On the evening of Ascension Thursday, the apostles gathered around our Blessed Lady and began to pray. Our Lord had said to wait in the city until the power from on high were to be given. They did not know what that meant exactly, nor how long they were to wait. And so they prayed, they recollected themselves, as one must always do if one wants to receive the graces God wants to give. All that is worthwhile is worth waiting and preparing for.
On the day of Pentecost, the fiftieth after Easter, at the hour of Terce, that is 9 o’clock in the morning, the moment came. It would be the ultimate revelation of who God is and what He wants. There was a mighty wind that filled the whole house and tongues of fire descended upon the apostles. They began to sing the marvels of God and to speak in foreign tongues, words of fiery love for God and souls. It was certainly a spectacle, for thousands of Jews were drawn to the house and saw the prodigy, thinking that the apostles must have had too much to drink.
Then it is that St Peter begins his first sermon. He refers to the prophet Joel who had foretold the coming of the Spirit of the Lord, when the gift of God would not be reserved to any particular age or sex, but would be offered indistinctly to all. And it shall come to pass, in the last days, (saith the Lord), I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy: and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams. And upon my servants indeed and upon my handmaids will I pour out in those days of my spirit: and they shall prophesy. And I will shew wonders in the heaven above, and signs on the earth beneath: blood and fire, and vapour of smoke. The sun shall be turned into darkness and the moon into blood, before the great and manifest day of the Lord to come. And it shalt come to pass, that whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved (Acts 2:17-21).
Peter then proceeds to admonish the people for having taken part in the rejection of Jesus, for God has raised Him from the dead and is now offering through Him the forgiveness of sins. His first sermon concludes with those strong words: Repent and be baptised every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit… Save yourselves from this crooked generation (Acts 2:38-40). And thereupon no less than three thousand souls received baptism and so began the long history of the Catholic Church in which and through which, in spite of many imperfections and failings, that evangelical preaching inaugurated by the Prince of the Apostles has continued without interruption and reaches us today.
Pentecost Sunday reminds us that God wants to save, He wants to show mercy, He wants to forgive our sins and reconcile us with Himself. But that is to put it mildly. In reality He wants much more than that, for He wants to introduce us into His own Trinitarian life. That is why we read on this day the stupendous revealed reality of the indwelling of God in our soul and that Our blessed Lord spoke about at the Last Supper: If any one love me, he will keep my word. And my Father will love him and we will come to him and will make our abode with him (Jn 14:23).
This is really the climax of God’s revelation to us. It is so very awesome that we have a hard time coming to truly believe it. But it is there, at the very heart of the New Testament. God wants to take up His abode in our heart as the guest of our soul, He wants to live in intimate communion with us. St Teresa of the Andes wrote: “Believe me, I’m speaking to you sincerely: I used to believe it was impossible ever to fall in love with a God who is unseen; with someone who can’t be hugged and touched. But today I can affirm with my hand over my heart that God completely makes up for that sacrifice. You feel that love so much and those caresses from Our Lord, that it seems God is there by your side… We can’t touch God with our hands, but we see Him clearly in each of His works”.
When we come to realise that God literally dwells in our heart, then every moment of our days and nights becomes a sacred moment that we share with God and in which we truly can find Him. This is what is made possible by the Holy Spirit, the one whom the world cannot receive because it does not see Him or know Him. But we know Him because He abides with us and is in us (cf. Jn 14:16-17).
And what is this indwelling of the Holy Spirit destined to achieve in us? St Elizabeth of the Trinity expressed it in her prayer: “O consuming Fire, Spirit of Love, come upon me and reproduce in me, as it were, an incarnation of the Word, that I may be to Him another humanity wherein He renews all His mystery”.
As the Holy Spirit formed the humanity of Christ in Mary’s womb, so He wants us to be extensions as it were of that marvel of the incarnation, that masterpiece of all creation. At baptism, we were grafted onto the incarnate Word, and are called to enter into the whole mystery of His life, given over to God for the salvation of souls. The Holy Spirit is as it were the dynamic force within us who is constantly drawing us towards Jesus, spurring us on to live more and more like He lived.
The saints are the ones who allow the Holy Spirit to take over in their lives, who place no obstacle to what He wants to do with them, who agree to the full program of sanctification that He wants for us. They are the ones who come to realise that all God has, all that He is, He wants to give to us. But to achieve that, He must take away all that we have, all that we are. If He asks for more than we of ourselves are capable of giving, it is because God the Holy Spirit in us makes that total oblation of self possible. God wants to consume us in order to transform us into Himself and introduce us into the eternal ecstasy of His Trinitarian life. But it comes at a cost as the lives of the saints show us. God hungers for us, He seeks to devour us, and that is why He invites us to devour Him in the Blessed Sacrament. When we receive Holy Communion, we do not assimilate God into ourselves; rather He assimilates us to Himself. As the epistle to the Hebrews tells us: Our God is a consuming fire (Heb 12:29). It is the gift of the Holy Spirit that makes that mutual immersion possible. Let’s allow ourselves to be consumed and transformed for the glory of God and the salvation of many souls.