Pentecost 2016

"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. He wrote about it in many different ways. In the Acts of the Apostles, 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 and 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. It is a gift that brings about a radical change in our lives, unites us to God as his sons and daughters and enables us to live in Christ and do his redeeming work. We preach the Gospel by proclaiming the wonders of God, not just in word, but in all we do. We forgive those who sin against us and, 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.

In the four Gospels, it is Jesus, the 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 to us, while in the Acts of the Apostles and the Epistles of St 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, in whose Name alone can we be saved and reconciled with God. Early Church fathers, such as St Irenaeus, spoke of the Son and the Spirit as being the right and left hands of God. Trinitarian theology is always heady stuff, so let's 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 us about the coming 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; 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 consecrates 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. and 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, the joy of Whitsun, but we also ask to become more conscious of his presence within us, that we might live each day guided only by the Holy Spirit.

As we come to the end of Paschaltide, on behalf of the monastic community I wish you all once more a very Happy Easter and all the blessings of Pentecost. Amen