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In this month of the Rosary, take a moment to reflect on the Third Glorious Mystery.
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Light immortal, Light divine,Visit Thou these hearts of Thine,And our inmost being fill. ~Veni Sancte Spiritus, Sequence for Pentecost
St. Paul contends, “No one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except by the Holy Spirit” (1 Cor. 12:3). Jesus himself promised the coming of the Spirit, assuring the apostles that the Holy Spirit would guide the disciples to the truth instructing them and giving them the ability to remember all that Christ taught.
When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled, they were all in one place together. And suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house in which they were. Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them. And they were all filled with the holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim. (Acts 2:1-4)
Israel spent 40 years in the desert, and Jesus fulfills the 40 years with his own 40 days of fasting before he began his public ministry. Pentecost now fulfills another sign of Israel. Every 50 years, the Lord commanded Israel to announce a jubilee (Lev. 25). The jubilee was cause for great joy; during a jubilee year debts were forgiven and slaves were freed. Now, Jesus fulfills the ancient jubilee: after 50 days he sends the Holy Spirit offering forgiveness of the debt of sin and the freedom of life in the Holy Spirit.
St. John highlights the connection between the coming of the Holy Spirit and the work of forgiving sins. John’s Gospel describes the action of Pentecost, saying, “‘As the Father has sent me, so I send you.’ And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.’”
When Jesus gives his Holy Spirit, he reiterates the power he has already given to Peter (Matt 16:18), and the disciples, who are consecrated in the truth (John 17). By the Holy Spirit, Peter and Paul will go on to preach, to baptize and to forgive in the Holy Name of Jesus.
The Spirit comes, in signs of wind and fire. He breathes life, present at the creation of the world, the wind hovering over the waters, sweeps the earth once more, fashioning hearts in his own image. He burns within those hearts where he comes to dwell.
As the Church sings on Pentecost, “Bend the stubborn heart and will / Melt the frozen, warm the chill / Guide the steps that go astray.” He fans the flames of holy charity, making believers furnaces of love in a cold and broken world. In wind and flame he burns a breathes a new way of life in the followers of Jesus.
He comes, too, bearing gifts. Into every Christian heart he pours the wonders of that first Pentecost: wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord. Unlike the virtues, which operate according to a human mode, the Holy Spirit’s gifts prompt us to act according to the mind of God.
Reflecting on the mystery of Pentecost, Pope Benedict XVI says,
The Holy Spirit, breaking into history, defeats aridity, opens hearts to hope, stimulates and fosters in us an interior maturity in our relationship with God and with our neighbor.
Instilling believers with all they need for the greatest, wisest, and bravest courses of action, the gifts of the Holy Spirit model us into Christ.
Practicing the virtues allows the gifts to flourish, and the gifts, for their part, perfect the virtues.
The Holy Spirit, as depicted in the Bible and in Christian Art