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The gift of the Holy Spirit is the living heart of faith

Pentecost Sunday, Acts 2: 1-11; 1 Corinthians 12: 3-7 & 12-13; John 20: 19-23

By on Thursday, 16 May 2013

“No one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord’ unless he is under the influence of the Holy Spirit.”

The gift of the Holy Spirit, whose outpouring we celebrate at Pentecost, is the living heart of faith. During this year of faith Paul’s words remind us that faith is not our own achievement: it is the gift of the Holy Spirit at work in our hearts. Intellectually we can, and must, formulate our faith in a manner that is coherent and understandable to the world.

St Paul gives us a wonderful example of this in his many letters. Such formulations are not, in themselves, the living faith that makes us one with Christ our Risen Lord. When Saint Paul stated so emphatically that “no one can say Jesus is Lord” unless he is under the influence of the Spirit, he was emphasising the life-changing dimension that the Spirit alone brings to faith.

To proclaim Jesus as Lord is to entrust all that we are, and hope to become, to Christ as the Lord of our lives. Such a faith commitment fundamentally changes the priorities of lives touched by sin, making us one with Christ. At Pentecost let us pray that the Spirit might renew such faith in our lives.

The Holy Spirit enriches, and never obliterates, the unique personality of each person to whom it is entrusted.

“The particular way in which the Spirit is given to each person is for a good purpose.”

During this year of faith, and especially at Pentecost, let us strive to recognise and acknowledge the work of the Holy Spirit in each member of our families and congregations. We are indeed diverse, and frequently isolated by busy lives. Pentecost reminds us, in the words of St Paul, that though we are many, we are one. This is the greatest achievement of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit respects our differences, putting them at the service of Christ, in whom we become a living Body.

“In the one Spirit we were all baptised, and one Spirit was given to us all to drink.”

The familiar description of Pentecost in the Acts of the Apostles underlines the profound change of heart that the Holy Spirit brought about both in the apostles and those who heard their gospel proclamation.

The Holy Spirit enabled the apostles to proclaim the gospel with a conviction that reached far beyond any merely human persuasion. Now they spoke not from themselves, but from the strength and power of the Holy Spirit at work in their lives. They spoke from the heart to the heart. The same Spirit was at work in those who listened, enabling them to understand despite their many differences. As we prepare to bring the gospel to the world in a new evangelisation, let us begin our undertaking with the same Holy Spirit. Then, like the apostles at Pentecost, our conviction will come from God, and a God-given understanding will lead an unbelieving world to the gospel.

St John’s Gospel underlines the fundamental qualities that will enable a new Pentecost in the Church. As Christ breathed the Holy Spirit into his disciples, enabling their mission, two gifts were underlined: peace and forgiveness.

“He said to them ‘Peace be with you,’ and showed them his hands and his side. The disciples were filled with joy, and he said to them again ‘Peace be with you.’ ”

The peace that entered their very being would be communicated to the world in a ministry of reconciliation and forgiveness. “Receive the Holy Spirit. For those whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven.” It is through patient understanding, peace and reconciliation that the Spirit speaks to our world.