ⧾