Extinguish Not The Spirit

Extinguish Not The Spirit

Pentecost Sunday

On the eve of His Blessed Passion, Our dear Saviour pronounce these comforting words: If you love me, keep My commandments. And I will ask the Father: and He shall give you another Paraclete, that He may abide with you for ever: the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth Him not, nor knoweth Him. But you shall know Him; because He shall abide with you and shall be in you (Jn 14:15-17).

Today that divine promise is fulfilled. Fifty days after the Resurrection, the Third Person of the Blessed Trinity is revealed to the world. He comes, sent by the Father and the Son, from whom He proceeds eternally, to achieve, to complete in time the mystery of salvation inaugurated by the Incarnation of the Son of God. He comes, says Our Lord, to abide with us and to be in us. In other words, the Gift is not for just a while. It is forever. It is eternal. To abide signifies to remain, to take up residence with, never to abandon. The Holy Ghost, then, comes to us to stay, and He comes to stay not just with us, but in us. He comes to us for the first time in Holy Baptism. The newly baptised babe becomes the abode of the Holy Spirit, the house of God. At confirmation, the Spirit comes again, this time to anoint the Christian soul with fortitude in the profession of the faith. In the sacrament of Penance, the Holy Spirit is poured out for the forgiveness of sins, for as we shall pray in one of this week’s orations, “the Holy Spirit is the forgiveness of sins”. In the Holy Eucharist, it is the Holy Spirit who transforms the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ and who unites in Him all those who receive Him worthily. And so in all the sacraments, the Holy Spirit is at work for our sanctification and salvation.

But this expression of Our Lord, “He shall be in you” invites us to spend some time contemplating the awesome reality. God comes to us, but it is not just to be around us or with us or close to us. He takes up His abode in us. We become the Temple of the Holy Spirit. The consequence of this for every Christian soul in a state of grace is the possibility of an intimate commerce in the solitude of one’s heart with the Holy Spirit of God, and that commerce, if nurtured perseveringly by detachment from creatures and by ardent love for God, can lead to the discovery of unexpected marvels, to the summits of the spiritual life. When God is in command, and when one is docile to God, we can be sure that the path He singles out for us will not be, in any sense of the term, banal. Sometimes, people who are immersed in worldliness – and sadly most people are, even those who are honoured with the name of Christian and Catholic, and even traditional Catholic – imagine that the life of prayer and union with God must be boring. On the contrary. What could be more fascinating than following the impulse of the Spirit who, as Our Lord again assures of: breathes where He will. And what could be more boring and more tedious than the same old tunes of the world: the ephemeral pleasures that are never new and that leave the heart dry and sad, the pursuit of vanities and distractions that leave the soul stretched and anxious. No, if there is boredom on earth, it is only in the hearts of those who do not have intimate commerce with God, who do not know Him.

But for those of us who are privileged to know Him, let us allow Him more and more a free hand with us. Let us not presume to know better than He. Let us seek ever more to follow the inspirations of His grace, for we know that it is His will to lead us to the heights of true sanctity. This, of necessity, implies that we detach from all things and from ourselves. You see, when the wind blows a leaf, if that leaf attaches itself to anything, it will not go anywhere. If it remains attached to its origin, its own tree, it is imprisoned. If it is held by some other created object, it will also remain helpless and hopeless. But if it lets go, if it severs the bond, it then becomes unencumbered, it is free, and God alone knows the destiny to which it will be carried.

Let us not be afraid of the ways of the Spirit of God. Let us not put limits on what He can give us to achieve. When we look at the lives of the saints, we discover a constant feature in those who performed truly great things for God that astound us. They never doubted God’s capacity for working wonders and making possible what seems impossible. It is what inspired the likes of Mother Angelica to say, for example, that “budgets are from the devil” when you are doing God’s work, for they put a limit on how much God will give you. With God you get as much as you hope for. If your union with the Holy Spirit is such that you never doubt that He can carry you away to the most lofty sanctity and realise truly marvellous deeds through you for the salvation of many souls – the magnalia Dei of which today’s liturgy sings so joyfully – , then He will do it. But if you are suspicious, if you are overly cautious, if you have what St Paul calls the “prudence of the flesh” (Rm 8:6), you will remain a dwarfed soul, one that never rises to the heights, for you will ever remain held by that slender twig or that hidden thread of human considerations and distractions; you will not be carried away by the Spirit, and you will not do great things for God.

On this day, let us contemplate the apostles, and consider attentively what the Spirit of God does with them. They who up until today had been so terrified that they had locked themselves up in the Cenacle, afraid to be seen and recognised as disciples of Jesus the crucified one, today, burst forth from that same Cenacle, break their bonds and become free, and nothing will stop them until they reach the utter ends of the earth and shed their blood for the Gospel. The message they bring is the only message that can save the world, and that message is again proclaimed today from the heart of the Church, and that message is this: Jesus Christ, the Son of God, has died and risen and is glorified at the right hand of the Father, and to those who believe in His name, He pours forth the Holy Spirit in order to transform them into sons and daughters of God destined for eternal life, and who in turn, will go forth and bring that Good News to all nations and to every soul in particular.

My dear friends, if we truly believe this, then there literally is no limit to what God can do with us. Excessive caution in undertakings for the Kingdom of God just as excessive fear in the spiritual life has killed many an authentic inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Let us not be among those who put out the Spirit, as St Paul says to the Thessalonians: Extinguish not the Spirit (1 Th 5:19), but rather, let us abandon ourselves totally to that dazzling light and that mighty surge of heavenly wind which wants to take us to ….. God alone knows where. The Spirit breatheth where He will and thou hearest His voice: but thou knowest not whence He cometh and whither He goeth. So is every one that is born of the Spirit (Jn 3:8).

“No one sees the Spirit”, writes St Augustine, commenting on this passage; “how can we hear the voice of the Spirit? A psalm is sung, it is the voice of the Spirit; the Gospel is read, it is the voice of the Spirit; the word of God is preached, it is the voice of the Spirit. You hear His voice, but you know not whence He comes or whither He goes. And you too, if you are born of the Spirit, you will become such that the one who is not yet born of the Spirit will not know whence you come or whither you go”.

Let us then, like Mother Mary on the day of the Annunciation when it was announced to her that the Spirit would come upon her, let us put far from us all timidity and faintheartedness. Let us surrender with all the love of our hearts and all the confidence of God’s children to the transforming motion of the Spirit of our God. The Spirit knows the depths of God, and He leads there. Amen.

Pentecost Mother Church