Human life begins at conception. That life then develops and grows in the womb of its mother. After a period of nine months, a child is born. Parents rejoice in the baby that enters into their family, a new member who has the potential to transform society.
That process of conception and birth can help us understand the scripture readings that we hear on the Solemnity of Pentecost, the final day of the Easter Season.
In our Gospel passage (John 20:19-23), the Risen Lord appeared to his disciples on the first Easter Sunday. As we are told, “On the evening of that first day of the week…Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’”
After he assured his astonished disciples of his identity, the Risen Lord “breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.’”
The Spirit that came down upon Jesus at his baptism and guided his ministry was then shared with those disciples. We might say they experienced within them the “conception” of the Holy Spirit.
According to our First Reading (Acts 2:1-11), the presence of the Holy Spirit was not seen until 50 days later. We might say the Holy Spirit was in the “womb” of the disciples waiting to be born.
That happened on Pentecost when the presence of the Holy Spirit was made known in the sound of a driving wind, in tongues of fire, and in the disciples who came forth from the place where they were gathered and boldly went onto the streets of Jerusalem. There they “began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim.”
As Peter announced, “Therefore let the whole house of Israel know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Messiah, this Jesus whom you crucified” (Acts 2:36).
Those disciples allowed themselves to be moved by the Spirit and in doing so the Church, which is the Body of Christ, was born into the world.
The same process of conception and birth happens in us. At our baptism and confirmation, the Holy Spirit came into our lives. As Saint Paul tells us, “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God” (1 Corinthians 6:19).
That Spirit remains with us, and its influence grows within us as we devote ourselves to prayer and the study of the scriptures, as we receive the Sacraments, and as we participate in the life of the Church. By these actions, we allow the power of the Holy Spirit to develop within us and be seen in our lives.
Unfortunately, many Christians fail to nourish their spiritual lives. They allow the sin and darkness in society to deaden the gift of the Holy Spirit that was given to them at their baptism and confirmation.
This Pentecost Sunday, we are challenged to let the Holy Spirit become visible by our Christian way of life. We are to allow the Holy Spirit to be born into our world just as it was on that first Pentecost.
© 2023 Rev. Thomas Iwanowski