When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.
Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each.
Amazed and astonished, they asked, "Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language? Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs-in our own languages we hear them speaking about God's deeds of power."
Live by the Spirit, I say, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh. For what the flesh desires is opposed to the Spirit, and what the Spirit desires is opposed to the flesh; for these are opposed to each other, to prevent you from doing what you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not subject to the law. Now the works of the flesh are obvious: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these. I am warning you, as I warned you before: those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit.
Jesus said to his disciples:
"When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who comes from the Father, he will testify on my behalf. You also are to testify because you have been with me from the beginning.
"I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine. For this reason I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you."
There are two images of the Holy Spirit in this morning's first reading from the Acts of the Apostles. There again the language is very symbolic. Luke says that all who gathered in one room heard what sounded like a powerful wind from heaven; he goes on to say that something appeared to them that seemed like tongues of fire. Just as the evangelists do not say that there was an actual dove at the baptism of Jesus, Luke does not say that there was an actual wind and fire at Pentecost. The Holy Spirit does not lend her/himself to concrete representation, because the Holy Spirit cannot be seen as such. Yet the Holy Spirit is profoundly real .
Rather than describe what the Holy Spirit looks like, our Scriptures have great things to say about what the Spirit does, shat impact he makes on life. Paul uses an image drawn from nature, speaking about the fruits of the Spirit . He is talking about the visible impact of the Spirit on one's life. We may not be able to see the Holy Spirit, but we can see the impact of the Spirit in our life, just as we cannot see the wind but can see the impact of the wind on people and objects of various kinds. Paul is saying that wherever we find love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, trustfulness, gentleness and self-control, the Spirit is there at work. The Spirit becomes visible in and through these qualities and virtues. The person who most of all had those qualities was Jesus because he was full of the Holy Spirit, full of the life of God . The Holy Spirit is essentially the very life of God, and that life is a life of love. It is that divine life, that divine love, which was poured out at Pentecost, initially on the first disciples but through them on all who were open to receive this powerful and wonderful gift. Paul expresses it simply in his letter to the Romans, 'God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us'. It is that Spirit of God's love we have received who bears the rich fruit in our lives that Paul speaks about in today's second reading. The Spirit is constantly at work in our lives, making us more like Jesus. The ordinary, day to day expressions of goodness and kindness, of faithfulness and self-control, of patience and gentleness, are all manifestations of the Spirit that has been given to us by God. We can recognize the Spirit's presence in the common happenings of everyday life. The spiritual is not something other-worldly; it is humanity at its best.
We have an example of humanity at its best in today's first reading. On that first Pentecost, there was a wonderful communion between people from all over the Roman Empire. They were united in hearing in their own native language the preaching of the first disciples about the marvels of God. In spite of differences of language and culture there was a profound communion among them. Wherever we find such communion of heart and spirit today among those who are strikingly different, there the Holy Spirit is at work. Unity in diversity is the mark of the Spirit. In the gospel Jesus points out another manifestation of the Spirit, and that is the pursuit of truth. Jesus declares that one of the Spirit's roles is to lead us to the complete truth. If someone has a genuine openness to truth, a willingness to engage in the search for truth, there the Spirit is at work. Full truth is always beyond us; we never possess it completely. In John's gospel Jesus declares himself to be the truth and he is always beyond us; we never fully possess him in this life. One of the roles of the Spirit is to lead us towards the complete truth, in all its dimensions and manifestations.
The Holy Spirit used to be the forgotten person of the Trinity. Perhaps he suffered from having the name of spirit, since for many of us, only concrete things are real. The Father and Son make an impact because one took flesh and the other could be portrayed as a benign older man with a beard. I don't suppose anyone has ever imagined the Holy Spirit with a beard... Whatever the reason, the Holy Spirit tends to be overlooked even by devout Christians. But there are good reasons why we should not forget the Spirit. The first is that He was of vital importance to Jesus. On the eve of the Passion, he promised to send the Spirit to the disciples. In fact, he emphasised the importance of the Spirit's role. He would be a helper, a counsellor, a teacher, a replacement for Christ himself. Indeed, Our Lord's words of introduction are rather startling: "It is for your own good that I am going, because unless I go, the Paraclete will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you" (Jn 16:7).
Another reason for acknowledging the Spirit is the example of the early Christians. He made such a difference to their lives that they could never forget him. Before his coming they were timid and afraid, like children huddling together in a storm. When he descended upon them in a miraculous confusion of wind, fire and speech, they were utterly transformed. "They were all filled with the Holy Spirit" (Acts 2:4), St Luke tells us, and we think of billowing sails or mothers filled with child. But some of the bystanders were cynical in their reaction. "They're drunk" they sneered, and in a sense they were right. The apostles were intoxicated with the Spirit of Christ's love and their own eagerness to proclaim his message. The Spirit was breathing so strongly upon them that they were never the same again. For as long as they lived, the Spirit would stay in the bloodstream. Every decision they made would be Spirit-guided: the choice of seven deacons; admitting Gentiles to the Church; sending out Paul and Barnabas on their first missionary journey. And the influence of the Spirit was also felt at the grassroots. St Paul lists examples of what the Holy Spirit inspires, things like "love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, trustfulness, gentleness and self control" (Ga 5:22).
It is by exercising these gifts that we let the Spirit guide us. When a person is loyal to a demanding partner, when one is cheerful and courageous, when we console the bereaved, link the old or encourage the young, we are doing the work of the Holy Spirit. When we curb our evil instincts, we honour him. When we respond to our best impulses, we honour him more. The Holy Spirit is like the rising sap that fills the tree with life.. It is through and with our better instincts that the Spirit works, and brings our lives to fulfilment through the loving service of others.