Bishop’s Letter: Gift of the Spirit

May 30, 2024
Mural depicting the decent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost over the altar of St. James Cathedral, Orlando. (GLENDA MEEKINS)

My Sisters and Brothers in Christ:

With the celebration of Pentecost Sunday, we come to the end of the season of Easter. Originally a Jewish pilgrimage festival, Pentecost (the Feast of Weeks (Shavuot)) comes seven weeks after the cutting of the first sheaf of grain at Passover.  Its Greek name, Pentecost, signifies fifty days between the two festivals. For Christians, we consider Pentecost Sunday the ‘birthday’ of the Church. During the Easter season, the early disciples encounter Jesus and begin to understand Scripture through the light of Christ. Jesus ascends into heaven and His followers are told they will be strengthened by the gift of the Holy Spirit, a gift of inauguration into the next pilgrimage through salvation history.

Pope Francis reminds us that the Holy Spirit did not just appear for these early Christians, but inspires and anoints throughout salvation history, in the world He created, in creation. Pope Francis says, “That is the role of the Spirit: at the beginning and at all times, He makes created realities pass from disorder to order, from dispersion to cohesion, from confusion to harmony.” The Holy Spirit directs the course of time and renews the face of the earth. If we are willing to receive the Holy Spirit, He draws together, and unity is born. Scripture emphasizes, “all were filled with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:4). Our Holy Father says that is how the Church began, from the shared experience of God’s love. “That is how the Spirit creates harmony; He invites us to experience amazement at His love and at His gifts present in others.”

The Holy Spirit creates harmony in our collective heart. Only the Spirit restores harmony in the heart, for He is the one who creates “intimacy with God” (SAINT BASIL, De Spiritu Sancto, XIX, 49). The Holy Spirit transcends and transfigures our heart that we might know God’s mercy; His everlasting forgiveness – and understand how, by the gifts we receive from God, are called to offer His generous mercy to one another.

The Holy Spirit offers us beauty and perfection through, with and in Him as each one of us is sacred, essential to the body of Christ. Our blindness is removed as we see all the different gifts harmonizing that we might live as one body of Christ. We recognize Jesus the Eucharist in each person as the Holy Spirit teaches us the Scripture.

Our Holy Father calls us to honestly examine who we are as Catholics: “Am I docile to the harmony of the Spirit? Or do I pursue my projects, my own ideas, without letting myself be shaped and changed by Him? Is my way of living the faith docile to the Spirit or is it obstinate? Am I stubbornly attached to texts or so-called doctrines that are only cold expressions of life? Am I quick to judge? Do I point fingers and slam doors in the face of others, considering myself a victim of everyone and everything? Or do I welcome the Spirit’s harmonious and creative power, the “grace of wholeness” that He inspires, His forgiveness that brings us peace? And in turn, do I forgive?  Forgiveness is making room for the Spirit to come.  Do I foster reconciliation and build communion, or am I always on the lookout, poking my nose into problems and causing hurt, spite, division, and breakdown? Do I forgive, promote reconciliation, and build communion?”

Being Catholic means being Communion. God did not call one. He called many. He did not ask us to live alone, but to be in union with one another. He does not leave us alone but remains with us in all ways, in all seasons, all the days of our life. He suffered, died, and rose from the dead that we know the intimacy of His love. He calls us to love one another as He loves us. The Holy Spirit strengthens our bond with heaven and uplifts the gift we are so that God’s reign throughout the earth was, is and will ever be. May we come to know God by the gifts He produces in everyone.