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Reflection on Pentecost

The following is a reflection on the New Testament Pentecost event from an ancient author of the 6th century.

“The disciples spoke in the language of every nation. At Pentecost God chose this means to indicate the presence of the Holy Spirit: whoever had received the Spirit spoke in every kind of tongue. We must realize, dear brothers [and sisters], that this is the same Holy Spirit by whom love is poured out in our hearts. It was love that was to bring the Church of God together all over the world. And as individual men who re-ceived the Holy Spirit in those days could speak in all kinds of tongues, so today the Church, united by the Holy Spirit, speaks in the language of every people.

“Therefore, if somebody should say to one of us, „You have received the Holy Spirit, why do you not speak in the tongues of all men?‟ his reply should be, „I do in-deed speak in the tongues of all men, because I belong to the body of Christ, that is, the Church, and she speaks all languages. What else did the presence of the Holy Spirit indicate at Pentecost, except that God‟s Church was to speak in the language of every people?‟

“This was the way in which the Lord‟s promise was fulfilled: No one put new wine into old wineskins. New wine is put into fresh skins, and so both are pre-served. So when the disciples were heard speaking in all kinds of languages, some people were not far wrong in saying: They have been drinking too much new wine. The truth is that the disciple had now be-come fresh wineskins, renewed and made holy by grace. The fervor brimmed over, and they spoke in manifold tongues. By the spectacular miracle they became a sign of the Catholic Church, which embraces the language of every nation.

“Keep this feast, then, as members of the one body of Christ. It will be no empty festival for you if you really live what you are celebrating. For you are the members of that Church which the Lord acknowledges as his own, being himself acknowledged by her, that same Church which he fills with the Holy Spirit as she spreads through the world. He is like a bride-groom who never loses sight of his own bride; no one could ever deceive him by substituting some other woman.

“To you men of all nations, then, who make up the Church of Christ, you, the bride of Christ – to all of you the Apostles addresses these words: Bear with one another in love; do all you can to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. Notice that when Paul urges us to bear with one another, he bases his argument on love, and when he speaks of our hope of

unity, he emphasizes the bond of peace. This Church is the house of God, built up of living stones, whose master is almighty God. It is his delight to dwell here. Take care, then, that he never has the sorrow of seeing it undermined by schism and col-lapsing in ruins.”

A description in paragraph #1303 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church of the effects of Confirmation on those who receive it and cultivate this sacred gift of the Holy Spirit:

“…Confirmation brings an increase and deepening of baptismal grace:

-it roots us more deeply in the divine filiation which makes us cry, “Abba! Father!”;

-it unites us more firmly to Christ;

-it increases the gifts of the Holy Spirit in us;

-it renders our bond with the Church more perfect;

-it gives us a special strength of the Holy Spirit to spread and defend the faith by word and action as true witnesses of Christ, to confess the name of Christ boldly, and never to be ashamed of the Cross:

“Recall then that you have received the spiritual seal, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of right judgement and courage, the spirit of knowledge and reverence, the spirit of holy fear in God‟s presence. Guard what you have received. God the Father has marked you with his sign; Christ the Lord has con-firmed you and has placed his pledge, the Spirit in your hearts.” St. Ambrose, Bishop of Milan, Italy, (c.340-397 A.D.)

Peace in the Risen Christ and the Holy Spirit,

Fr. Thomas McCabe


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