Pentecost is regarded as the “Birthday of the Church.” Gathered in one place together, the Holy Spirit appeared to the disciples as “tongues of fire,” which rested on each of them. The Spirit first enabled them to communicate effectively the Gospel message without language being a barrier: “They were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim.” The Scriptures demonstrate how the early Church had a strong awareness that the gift of the Spirit inspired their actions and directed their mission. It gave them courage and boldness in the preaching, and it helped them not to fear persecution or imprisonment. They truly lived by the Spirit and relied on the Spirit’s inspiration and guidance.
The Spirit helps us speak and proclaim Christ, but it also comes to assist us in the path we should follow. The disciples, now filled with the Spirit, were so effective because they forgot about themselves and preached with courage and conviction. Without the gift of the Spirit that the Resurrected Christ “breathed on them,” the disciples would still be locked up inside themselves and living in fear (cf. John 20:19). The Spirit gives them the peace they needed to entrust themselves completely to God.
Many Christians forget that life is a gift, and so they live by the philosophy: “My life is my life.” They direct their lives in ways they see fit, without seeking much direction from God. They take the little self-knowledge and act in the moment on what they would like to do, and they pursue it. As a result, fear and this narrow approach keeps many people imprisoned and prevented from becoming more effective ministers of Christ. They could be calling upon an all-knowing and all-powerful God, who not only knows them better, but also sees the potential of what they can be.
Giving up control of our lives does not mean that we “do nothing”—it doesn’t look like a passive behavior that expects everything to happen without our action or effort. The disciples, after receiving the Holy Spirit, somehow learned to “give up control” and their ministry took off in rapid succession. Giving up control is making an act of trust, it’s essentially saying: “God I believe you know and want what is best for my life and what will truly make me fruitful and fulfilled—therefore I give my life to you. Please, just guide me by your Spirit!” Only by making time for prayer can we create the environment to listen to what God asks of us. Guided by our own “human spirit” we are inclined to give sparingly and become overly self-focused, but empowered by the Holy Spirit, the possibilities for generosity and service are limitless.
Reflection Question: How can you invite the Holy Spirit to be a bigger part of your life and decisions?
Reflection by Fr. Paul Sheller, OSB