The celebration of Pentecost Sunday brought into my heart the very valid question which I have been asking to myself all along: What does Pentecost mean to me?
As a man, Christian, consecrated person as well as a priest, Pentecost for me is returning back to what Pope Francis terms as the second anointing. Pentecost is a graced opportunity for me to return back to the calling I have been called to follow. Pope Francis speaks about this second anointing in the homily of the Chrism Mass of this year 2023. He says:
With the help of the Holy Spirit: for us as for the apostles, it is the time of a “second anointing”, the time of our second calling, to which we have to listen; the second anointing in which the Spirit is poured out no longer on the enthusiasm of our hopes and dreams, but on the freedom of our concrete situation. An anointing that penetrates to the depths of our reality, where the Spirit anoints our weaknesses, our weariness, our inner poverty. An anointing that brings a new fragrance: that of the Spirit, not of ourselves. At this very moment, inwardly, I am thinking of some of you who are in crisis – let’s say – who are disoriented and do not know how find their way, how to get back on the road of this second anointing of the Spirit. To these brothers – of whom I am thinking – I simply say: courage, the Lord is greater than your weaknesses, your sins. Trust the Lord and let yourself be called a second time, this time with the anointing of the Holy Spirit. A double life will not help you; not a chance, throw everything out the window. Look ahead, let yourself be caressed by the anointing of the Holy Spirit.
Pentecost brings into my heart and mind what St Paul writes in his Letter to the Romans: Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words (Rom 8:26). The Spirit intercedes for us so that we too can partake from his power and let Him sanctify us by resurrecting us from the death of sin to the life of grace. This life-giving Spirit is himself the bearer of a hope [which] does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us (Rom 5:5).
In the Pauline understanding, the Holy Spirit is the author of a new life (Rom 7:6). This life is amply explained by the wonderful fruits it gives in our lives which the Letter to the Galatians details so well: The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such there is no law (Gal 5:22-23).
Pentecost also means that, from now onwards, on those who really believe the Holy Spirit becomes the law of the Spirit of life who opens us up for Christ Jesus [who] has set me free from the law of sin and death (Rom 8:2). Since the Holy Spirit is freedom in Jesus Christ those who choose to live according to the Spirit (Rom 8:4) have set their minds on the things of the Spirit (Rom 8:5). And, such a life in the Spirit is, in fact, life and peace (Rom 8:6).
Pentecost presents to you and me a definite and crucial decision we are to take in our lives: either follow the Spirit, who is life and peace, or our sinful desires which certainly lead us to our total ruin. St Paul is clear concerning this serious choice that in chapter 8 of his Letter to the Romans he tells us: For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the spirit of sonship. When we cry, “Abba! Father!” it is the Spirit himself bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him (Rom 8:13-17). Is there anything more beautiful than being children of God? Even if we suffer, our earthly troubles are already preparing us for our eternal sonship in God’s Kingdom thanks to the Holy Spirit, the Lord who gives life.
Pentecost is a powerful reminder that God is our joy. Therefore, the help of the Holy Spirit gives us the grace of being filled with the zeal so as to serve our Lord with joy. St Paul tells us: Never flag in zeal, be aglow with the Spirit, serve the Lord (Rom 12:11). The peace and joy in the Holy Spirit (Rom 14:17) give us that hope which only the Holy Spirit knows how to increase and abound (see Rom 15:13). After all, the love of the Spirit (Rom 15:30) unites us in faith with all those who want to bear witness to Jesus by their lives and works.
If that is the case let us thank the Father who, through his Son, sent us His life-giving Spirit for our life and the life of our shattered world, Let us praise him for this singular, outstanding power of Pentecost!