It has been said that perhaps the three most important words that can be uttered in prayer are “Come, Holy Spirit.” Just before Jesus ascended into Heaven, He declared that the disciples would receive divine assistance and become equipped and strengthened to be witnesses to the Gospel message of Christ to the world:
[Jesus said,] “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” When he had said this, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him from their sight. (Acts 1:8-9 NABRE)
The Transforming Union with God
The power of the Holy Spirit, received in Baptism and strengthened in Confirmation, indeed came upon the disciples at Pentecost, sometimes referred to as the birthday of the Church. The Easter season, the highlight of the liturgical year, culminates on Pentecost Sunday. The Holy Spirit, promised by Christ, empowered the early church to be His “witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” From the early church to the present day, the witness of faith calls all believers to discipleship and evangelization. The “ends of the Earth” might very well consist within the boundaries of a city, county or even the four walls of a home.
The Incarnation, life and public ministry, passion, death, and resurrection all encompass the Paschal Mystery of Christ that is celebrated at every Mass. In addition to admiring and imitating Christ in our lives, we are called to enter more and more into the transforming union with God. Marian Oblate Fr. Ronald Rolheiser, in The Holy Longing, quotes John Shea’s The Hour of the Unexpected in this passage:
What Jesus wants of us is that we undergo his presence so as to enter into a community of life and celebration with him. Jesus, as John Shea says, is “not a law to be obeyed or a model to be imitated, but a presence to be seized and acted upon.” In other words, what begins in praise and adoration flows into imitation, and ultimately into an embrace that animates faith in action.
The Ongoing Incarnation
As part of the ongoing incarnation realized and actuated through the church, we rely on the Holy Spirit to guide and direct our efforts as individuals as well as collectively. The mission of the Church, put simply, is to bring Christ to others by the witness we give in our parishes and dioceses and the world. As individual members of the Body of Christ, we are called to do the same in our personal lives.
Jesus, at the Last Supper, instituted the core of what was to become the Sunday celebration; that is, the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. While we are on Earth, the gift of Christ’s presence among and within us is realized in the miracle that occurs at every Eucharistic celebration. Everything and everyone we encounter during the week can be brought to the table of the Lord. We are nourished and strengthened to then proceed into working our respective areas of God’s vineyard.
The seven-day cycle that begins and ends with each Sunday gathering affords every believer the opportunity to give and receive in the very pattern of the Blessed Trinity. While the movement within and among the Trinity is perfect, ours is not. The Greek word perichoresis describes the “dance” of the Triune God. Our choreography with God and neighbor is a work in progress as long as we are here on Earth. Dance lessons are ongoing, and our instructor is none other than the Holy Spirit!
The Promise of the Holy Spirit
As we gather to celebrate Mass and come to the table in communion with God and one another, we can truly seize the true presence of Christ in the Eucharist. We are dismissed into the world, sometimes referred to as “mission territory”; we can truly act upon and through God’s sacramental grace. The great commission given by Jesus before His Ascension into Heaven is stated in the Gospel According to Matthew and is operative every Sunday as part of our dismissal:
Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age. (Matthew 28:19-20 NRSVCE)
As we approach Pentecost, let us be mindful of God’s providence, the salvation that Jesus obtained for us, and the promise of the Holy Spirit in the life of the Church.