1st Reading: Acts 2 v 1-11
2nd Reading: 1Corinthians 12 v 3-7 & 12-13
Gospel: John 20 v 19-23
Homily reflections for Sunday:
Jesus never ceased to surprise. When his disciples witnessed his crucifixion, they no doubt felt that everything that had gone before during the 3yrs of his public ministry had been a complete waste of time because now he was dead and everything he had taught them to hope for was dead too. But then incredibly Jesus rose from the dead and was alive again – the last thing they expected.
Just six short weeks later when he ascended into heaven, once again they were left wondering “So now what?” as they had no idea what they were supposed to do. And then just few days later, sent by Jesus, the Holy Spirit descended on them in the form of tongues of fire and, under the influence of the Spirit and with the gifts that the Spirit gave them, now they knew what was expected of them and off they went, out into the world, to get on with the work of evangelisation – which is what Jesus had been preparing them for all along. And, of course, one of those gifts was the ability to communicate the gospel to foreign nations: the gift of tongues or languages
An unknown sixth century African author, quoted in the Office of Readings yesterday, said:
And so if anyone says: ‘If you have received the Holy Spirit, why do you not speak in tongues?’ we should reply: ‘I do speak in tongues – the Body of Christ, the Church, speaks in every tongue. For what did God signify by the presence of the Holy Spirit if it was not that his Church would speak in every tongue?’
St Antony of Padua puts it slightly differently:
A person who is filled with the Holy Spirit speaks several languages. These several languages are the various ways of witnessing to Christ, such as humility, poverty, obedience and patience, with which we speak when we practise them towards our neighbour. Language comes alive when it speaks by deeds.
What is being said is that the actions that we carry out in response to the promptings of the Holy Spirit in our lives speak for themselves, they tell other people – they communicate to other people – the fact that our Christian faith is the reason for what we do. As St Paul said in our 2nd reading: “There is a variety of gifts but always the same Spirit; there are all sorts of service to be done, but always to the same Lord working in all sorts of different ways.”
Hence the emphasis placed on the gifts of the Holy Spirit received in the sacrament of confirmation, gifts which – if we use them in the way they are intended – will bear fruit in the effects that they have on our life as they are witnessed by other people.
The Catechism says that those who are anointed in confirmation share more completely in the mission of Jesus Christ by receiving an increase in the gifts of the Spirit – wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord. The degree to which the Holy Spirit is active in our lives will then show itself in the fruits of those gifts, which St Paul lists in his letter to the Galatians as: charity, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, generosity, gentleness, faithfulness, modesty, self-control, and chastity.
And it’s all of that that we call to mind and celebrate in today’s feast.
In light of all that perhaps you might like to spend a few minutes reading through the Sequence from today’s Mass:
Holy Spirit, Lord of light, from the clear celestial height thy pure burning radiance give.
Come thou Father of the poor, come with treasures which endure; come, thou light of all that live!
Thou of all consolers best, thou the soul’s delightful guest, dost refreshing peace bestow.
Thou in toil art comfort sweet; pleasant coolness in the heat; solace in the midst of woe.
Light immortal, light divine, visit thou these hearts of thine, and our inmost being fill.
If thou take thy grace away, nothing pure in man will stay; all his good is turned to ill.
Heal our wounds, our strength renew; on our dryness pour thy dew; wash the stains of guilt away.
Bend the stubborn heart and will; melt the frozen, warm the chill; guide the steps that go astray.
Thou on us who evermore thee confess and thee adore, with thy sevenfold gifts descend.
Give us comfort when we die; give us life with thee on high; give us joys that never end.