A friendly word

Pentecost and the gift of the Holy Spirit

This solemnity of Pentecost culminates the Easter season. The name of the event we celebrate does not express its meaning. It simply expresses the date on which the saving event occurred. Pentecost, meaning fiftieth day, is the name of the Jewish feast that was celebrated 50 days after Passover. That is, we celebrate a Christian event under the Greek name, a Jewish feast. In the Old Testament, in the various listings of Jewish feasts, this particular feast had an evolution in its name and meaning. In the older listings, the holiday has no fixed date. It is celebrated at the end of the wheat harvest and was therefore a feast to thank God for the harvest: it was an agricultural feast. The only feast that had a well-established day was Passover. For this reason, later an attempt was made to tie the feast of harvest to the Passover, so that it would be celebrated seven weeks after Passover. It then began to be called the feast of weeks and began to lose its link to agriculture. Among the Greek-speaking Jews it began to be called the feast of the fiftieth day, Pentecost. And another meaning was attributed to it: the Jews celebrated on that day the gift of the divine Law, which God gave them on Mount Sinai. It is evident that the name of the feast does not express a Christian content, but rather points to a coincidence: on the day when the Jews celebrated the gift of the Law written on flagstones, God sent the Holy Spirit upon the disciples of Jesus, as a new interior law in the hearts of men.

Who is the Holy Spirit? In several passages of the Gospel according to John, Jesus announces the sending and gift of the Holy Spirit as his successor, as the one who will bring to fulfillment in his disciples what he, Jesus Christ, has taught. The Holy Spirit acts in people to sanctify them, to enable them to fulfill their mission. Our God is revealed in the New Testament as the invisible God, the God who cannot be represented in any way. He is the Creator God of the world, who guided the history of Israel and guides the history of the Church with his providence, his love, his admonitions and corrections. Jesus called him his Father and taught us to call him Father. It is God above all, who transcends everything and is the goal towards which everything tends when it exists. But this invisible God becomes visible in his Son Jesus Christ. He is God with us, who shared our history, preached the gospel, died, rose again, ascended to heaven and thus opened the way for us to reach heaven. It is God the Son, Jesus Christ. But God is also in us. It is the Sanctifying Spirit, whom Jesus Christ sent from the Father to communicate his salvation to those who believe in him. They are not three gods, but only one, who becomes concrete, who, from our point of view, acts simultaneously and in a coordinated way on us, with us and in us. This is the mystery of the Trinity that we will celebrate next Sunday.

Have you ever wondered how it is possible for the salvation that Christ won for us by his death and resurrection to reach every believer? How is communication established between Christ and us so that his death on the cross effectively works in us the forgiveness of sins? How can Christ share with us his victory over death so that united with him we too can rise again? How do we unite with Christ? By the gift of the Holy Spirit. Through faith and the sacraments the Holy Spirit communicates himself to us to act and bring about in us this process of identification with Christ and this communication of salvation through spiritual participation in the events of our salvation. We die with Christ, we rise with him, we are glorified with him, all through the work of the Holy Spirit. If Christ had not sent the Holy Spirit, his death would be sterile and his resurrection would only benefit him. The benefit of Christ’s death and resurrection comes to us through the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Through the gift of the Spirit, Jesus Christ creates the realm of holiness and truth that is the Church. For the action of the Holy Spirit in each person is always given in the Church. In the Church the Gospel is proclaimed, the sacraments are celebrated and a morally upright life is promoted. In the Church we anticipate the future glory and the gift of the Holy Spirit in us is the seed of resurrection and holiness. That is why this feast of the Gift of the Spirit (as it should be called) is a day to thank God for the salvation from sin and death that he has accomplished in us through the death and resurrection of Christ and communicated to us through the gift of the Spirit. Let us correspond to God’s gift by making it operative in our lives. Thanks to the gift of the Holy Spirit God makes us his adopted children and we can invoke him in prayer; thanks to the gift of the Holy Spirit in the Church the various members of the Church form one body to serve one another; thanks to the gift of the Spirit we have the inner motivation to live according to divine law; thanks to the gift of the Spirit the martyrs have the strength to bear witness to the faith; finally, thanks to the gift of the Spirit, we have in the present a foretaste of what will be the future glory, for already now God begins to live in our hearts.


Msgr. Mario Alberto Molina, OAR