Letting the Holy Spirit Take Charge
Pentecost Sunday – Vigil Mass
1st Reading: Joel 3:1-5
Thus says the LORD: I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh. Your sons and daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions; even upon the servants and the handmaids, in those days, I will pour out my spirit. And I will work wonders in the heavens and on the earth, blood, fire, and columns of smoke; the sun will be turned to darkness, and the moon to blood, at the coming of the day of the LORD, the great and terrible day. Then everyone shall be rescued who calls on the name of the LORD; for on Mount Zion there shall be a remnant, as the LORD has said, and in Jerusalem survivors whom the LORD shall call.
Gospel John 7:37-39
On the last and greatest day of the feast, Jesus stood up and exclaimed, “Let anyone who thirsts come to me and drink. As Scripture says: Rivers of living water will flow from within him who believes in me.”
He said this in reference to the Spirit that those who came to believe in him were to receive. There was, of course, no Spirit yet, because Jesus had not yet been glorified.
Birthday of the Church
Pentecost is the day when the Holy Spirit descends upon the apostles and fills them with his courage and fire. We look at this feast day as the birthday of the Church. It is a good day to remind ourselves of our connection to centuries of Christians that have come before us and how we are linked through the action of the Holy Spirit.
The wonderful thing about a river is that it can signify many different things. It is a body of water that is moving. It connects different geographical areas and is constantly feeding and nurturing itself from its surroundings, while simultaneously giving life and nourishment to the land through which it flows. This is a good description of the Church’s role in the world as well. Wherever the Church is present, she brings in people from the area, forms and transforms them, so that they will in turn serve as leaven in society.
Letting the Holy Spirit take charge
To live like this river that is the Church, we need to learn to let the Holy Spirit take charge. He is the one that guides the Church, determining where its graces will flow and how to nurture it and make it grow.
If we are going to grow in our spiritual life, we have to let the Holy Spirit take charge. So often, we feel that everything depends on us. This can lead us to a spirit of activism. And yet, there are so many things we can’t control. This leads to a lot of frustration. Maturity comes when we recognize how little control we actually have over our lives, while at the same time we put out our best effort to live them out with courage and vigor.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church (n. 688) teaches us that the Holy Spirit is present
1. In the Scriptures he inspired
2. In Tradition
3. In the Magisterium
4. In the liturgy
5. In prayer
6. In charisms and ministries
7. In the signs of apostolic and missionary life
8. In the witness of saints through whom he manifests his holiness and continues the work of salvation
Rivers of Living Water
Rivers of living water are the presence and power of the Holy Spirit that Jesus pours out on his disciples. This promise from the Old Testament is made true when Jesus promises this to his disciples. This river flows through us when the Holy Spirit sanctifies us through prayer and through the witness that we give to others. We are part of a great tradition, and we are the caretakers of the Tradition that has come down to us through the centuries.
Role of Tradition
Tradition is the transmission of the reality that is Christianity; this is really the Tradition. It is apostolic by origin, then ecclesiastical by its actual transmission… There exist, likewise, numerous traditions which are ecclesiastical by origin, having been laid down by the Church during her historical existence: institutions, rites, customs, discipline. Sometimes these are the historical form or modification, perhaps, of a reality which is apostolic or even divine in origin… Sometimes ecclesiastical traditions are purely ecclesiastical. Lastly, they can be an historical development of something already begun by the Apostles, but which is now impossible to reconstitute in its apostolic state; such for the most part is the case of sacramental rites. (Yves Congar, The Meaning of Tradition, p. 46)
We are called to be witnesses of Christianity in the modern world. Padre Pio was a great example of this. He is perhaps remembered for the gift of the stigmata that he received, but his attraction to the faithful of his time was his reverence at mass and his insight in the confessional. He was a man truly anointed in the Holy Spirit. He did not need tremendous exterior manifestations of grace. The power of the sacraments was enough for him. It is from within Christianity, from within its wealth and treasure, that we are able to show its strength and vigor.
As Christians, we can be amazed by the historical aspect of our religion. It is not something abstract and confusing. Jesus became man within history. The Holy Spirit continues to act in history, sanctifying and guiding the Church.
Tradition is precisely the place where the synthesis is realized between the historical transmission and the present experience which, thus united, produce, in the present and in preparation for the future, a profound knowledge of Christian reality transcending the text of the document with which it started. Tradition is not merely memory, it is actual presence and experience. (Yves Congar, The Meaning of Tradition, p. 113)
Our experience is where the doctrine of the Church becomes real and integrated into our life. This is the sense of the synodal process present in the Church. It is not a re-writing of doctrine or molding of doctrine to the ways of the world. Rather, it is a challenge to us to make the Church present and active in the world in which we live.
A synodal Church is a Church which listens, which realizes that listening “is more than simply hearing”. It is a mutual listening in which everyone has something to learn. The faithful people, the college of bishops, the Bishop of Rome: all listening to each other, and all listening to the Holy Spirit, the “Spirit of truth” (Jn 14:17), in order to know what he “says to the Churches” (Rev 2:7). (Pope Francis, 17 October 2015)
The Church listens to understand better our situation so as to continue to guide us according to the Deposit of Faith. It is impossible to abandon our Tradition, because to do so would be to abandon who we are as Christians.
Two-thousand years ago, the first disciples and apostles were preaching the faith to pagans who had never heard the Good News of the Gospel. We too have to preach our faith in a secular society that tries to silence the voice of truth. It is up to us to show the joy of the Gospel. This joy comes from a renewed encounter with Jesus Christ, as Pope Francis reminds us in Evangelii Gaudium.
Thanks solely to this encounter – or renewed encounter – with God’s love, which blossoms into an enriching friendship, we are liberated from our narrowness and self-absorption. We become fully human when we become more than human, when we let God bring us beyond ourselves in order to attain the fullest truth of our being. Here we find the source and inspiration of all our efforts at evangelization. For if we have received the love which restores meaning to our lives, how can we fail to share that love with others? (Pope Francis, Evangelium Gaudium, 8)