May 26, 2023

Christ the Cornerstone

The Holy Spirit fills our hearts with God’s love

Archbishop Charles C. Thompson

“The love of God has been poured into our hearts through the Spirit of God dwelling within us” (Rom 5:5; Rom 8:11).

On Pentecost Sunday, which we celebrate this weekend, the incredible, self-sacrificing love that Jesus poured out for us on the cross is poured out once again through the gift of the Holy Spirit. God’s love transforms the disciples of Jesus from timid, self-centered people into bold and courageous witnesses to the Gospel.

The “tongues of fire” and the “noise like a strong driving wind” (Acts 2:1-11) that descend on the disciples when they are gathered together behind locked doors empowers the followers of Jesus. God’s love sets their hearts ablaze, and it strengthens them, making them true missionary disciples.

The Church is born at Pentecost. Through the intervention of the Holy Spirit, individuals who are frightened, lonely and unable to act become an ecclesia, an assembly of believers with one mind and heart. It can be argued that the Holy Spirit’s most important gift—among so many gifts—is this unity-in-diversity. The divided disciples become one. By the grace of God, the sinful tendency to “divide and conquer” is overcome by the Holy Spirit, who brings all things together in love and in truth.

The Solemnity of Pentecost celebrates unity in diversity. Gathered in Jerusalem at the time of the first Pentecost were people from many different places with diverse languages and cultures and, we can assume, many different, even contradictory opinions on every subject imaginable. As we read in the Acts of the Apostles:

Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven staying in Jerusalem. At this sound, they gathered in a large crowd, but they were confused because each one heard them speaking in his own language. They were astounded, and in amazement they asked, “Are not all these people who are speaking Galileans? Then how does each of us hear them in his native language? We are Parthians, Medes, and Elamites, inhabitants of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the districts of Libya near Cyrene, as well as travelers from Rome, both Jews and converts to Judaism, Cretans and Arabs, yet we hear them speaking in our own tongues of the mighty acts of God. (Acts 2:5-11)

The amazing thing is not that there was some kind of “simultaneous translation” that miraculously occurred, but that those diverse individuals who heard God’s word proclaimed by the disciples were united in love. They did not lose their individuality or their uniqueness, but they came together as one.

This is why our creed affirms that our Church is one, holy, catholic and apostolic. In spite of our many differences, and the disagreements that tend to divide and conquer us, we are, in fact, one in the Spirit.

As St. Paul tells us so beautifully, “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 who produces all of them in everyone” (1 Cor 12:4–6).

What the Holy Spirit reveals at Pentecost is the fact that God’s love transcends our ideas about unity and diversity. The triune God (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) cannot be divided into separate categories or factions. God’s love is absolute unity and fullness, and when this love is poured out into our hearts, it brings us together—not in some vague, amorphous way, but as robust, individual persons who are one with God and each other by the miracle of God’s grace.

Anyone who looks at our world (and our Church) today, will have to admit that it takes a miracle to bring our argumentative, divisive and too often warring tribes together as one.

Without the gifts of the Holy Spirit, true unity in diversity is unthinkable. But the miraculous event that we celebrate on Pentecost Sunday has accomplished the unimaginable by the power of God’s love “poured into our hearts through the Spirit of God dwelling within us” (Rom 5:5).

The Gospel reading for Pentecost Sunday captures this miracle as follows:

The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.” (Jn 20:20–23)

From this moment on, we are one Church, united in the Holy Spirit and sent to proclaim the Good News of our salvation in Christ Jesus our Lord.

A blessed Pentecost to all! †

Local site Links: