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Homily for the Solemnity of Pentecost

Sometimes, for us as Catholics, the Holy Spirit is the one person of the Most

Holy Trinity that we seem to understand the least. Maybe, in part, it’s because

we can picture what God the Father might look like, and there are plenty of

statues and pictures of God the Son, but God the Holy Spirit might be a bit

more vague to us. But without the Holy Spirit, our faith won’t work, and if we

move from three persons to just two, then we go from a trinity to a binity. So

let’s look a bit more at the Holy Spirit.


As we celebrate next week, the Holy Trinity is all about the fact that there is

one God, who is three persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and each person is

equally God, but each person is different. The Father is God, the Son is God

and the Holy Spirit is God, but the Father is not the Son or the Holy Spirit, the

Son is not the Father or the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit is not the Father or

the Son. This also means that the Holy Spirit is equal with the Father and the

Son. The Holy Spirit is not somehow “less” God than the Father or the Son.

We can pray to the Holy Spirit and call Him “Lord”, just as we do with the

Father and the Son. Whilst we’re on this point, here’s a trivia question for you:

where, in the Mass, do we call the Holy Spirit “Lord”? The answer is in the

Creed, when we say: “I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life”.

We can so easily just say the words without thinking about them.


Just as we need the Father and the Son, so too we need the Holy Spirit. In the

times of the Old Testament, one of the problems the people had was that they

knew what they were supposed to do: they had the Ten Commandments and so

on, but they lacked the ability to fully put them into practice. After Christ had

risen, the disciples believed in the Lord, and He deepened their faith and their

understanding of their faith, but they lacked the courage to go out and proclaim

Him as Lord. After the Ascension it was when the Holy Spirit came at

Pentecost that they were then able to overcome their fears, go out and preach

the Lord boldly.


We need the Holy Spirit. Without the Holy Spirit, we are only half-baked. It’s

a bit like having a wonderful car with great gadgets and shiny paintwork, but

without any petrol (assuming it’s a petrol car). Without any petrol in the tank,

it’s not going to go anywhere. You can try and push it yourself; you can even

try pushing it down a hill; but it won’t work as it’s supposed to. The same is

true with us and the Holy Spirit. It’s not the best of all examples, as we don’t

“burn” the Holy Spirit, but you get the idea.


The Holy Spirit is at work in all of the sacraments. If I try and baptise someone

and just say: “I baptise you in the name of the Father and the Son”, then we

have an invalid baptism – we need the Holy Spirit. With confirmation, where

would that sacrament be without the Holy Spirit and the seven gifts the Spirit

imparts? When we celebrate confession, as the priest begins the words of

absolution, he holds his hand or hands over the penitent, the one receiving

God’s forgiveness, and this symbolises the Holy Spirit, before he then makes

the Sign of the Cross. When we celebrate the Mass, before the words of

consecration are said, the priest holds his hands over the gifts of bread and wine

to invoke the Holy Spirit. Eucharistic Prayer II says:


“Make holy, therefore, these gifts, we pray, by sending down your Spirit upon

them like the dewfall, so that they may become for us the Body and Blood or

our Lord, Jesus Christ”.


And the same with all the other sacraments. The Holy Spirit is at work.


Sometimes, people use other words for the Holy Trinity, and they say the

Creator, the Redeemer and the Sanctifier. Don’t ever do this. That is bad

theology, for at least two reasons. Firstly, because Creator, Redeemer and

Sanctifier are “job titles”, if you like, a bit like saying butcher, baker and

candlestick maker. But it’s also bad theology because the Father, the Son and

the Holy Spirit are all involved in creation, redemption and sanctification. God

is one, and we can’t divide the three persons in that way. Let me show you.


Creation: even in Genesis, the first book of the Old Testament, in chapter one,

all three persons are implicitly mentioned. The Father initiated the work of

creation; the Spirit of God moved over the waters, and God spoke and said:

“Let there be” – His Word, the Son. Creation was a Trinitarian process, not one

person acting alone. Eucharistic Prayer III says: “You are indeed Holy, O Lord

... for through your Son our Lord Jesus Christ, by the power and working of

the Holy Spirit, you give life to all things and make them holy”.


Redemption: we think primarily of Christ on the Cross, the second person of

the blessed Trinity. But He was offering His sacrifice to the Father, and it was

via the Holy Spirit that He did that.


Sanctification, making holy: when we are baptised, which is our first

substantial contact with the Lord that changes us forever, we are baptised in the

name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Similarly with all

the other sacraments (I won’t go into them all now in detail) – all three Persons

are at work.


The Holy Spirit is essential, and yes, do we need Him. There’s more I could

cover, so if you want some homework, you can read through the Sequence for

today and see how the Holy Spirit is at work, and how many situations there

are that need Him, and the second reading points out the crucial role of the

Holy Spirit in avoiding selfishness.


Today we commit ourselves to pray for the action of the Holy Spirit in our lives, in our world, and in the Church. The Holy Spirit is essential to us, just as the air we breathe. May He descend powerfully on us this Pentecost, and renew the face of the earth!

 

Curious about exploring things further?  If you would like to ask further questions about the topics raised in these homilies (or maybe think it wasn’t explained too well!), please feel free to e-mail Fr Michael at stjoseph.thame@rcaob.org.uk

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