Sunday Sermon for May 20, 2018, the Solemnity of Pentecost, Year B

Readings: Acts 2:1-11; 1 Cor 12:3b-7, 12-13; Jn 15:26-27; 16:12-15

In the Gospel reading today our Lord tells His Apostles that they were unable at that time to hear the full truth Jesus wanted them to hear.  Because they could not bear it, our Lord tells them the Holy Spirit will come to guide them into all truth.   Beyond leading them into the fullness of truth, our Lord says the Spirit would also testify to Him and glorify Him.

When the Holy Spirit was sent, according to our Lord’s promise, He led the Apostles to speak of the mighty works of God.  We are told about the sound like a strong driving wind and the Apostles speaking in such a way the people who spoke various languages each heard them in their own native tongue even though the Apostles were probably speaking in Aramaic.

We have to make a distinction here between what is primary and what if secondary with regard to what occurred on Pentecost.  The sound of the driving wind was not so much for the Apostles as it was for the other people in Jerusalem.  Without all the noises from cars, planes, machinery and the like to which we are accustomed, the people in Jerusalem would have been astounded by the sound and would naturally be drawn to investigate its origin.

The speaking in tongues allowed everyone to understand what was being said.  Once again, I think we can say this was more for the people who gathered than it was for the Apostles.  Without doubt the Apostles would have been amazed at what was happening, and it served as an assurance to them of the supernatural help of the Holy Spirit in the work they were soon to undertake.  But, like all charismatic gifts, they are given for the sake of others.

Our Lord, as we have already seen, did not promise the Holy Spirit for the purpose of speaking in tongues or making loud noises to attract people.  He told them the Holy Spirit would be given to testify to Him and to glorify Him while also leading them into all truth.  What the people heard as they gathered, was the Apostles testifying to the mighty works of God and glorifying the Lord.  This is the primary purpose for which the Spirit was sent.

St. Paul tells us in the second reading about the different gifts of the Holy Spirit, some of which have been given to each of us.  St. Paul goes on to say these gifts are given for a benefit.  While we can certainly say the Apostles benefited from being able to speak in tongues, the greater benefit, by far, was the knowledge, understanding, and insight they now had into the truth.

So, the working of the Holy Spirit will be manifested in each of us in a variety of ways for the good of others.  However, leading us to prayer, giving us a desire to know and love God more, and inspiring us to testify to and glorify the Lord is how He will work in every one of us.

In the world in which we live, there is a lot of self-glorification that happens.  Perhaps we are willing to glorify sports teams, politicians, celebrities, and others.   Often we glorify money, material goods, diets, and so on.  Some of this is fine, but do we glorify God?  Do we give testimony to our Lord in our words and in our deeds?  Our Lord Himself told us this is the reason the Holy Spirit was sent.

Sometimes we look for the extraordinary: prophesying, speaking in tongues, gifts of healing, and the like.  Once again, these are for the sake of others and they are completely secondary.  True, God will give these gifts to some people, but they are not the primary reason the Holy Spirit is given.

St. Paul declares that no one can say: “Jesus is Lord” except by the Holy Spirit.  To state this fact is giving testimony to our Lord.  However, words alone do not suffice.  We have to live what we proclaim.  The best way to testify to our Lord is to act according to the truth.  People will hear what we say, but if we prove ourselves to be hypocrites by acting in a way contrary to our words, then we have neither testified to nor glorified God.

The Holy Spirit will help us to get our priorities right.  Too many people try to justify their sinful behaviors.  If we ask the Holy Spirit, He will help us to see why these things are wrong and give us the grace to want to serve God by living a virtuous life.  This is leading us into truth.  We sometimes like the secondary, glitzy elements, but do we really want what is primary?  The Holy Spirit will give us the grace to do what we were created to do: testify to and glorify the Lord.

Fr. Altier’s column appears regularly in The Wanderer, a national Catholic weekly published in St. Paul, Minn. For information about subscribing to The Wanderer, please visit