Most of us are far more interested in what is occurring in the present than in what happened in the past or what might happen in the future.
We cannot do anything to alter the past and the future is only a possibility. But what is happening now affects us. In our digitally-connected world, we are more aware than ever of what is taking place in the present – perhaps too aware. That is certainly true during this current pandemic that has drastically changed our daily lives.
In this Sunday’s Gospel reading (John 20:19-23), John tells us of an astounding event that happened in the past. The disciples who had seen their master crucified and buried suddenly saw him standing before them. He wished them peace and in doing so he forgave them for failing to stand by him when he was arrested.
He then “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.’”
In that appearance, the Risen Lord shared with his disciples the Spirit that had come upon him at his baptism and guided him during his ministry. Empowered by that Spirit they were to go forth and offer forgiveness and mercy to others.
In our First Reading (Acts 2:1-12), we hear Luke’s account of the coming of the Spirit. He describes how the Spirit dramatically descended upon the disciples gathered in prayer on the Jewish Feast of Pentecost.
The Spirit’s presence was revealed in noise and fire. Transformed by the power of the Spirit, the formerly fearful disciples went forth to proclaim in every tongue “the mighty acts of God.”
But the coming of the Holy Spirit described in our readings is not a past event, but a present reality. Those readings help us to be aware of the Spirit who continues to come to us today.
At Baptism, the Spirit comes upon those who are washed in the waters of new life and made children of God.
At Confirmation, the Spirit comes to strengthen us so that we might continue the mission of Jesus in our world.
At Mass, the Spirit comes to transform the gifts placed upon the altar. “By the same Spirit graciously make holy these gifts we have brought to you for consecration that they may become the Body and Blood of your Son our Lord Jesus Christ.” We later pray that through the reception of the Eucharist and power of the Spirit we “may become one body, one spirit in Christ.” (Eucharistic Prayer II).
The Holy Spirit also comes and empowers us to profess our faith, as Paul tells us in Sunday’s Second Reading (1 Corinthians 12:3b-7, 12-13), “No one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit.”
The coming of the Spirit continues in our day. While the Spirit can come dramatically, it tends to come to us more gently. The Spirit comes during times of personal prayer. The Spirit comes when, like the disciples, we gather as Church with our fellow believers. The Spirit comes in the inclinations to do good that come to mind. The Spirit comes as we read the words of scripture written under divine inspiration.
While it is important to recognize how the Holy Spirit came in the past, it is far more important to recognize how the Holy Spirit comes to us in the present. “Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love.” Come Holy Spirit, come today!
© 2020 Rev. Thomas B. Iwanowski