“God is good! God is great! God loves us all!”
This Sunday is the Solemnity of the Pentecost, which commemorates the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Virgin Mary and the Apostles in Jerusalem, as narrated in the Acts of the Apostles, and is regarded as the birth of the Church. This happens ten days after Jesus’ ascension to heaven.
The Holy Spirit or sometimes called the Holy Ghost or the Paraclete which takes the form of a dove in literature is the least known and most misunderstood person of the Holy Trinity. Sometimes, the Spirit is referred to as the Spirit of Christ, the Spirit of the Son, the Spirit of Jesus. These terms imply a relation of the Spirit to the Son, which can only be a relation of origin.
Catholic dogma teaches us that the Holy Spirit, though really distinct as a Person, from the Father and the Son, He is consubstantial with Them; being God like Them, He possesses with Them one and the same Divine Essence or Nature. As Saint Athanasius stated expressly that “the Holy Ghost comes from the Father and from the Son not made, not created, not generated, but proceeding. The doctrine of the Holy Spirit ever since the birth of Christianity is one principle of faith that has been the subject of much heresy. Thus, for instance the Monarchians held that the same Divine Person, according to His different operations or manifestations, is in turn called the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost; so they recognized a purely nominal Trinity. The Arians and their numerous heretical offspring while admitting the triple personality, denied the consubstantiality.
The New Testament makes a few references to the Holy Spirit. We read in John “And I will ask the Father, and he shall give you another Paraclete, that he may abide with, you forever. The spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive”; and in John 15:26: “But when the Paraclete cometh, whom I will send you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceedeth from the Father, he shall give testimony of me.”
St. Peter addresses his first epistle, “to the strangers dispersed . . . elect, according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, unto the sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ.”
The Spirit of consolation and of truth is also clearly distinguished in the Gospel of John, from the Son, from Whom He receives all He is to teach the Apostles, and from the Father, who has nothing that the Son also does not possess. Both send Him, but He is not separated from Them, for the Father and the Son come with Him when He descends into our souls.
The Holy Spirit plays a critical role in man’s salvation. While the Father is the creator, the Son the redeemer the Holy Spirit is the sanctifier. According to a noted theologian Herman Bavinck, the Holy Spirit “awakens in man that deeply hidden awareness of guilt. He convinces man of sin, even where previously no consciousness of sin was apparently present. The Holy Spirit uses the word of the preacher and touches the heart of the hearer, making it accessible to the word.” When the Holy Spirit convinces people of their sin, of Jesus’ righteousness, and of certain judgment, He awakens the human heart to hear and see truth in a new way. Upon seeing and perceiving, the human heart cries out for God. As sanctifier, He bestows gifts to the soul namely: wisdom which illumines the mind and instils an attraction to the divine; Understanding or the ability to grasp the truths of faith; Counsel which enables a person to judge promptly and rightly, especially in difficult situations; Fortitude or courage, Knowledge which allows a person to see things from the perspective of God; Piety or reverence and Fear of the Lord.
When the Spirit of God came down to the disciples on the day of the Pentecost, the disciples, who hitherto were cowering in fear because they — though their Master had left — became infused with the Spirit of God and with full of courage and wisdom began to proclaim the gospel of the risen Lord. Since then Christianity began to spread like wildfire among the Jews and later among the gentiles. Taking a closer look at the day of Pentecost, Pope Francis said that the first task of the Church is proclamation. The Spirit does not want the Apostles to be locked in upper rooms where it is easy to “nest”. Rather, He “opens doors and pushes us to press beyond what has already been said and done, beyond the precincts of a timid and wary faith.” As we celebrate the Feast of the Pentecost, let us go out of our closed homes – safely, of course, minding that we are still in the midst of a pandemic – and proclaim with zeal and faith, regardless of the death and suffering we are seeing: God is good! God is great! God loves us all!
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