"YOU WILL receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you and you shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth," said Christ to the apostles before He finally left them.
The effect of the Spirit upon them was striking. Terrified after the Crucifixion they had sheltered behind locked doors "for fear of the Jews," now they suddenly became heroes whom nothing could daunt or restrain.
They fearlessly faced hostile crowds with the astounding news that Christ was alive and had come back from the dead. Their work continues today.
Pentecost is the birthday of Ithe Church, and the feast of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit dwells in the Church, filling her with love and wisdom. Through all the ,centuries of war and chaos the Church has never lost its purpose or confused its beliefs.
The only change is the way the timeless teachings of Christ are presented to each generation. At Baptism, the Spirit comes to each of us filling us with grace and lighting our souls with the light of God. Without the Spirit life would be an almost impossible burden.
The gifts of the Spirit given to us today are more ordinary than those given to the early Church. They are useful, enlightening, serviceable. The apostles were so remarkably affected by the Spirit that they gave the impression of being drunk. "These men are not drunk as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day", said Peter soberly. St Paul gives the best account of the work of the Spirit: "'the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, selfcontrol".
Perseverance in prayer, patience in suffering, sympathy towards those in need, the joy of a good conscience, unshakeable confidence in God's love — these are the effects of the Spirit today.
The extraordinary gifts of the Spirit also exist now though they are different from those of the early Church because our needs are different.
Striking pastoral gifts, inspired teaching especially in theology, wise government, revealing of artistic forms, sound education by parents and teachers, saintly lives these. are some examples.
The greatest of the gifts of-the Spirit is love. Without it the
others are as nothing. "If speak with the tongues of men and of angels but have not love I am but a noisy gong or clanging cymbal". (I Cory If there were officials at the gateway to the Kingdom of Heaven the one passport they would demand is love.
The Spirit convinces us that the risen Christ is present among us. We see the living Christ in living people. He came to us as God's Word; the eternal witness of the Father became real flesh and blood.
As He wept over Jerusalem it was the heart of a man who felt the pain. The same relationship between the God of revelation and His witness Christ exists today.
It is found in the Church, for the Church testifies to all the works and words of Christ. She was created to be Christ's extension in the world. "Christ, the one mediator, established and ceaselessly maintains here on earth the community of faith, hope and love as a visible structure.
"Through her He communicates truth and grace to all • . For this reason, by an excellent analogy, this reality is compared to the mystery of the Incarnate Word".
The Jesuit poet Gerald Manley Hopkins, in a sermon on the Holy Spirit said, "It cheers the spirit of man with signals and with cries, all zealous that he should do something, full of assurance that if he will he can, calling on him, springing to meet him halfway, crying to his ears or to his heart, this way to do God's will, the way to save your soul, come on, come on".
The excitement of the history of the early Church is that although it was opposed by powerful factions, yet it prevailed. It is a miracle of survival. The 12 apostles staked their lives, their honour on the truth of the story which at first had seemed mad.
They cheerfully endured persecution, beatings, death.
Within 60 years, the whole Roman empire was seething with the impact of the
Resurrection. Twelve ordinary men, without money, education, prestige, power, cal-lied out Christ's command to teach all nations.
Even when things seemed to go wrong they were not to fear. "I am with you all days". Today the Holy Spirit is poured out upon us all that we may continue this work for Christ.
John Gallagher, SJ