Sunday Sermon for May 31, 2020, 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: “There are different kinds of spiritual gifts but the same Spirit; there are different forms of service but the same Lord; there are different workings but the same God.”  In these verses St. Paul reveals the Most Holy Trinity, Whose feast we celebrate next week, but today, we are reminded that the Holy Spirit is God.

Many people think about how wonderful it would have been to be alive in the Holy Land when our Lord was living there.  Resisting the temptation to make ancient Israel some kind of fairy tale existence, these people rightly understand the blessing it would have been to be around Jesus, to learn from Him, and to be His disciple.  All these things are certainly true, but our Lord promised He would not leave us orphans; He would not abandon us.

To fulfill this promise, Jesus promised the Holy Spirit.  In Scripture the Holy Spirit is sometimes called the Paraclete.  A literal translation of this word implies someone who speaks on behalf of another.  This is why Paraclete is sometimes translated as Counselor or Advocate.  Well, Jesus is the Mediator between God and man.  This means He is our Paraclete with the Father.  He has promised another Paraclete Who will intercede for us, teach us, lead us, etc.

With this in mind, although it would have been wonderful to be alive when our Lord and our Lady lived on earth, we live in a situation that is even better!  Jesus is God Who came from Heaven to save us and to lead us to Heaven.  The Holy Spirit is God Who has come from Heaven to lead us back to Heaven.  Jesus came as the Truth and taught us.  He promised the Holy Spirit, Whom He calls “the Spirit of Truth,” to lead us into all truth.  Jesus brought to us the forgiveness of sins.  In the Gospel today we see our Lord breathing on His Apostles so they would receive the Holy Spirit in order to forgive the sins of others. 

The point of all this is that God is still with us and doing everything Jesus did while He was alive in this world.  However, 2000 years ago our Lord was present with His Apostles, now, He is present within us.  This means He is infinitely closer to us than He was physically present to those around Him in Israel.  More than that, the Father and the Holy Spirit are present within us as well.  Recall that Philip wanted Jesus to show them the Father and that would be enough.  Now we not only have the Father and the Son within us, but the Holy Spirit as well.

The Holy Spirit is given to be with us in ways that are similar to our Lord’s presence of old.  However, as we see in the readings today, and in other readings throughout the New Testament, the Holy Spirit is doing more for us than what our Lord was doing in His days.  According to St. Paul, different gifts are given to us by the Holy Spirit.  Our Lord possessed these gifts Himself, but He did not communicate them to His Apostles until after He rose from the dead and gave them the Holy Spirit. 

We have been given many gifts by the Holy Spirit, but of course, the greatest gift we have been ng given is the Holy Spirit, along with the Father and the Son.  We often look at the gifts given by God and ignore the Giver of the gifts.  Even when we think of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, we often think wrongly.  It is not a matter that I have been given a gift so I can do this or that with it.  No, it is the Holy Spirit Who is exercising these gifts within us and working through us.  It is not we who are doing this or that; it is the Holy Spirit Who is doing all the work, we are only cooperating with His work.

As we see in the second reading, different gifts are given according to what God has called each person to do.  In the first reading for example, we see the Apostles speaking in tongues so the Gospel will be heard by many people in their own language.  Other gifts are given simply because it is God’s choice to give a particular gift to a specific individual, for instance, the gifts of healing or prophecy.  God has given each of us many gifts.  Now the goal for us is to become so perfectly united with the will of God that we will cooperate with the movement of the Holy Spirit within us and manifest His gifts for the benefit of others and the glory of God! 

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