And when he said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit” (Jn. 20:22).
At the end of this Easter season the liturgy brings us back to where it all began. The Gospel of John presents to us the scene in which the risen Lord appears to his disciples. This makes sense, because today, in the solemnity of the Pentecost, we culminate the whole celebration of Easter with the descent of the Holy Spirit. All throughout this time we have seen how the gift of Easter is precisely that of new life in Christ: by his death and resurrection, Jesus Christ has destroyed the power of eternal death and has opened to us the gates that lead to life everlasting. Life has been regained for us by the death and resurrection of the Savior.
This life, however, is different from the life that we’ve had before. Christ’s passage from death to life marks a “before and after” for us; things are not the same as before. In baptism we die with Christ, likewise in here we rise again with him, but we rise to a new life, in which eternal death has no power, wherein there is a place for faith and hope to take root and grow, blossoming into love. This is the life in the Holy Spirit, in which we are transformed into daughters and sons of God, and not only that, but we are made into free children of God. This is the new life that is the gift of Easter: a life in which the Holy Spirit is poured into our hearts allowing us to cry out to God saying “Abba! Father!” (cfr. Gal. 4:6). This is a life lived in freedom, true freedom! True freedom consists in being able to live fully outside the shadow of death and the empty darkness that threatens always to eat us alive because of sin. This is the gift of Easter, and that is why in Pentecost we see the culmination of Easter: we are not merely given life, but new life, and this life is the life of a free child of God, made so by the Spirit.
Send forth your Spirit, and you shall renew the face of the earth! Our reflection has made us see what is evident about the work of the Holy Spirit: he transforms, he molds, he changes. But most of all, what’s most typical of his action in creation is that he deifies: “Through the Holy Spirit we acquire a likeness to God; indeed, we attain what is beyond our most sublime aspirations—we become God” (ST. BASIL THE GREAT, Treatise on the Holy Spirit).
What does this great feast got to do with us? If we were to examine our hearts, the way that we live our life, how we handle our relationships, especially the ones that really matter to us; if we take a look into our surroundings, in the society that we life in, we would feel the increasing need to clamor for change. We feel the need to be renewed, and this cry extends from our inner circle to include the society in which we live in. However we need to realize that we cannot effect changes merely through structures. Society could only be transformed by renewing the structures upon which it rests; but these structures will change only when the people in them change. People will only change once their lives do, and these will only come about with a change of heart. Nobody has the power to change anybody, no matter how determined one could be, because nobody has the power to touch hearts. Only God can do that. It is only when the Spirit of God is allowed to blow through the arid desert of man’s heart that man begins to change. And when man begins to change from within, only then would he have the energy to being the changes that he wants to see in the world around him.
The presence of the Holy Spirit is fundamental in our lives as Christians, all of us who are set on living according to the new life granted to us by the risen Christ. Without his grace we cannot simply live. The words of the liturgy reminds us of this when it says in the sequence: “where you are naught, man has naught, nothing good in deed or thought, nothing free from taint of ill” (Sequence Veni Sancte Spiritus of Pentecost). We cannot set ourselves to change without the aid of God’s grace. Our efforts to better ourselves day-by-day should be coupled by our petition and the acceptance of the grace of God in our lives. We need his help!
The gift of the Holy Spirit is not without missionary significance: God makes us strong to do what he has commanded us, and that is to spread the Good News of salvation. This was what the Apostles did once they became full of the Holy Spirit; drunk with his consolation, they went out into the streets—not only of Jerusalem, but eventually those of the whole world—to spread the news that Jesus Christ has been raised from the dead (cfr. Acts 2:22ss). Through them, the sound of the rushing wind was not only heard within the Cenacle: it was heard even beyond the confines of the Roman empire. Through them, the divine fire of the Spirit not only burned above their heads as tongues of flame: it became a huge fire that consumed the world.
The Gospel is a force that can change society for the better. It’s message transforms mere human solidarity into true charity among the children of God; it purifies and changes tolerance into true respect and an attitude towards the truth. Strengthened and confirmed by the Holy Spirit, we are called not only to allow ourselves to be transformed by the Spirit from within, but also become agents of change in the society that we live in, allowing it to be imbued with real values, making truly human. Let us end this reflection asking the Lord to send for his Spirit upon us, so that we may be able to be transformed and take part in the renewal of our society and its different sectors: may the Spirit of God come once again and touch our leaders both in the Church and in the government, may the Lord imbue new life into our families and friendships. Lord sent forth your Spirit, and you shall renew the face of the earth. AMEN. ALLELUIA!
FIRST READING: Acts 2:1-11
SECOND READING: 1 Cor 12:3b-7, 12-13
GOSPEL: Jn 20:19-23.