"In one Spirit we were all baptised and one Spirit was given to us all to drink." That was the life-shattering experience of St Paul, which he wrote about in so many wonderful ways. In Acts we are simply told that, "they were all filled with the Holy Spirit," while in St John's Gospel, it is Jesus himself who breathes on the apostles and says, "Receive the Holy Spirit." Whether they are baptised or filled with living water or receive the Spirit as breath and life, one thing is clear from the New Testament, the Holy Spirit is a gift of God given us through and by the Risen Christ, a gift that brings about a radical change in our lives, a gift which unites us to God as his sons and daughters, a gift that enables us to live in Christ and do his redeeming work of preaching the Christian faith by proclaiming the wonders of God not just in word but in deed: for we forgive those who sin against us, while through the gifts of the Spirit we are able to carry out every ministry needed in the Church, complementing one another as the Spirit sees fit. Thus we proclaim the Gospel of Salvation in Jesus Christ to all those who are searching for God and have the humility to repent and believe.
If in the four Gospels it is Jesus of Nazareth, incarnate Son of God, who takes centre stage as, moved by the Spirit, he makes known the Father's love and reveals the face of God in human form, in the Acts and the Epistles of Paul, it is the Holy Spirit who inspires every thought, word and deed of the early Church and enables the first Christians to understand and acknowledge the revelation of Jesus Christ, the Resurrection and the Life, in whose Name alone can men be saved and reconciled with God. Early Church fathers, such as Irenaeus, spoke of the Son and the Spirit as being the right and left hands of God. Trinitarian theology is always heady stuff, so we had better steer clear of that this morning. Suffice it to say that today, the Feast of Pentecost, we focus in a special way on the Person and work of the Holy Spirit, while recognising that the Holy Trinity, being three Persons in one God, is truly one undivided and indivisible God, whose threefold Being has been shared with us, his creatures, created, as we are, in his image and likeness.
One thing that always strikes me about the mentioning and appearing of the Holy Spirit in the New Testament is the joy and excitement his presence brings to individuals, families and communities, indeed to the whole Church. Then there is the element of surprise. Who more surprised, even shocked, than Our Lady when the Archangel Gabriel informed her of the Holy Spirit's work and her role in the Mystery of the Incarnation? Where the Spirit is, there is Jesus.
Think of the Sacraments: it is the Spirit who sanctifies the water, but Jesus who baptises; it is the Spirit who is received, but Jesus who confirms; it is the Spirit who consecrates, but Jesus who is present in the Blessed Sacrament of the Altar; it is through the power of the Spirit that Jesus absolves us of our sins; it is the Spirit who brings a man and a woman together, yet Christ who blesses their union, the Spirit making it fruitful; it is the Spirit who is ordains a priest to become alter Christus, another Christ; it is the Spirit who anoints, yet Christ who heals. You can see where the idea of the right and left hands of God came from. We live (if only we are aware of it and allow God to be God in us), we live entirely in his embrace. There is no aspect of our lives that God does not touch and make holy through the coming and indwelling of the Spirit. In fact, it is the Holy Spirit who gives us the mind and heart of Christ and so makes us pleasing to the Father. It is the Spirit who enables us to pray and to cry out. "Abba, Father." Today, not only do we give thanks for the gift of the Spirit: we ask to become more conscious of his presence within us and so live each day guided only by the Holy Spirit.