Today we celebrate the ancient feast of Pentecost which takes place fifty days after Easter. Forty days after Easter, Jesus ascends to heaven, directing the disciples to go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing in the name of the Father, Son, and of the Holy Spirit. But how could this band of men who had abandoned Jesus in the moment of trial do such an amazing feat? Jesus promises them a Helper: His helper. 

The disciples (men and women) committed themselves to prayer to receive the Holy Spirit for nine days (the original novena) in the upper room where Jesus instituted His Body and Blood in the Eucharist. On the 10th day, the Holy Spirit came upon them like a rushing wind. They immediately left and proclaimed the gospel to all of Jerusalem and eventually the world. How did this drastic change happen? 

It begins with Jesus. All of salvation history is bringing the fallen human race into the perfection of full communion in the Holy Trinity. Jesus becomes man and lives the perfection of love. Because of His humanity, His perfection raises the human race into the communion of the Trinity. Yet, we who are fallen cannot reach the perfection of love on our own. How do we get there? The sacrifice, death, and resurrection of Jesus. In His suffering and death, Jesus takes on the penalty for our sins (death), but Divine Justice raises Him to life because of His sinlessness. In this entire process, He was strengthened to fulfill His mission of Salvation through the power of the Holy Spirit.

To enter into the communion of the Holy Trinity, we do so through the Body of Christ. Jesus’ sacrifice washes away the sins of all who enter His baptism of repentance. We die to our former selves to enter into Him. New life is given in the Spirit. Just as we see the Spirit come upon Jesus and God declares Him His beloved Son, so do we receive the Spirit at our baptism, and we enter into Jesus’ sonship (or daughtership). This is the command of Jesus at His Ascension. This is the exhortation of the Apostles at Pentecost. Repent, be baptized, and be received into the life of the Spirit which is embodied by the Body of Christ. 

But Baptism is just the beginning. We see that those baptized on Pentecost received the Holy Spirit, devoted themselves to the Apostles teaching, had fellowship, and the breaking of the bread. They received sacramental power in Confirmation and received the Body of Christ in the Eucharist. They also humbled themselves and allowed the teaching of the Apostles (driven by the Holy Spirit) to transform them. Finally, they did this all together. The Body of Christ is unified and purified by prayer and the sacraments. 

As we pray for the descent of the Holy Spirit, we must remember that the Spirit gives us the disposition of Jesus. We do not become like the Body of Christ, we become the Body of Christ. To act with the Holy Spirit, is to act as Jesus. Jesus loved, even to the point of shedding blood. He rejected all worldly glory for the glory of the Father. The early disciples followed in His footsteps and countless others have throughout history. We continue this mission today. The Holy Spirit’s power is one of Godly wisdom, which means it confounds worldly. We will be treated as Jesus was treated by the world when we are His Body. But we will also be treated as Jesus by the Trinity when we are His Body. That is the power and promise of the Spirit given to the Church today, and it is in this Spirit that we place our hopes. Come Holy Spirit!