Liturgical notes

Pentecost: The Spirit of Love, Truth, and Unity

Jesus prayed to His Father, “I do not pray for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their word, that all may be one as You, Father, are in me, and I in You; I pray that they may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent me.” (Jn 17:20-21) Sin causes disunity in our relationship with God, our self, and others. Jesus came to call sinners to repent so He could restore personal and communal unity that strengthens us and eliminate division that weakens us. “‘I have come to call sinners, not the self-righteous.’” (Mk 2:17) The self-righteous are those who think they don’t need Jesus. He brought the gift of forgiveness to unite us to Him and, through Him, to His Father and to one another. To make this possible Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to His Apostles as the leaders of His Church which He founded on Peter. The Spirit brings God’s love, truth, and unity that become evident in “love, joy, peace, patient endurance, kindness, generosity, faith, meekness, and chastity or self-control.” (Gal 5:22)

The Holy Spirit’s manifestation on Pentecost marked the birth of Jesus’ Church. Just before His Ascension Jesus promised His Apostles, “I will ask the Father and He will give you … the Spirit of truth … (who) remains with you and will be within you.” (Jn 14:16-17) He further explained that, “When the Advocate comes, the Spirit of truth …, He will testify to me. You must testify to me as well, for you have been with me from the beginning … He will guide you to all truth … He will take from what is mine and declare it to you.” (Jn 15:26-27) This promise of Jesus became a reality on Pentecost.

St. Luke records the event: “Suddenly a noise like a driving wind filled the house where they were … tongues like fire came to rest on each of them. All were filled with the Holy Spirit. They began to express themselves in foreign tongues and make bold proclamations as the Spirit prompted them.” (Acts 1:2-4) Jews from different places were gathered in Jerusalem to celebrate the annual Jewish feast of Pentecost. On hearing the Apostles they remarked, “Each of us hears them speaking in his own tongue about the marvels God has accomplished.” (Acts 1:11) The Apostles’ spirit led by the Holy Spirit testified to Jesus as the Messiah. As the Spirit-led leaders of Jesus’ Church they witnessed their personal experience of Him to the whole world. The language of love, truth, and unity is heard in all languages. Thus Jesus’ Church begins to “teach all nations”. (Mt 28:19)

Just as the Holy Spirit fired up the Apostles as the first ordained leaders of Jesus’ Church, so the same Spirit continues to fire up His Church in her leaders and members. The Spirit visibly purifies our spirit in Baptism and reinforces it in the Sacrament of Confirmation. Since the Spirit is the personification of the love of the Father and Son for each other and epitomizes their unity and truth, so He unifies us in God’s love, empowering us to love our self and one another by living the truth. To live the truth is to do what Jesus tells us since He is the Truth. (Jn 14:6) To do that we need the Holy Spirit because, “No one can say ‘Jesus is Lord,’ except by the Holy Spirit.’” (1 Cor 12:3)

Jesus sent the Spirit to Guide His Church so that His followers might be united in one visible body under one leader, Peter and his successors. “To each person the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.” (1 Cor 12:8) Who’s common good? The good of Jesus’ One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church, which needs every believer to work for her love, truth, and unity. St. Paul compares Jesus’ Church to the human body. “The body is one and has many members, but all the members, many though they are, are one body; so it is with Christ. It is in one Spirit that all of us … were baptized into one body. All of us have been given to drink of the one Spirit” (1 Cor 12:12-13)

I don’t know about you, but it’s clear to me that the Holy Spirit unites all the baptized into one Church, Jesus’ visible body of believers. If we’re led by the Holy Spirit we have to be united in love and truth. Division in Jesus’ Church contradicts the Holy Spirit. Division is the work of Satan and it undermines the effectiveness of the Church’s witness to Jesus’ Good News. Just as the organs of the body must work for the body’s health to avert disease and death, so non-cooperation among Christians reduces the Church’s effectiveness, which reflects that not all who call themselves “Christian” are led by the Holy Spirit. This is evident in us individually and communally in the lack of the Spirit’s fruits, e.g., love, peace, joy, kindness, generosity, chastity, etc. So we need to daily invite the Holy Spirit to lead our spirit in love, unity and truth so that we can be united with one another as God’s people and renew the face of the earth. (frsos)