The great solemnity of the Holy Spirit is upon us, and we ask the Third Person of the Blessed Trinity to deign to come into our hearts, bringing His Light, His Peace, His Fortitude, His Consolation. But before this can happen, we must first receive the grace of conversion which brings with it the grace of amendment.
St Gregory the Great, in his commentary on today's Gospel, after reminding us of the word of the Lord If you love me, keep my commandments, remarks: "God comes to some hearts and yet does not make his abode in them: by means of a certain degree of penitence these perceive the presence of God, but the temptations of this present life make them forget their repentance, and so they return again to their evil works, even as though they had never repented". Indeed, as the Lord Himself says elsewhere: The world cannot receive Him nor does it know Him.
Might not this be the reason for which so many Christians distance themselves from the Church? Perhaps they had an authentic conversion at some stage, but the spirit of the world, which is the spirit of Satan, has taken over their hearts. They profess with their lips their belief, they might actually speak of it, trying to reassure themselves that they are on God's side, but they let themselves be led back into their evil ways. The widespread corruption of morals even among Christians who debase themselves with the idols of the day (money, power, pleasure) and give in to the prevalent loose-living, gives us a situation in which so many Christians are so only in name: instead of being the salt of the earth they are losing their savour, and the world remains tasteless, boring, senseless, deprived of all that is good and beautiful, bent more and more on a pagan lifestyle that allows for any and every form of sexual immorality and opens the flood-gates of every form of violence — As a reminder, any and every use of sexuality which is not the natural union of lawfully wed husband and wife who are open to life, is a mortal sin, it separates from God and makes it impossible to receive the Holy Spirit.
The only remedy is authentic conversion of heart, and this feast is there to remind us that it is always possible to return to God and to receive the Holy Spirit, who is Himself the forgiveness of sins. But there is a condition to that: one must empty oneself of all that is evil, one must be honest with oneself and stop trying to make believe that one is "OK"; one must humble oneself, confess one's sins (all of them, not just some....) to a priest. If one does so, one receives the forgiveness which comes to us through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. There is no sense in talking about receiving the Holy Spirit without true, sincere, and universal rejection of all that has been wrong in one's life — all of it, not just part of it.
Let me conclude these reflections with a few more words from St Gregory: "We do indeed love God and keep His commandments, when we deny ourselves our passions. For he who allows himself to be dissipated by unlawful desires does not yet love God, for he wilfully opposes Him. And my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him. Beloved brethren, consider how great is this honour: to have God arriving as a guest at the inn of your heart. Surely if some rich or noble friend were about to arrive at our house, the whole place would be thoroughly cleaned with all haste, lest there should be anything to offend the eye of this friend. Therefore let him who is preparing the home of his mind for God rub off the dirt of his sinful works."
Come Holy Spirit, renew the face of the earth, and begin with the hearts of those who profess thy Name!