Sunday Sermon for May 28, 2023, the Solemnity of Pentecost, Year A

Readings: Acts 2:1-11; 1 Cor 12:3b-7, 12-13; Jn 20:19-23

In the second reading, St. Paul tells us that no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except by the Holy Spirit.  We need to make a distinction here.  First of all, anyone could read the above sentence, even out loud, whether the person has the Holy Spirit or not.  However, no one can say with conviction that Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit. 

What this means requires another distinction.  The first point is similar to what Jesus said to St. Peter when St. Peter proclaimed Jesus to be the Christ, the Son of God.  Jesus told St. Peter that flesh and blood had not revealed this to him, but the Father in Heaven revealed this to St. Peter.  Now, for us to make that act of faith in the Lordship of Jesus is not merely something we learned in a catechism lesson, but it requires the Holy Spirit to make that act of faith.

This brings us to the second point:  to truly accept Jesus as the Lord of our own life requires something beyond our natural ability to do.  It is true that everyone will seek to serve someone beyond the self; it is also true that to choose Jesus as the One you will serve as Lord and Master is not merely a natural choice, but requires supernatural grace to believe in Him and make this choice. 

So, if you are able to say with conviction that Jesus is Lord, then the Holy Spirit is acting in you.  However, if you have chosen to go beyond the surface to make Jesus the Lord of your life, then the grace that comes from the Holy Spirit is working in you in supernatural ways.  

The question each of needs to ask is: “How is the Holy Spirit working in me?” or “What does God want of me?”  The truth that the Holy Spirit is working in us is objective and is the same for everyone who has this most blessed gift from our Lord.  However, the way the Holy Spirit will work in each person will be different.  St. Paul talks about the different spiritual gifts, the different forms of service, and the different workings that God produces in His people.  But we can be certain, as St. Paul says, that “to each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit.”

The way the Holy Spirit will work in us depends upon our personality, our state in life, our spiritual life, and what God is calling us to do.  Each of us has a free will, so we can choose against what God is doing in our lives.  Therefore, we must apply ourselves to the discernment of God’s will in our own life.  In order to do this, we must take the time to pray and ask the Lord to show us what He wants.  We need to be careful not to tell Him what He wants, but to allow Him to tell us.

Some things will be objective.  For instance, we hear in the Gospel reading today about our Lord breathing on His Apostles to receive the Holy Spirit and giving them the power to forgive sins.  Each bishop is given this same gift and, through ordination, grants that gift to every priest.  So, every priest has the same ability to forgive sin, but not every priest has the same ability to counsel the sinner in the confessional.  Not every priest has the same ability to preach or to oversee the administration of a parish.

Similar things can be said regarding any state in life.  Anyone called to be married will be given the gift to live the married life, but some people have the ability to calm things down, while others have a greater ability to lead or to have insight into issues affecting the family.  While everyone called to be a parent is given the grace to do what is necessary, it is clear that some people have a far greater facility than others. 

So, there are some gifts that may be easily discernable within yourself, but others will need some prayer to see clearly.  Be careful not to put limitations on the Lord.  In other words, don’t go to prayer and tell the Lord what should or should not be.  Obviously, if He has called you to a particular state in life, He will not ask you to do something contrary to that state.  However, within that state, He may ask something that you would not expect, often something that will require a real dying to self.  Whatever God asks, we know for certain it is what is best for us.  So, let the Holy Spirit lead your prayer to reveal His gifts and God’s way to make you a Saint!

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