Engaging the Gospel – Pentecost

Gospel – John 7:37-39 (Vigil), (Year C) John 20:19-23 or John 14:15-16, 23b-26

The outpouring of the Holy Spirit fulfills Old Testament prophecy, and continues in the life of the Church, as the Catechism explains:

In the Old Testament the prophets announced that the Spirit of the Lord would rest on the hoped-for Messiah for His saving mission…[Jesus’] whole life and His whole mission are carried out in total communion with the Holy Spirit Whom the Father gives Him “without measure.”

This fullness of the Spirit was not to remain uniquely the Messiah’s, but was to be communicated to the whole messianic people…a promise which [Christ] fulfilled first on Easter Sunday and then more strikingly at Pentecost.

–Catechism paragraphs 1286-87

From that time on, the apostles, in fulfillment of Christ’s will, imparted to the newly baptized by the laying on of hands the gift of the Spirit that completes the grace of Baptism…The imposition of hands is rightly recognized by the Catholic tradition as the origin of the sacrament of Confirmation, which in a certain way perpetuates the grace of Pentecost in the Church.

–Paul VI, quoted in Catechism 1288

Through the anointing of the sacrament of Confirmation, we receive the indelible “mark, the seal of the Holy Spirit. A seal is a symbol of a person, a sign of personal authority, or ownership of an object” (1295).

“This seal of the Holy Spirit marks our total belonging to Christ, our enrollment in His service for ever, as well as the promise of divine protection in the great eschatological trial” (1296).

The “effect of the sacrament of Confirmation is the full outpouring of the Holy Spirit as once granted to the apostles on the day of Pentecost” (1303).

Question for reflection: How have I experienced the power of the Holy Spirit in my life?


Engaging the Gospel – Pentecost

Pentecost: Gospel – John 7:37-39 (Vigil), John 20:19-23 or John 15:26-27, 16:12-15

More than just an historical event, Pentecost is also a reality in our own lives: through the sacrament of Confirmation, we too receive “the full outpouring of the Holy Spirit as once granted to the apostles on the day of Pentecost” (Catechism 1302).

In the Holy Spirit, “God shares Himself as love” and as gift, Benedict XVI observed. “The Holy Spirit is God eternally giving Himself; like a never-ending spring He pours forth nothing less than Himself.”

He lavishes His gifts upon us:

the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of right judgment and courage, the spirit of knowledge and reverence…the spirit of wonder and awe. These gifts of the Spirit — each of which, as Saint Francis de Sales reminds us, is a way to participate in the one love of God — are neither prizes nor rewards. They are freely given. And they require only one response on the part of the receiver: I accept!

…Let us invoke the Holy Spirit: He is the artisan of God’s works. Let his gifts shape you! Just as the Church travels the same journey with all humanity, so too you are called to exercise the Spirit’s gifts amidst the ups and downs of your daily life…Let it be sustained by prayer and nurtured by the sacraments, and thus be a source of inspiration and help to those around you.

…In accepting the power of the Holy Spirit you too can transform your families, communities and nations. Set free the gifts!

Vigil during World Youth Day, July 19, 2008.

Question for reflection: How am I using the spiritual gifts entrusted to me by the Holy Spirit?

Engaging the Gospel – Pentecost

Pentecost: Gospel – John 7:37-39 (Vigil); John 20:19-23

The outpouring of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost is a momentous event in salvation history.

The Old Testament prophets had proclaimed that the Spirit of the Lord “was not to remain uniquely the Messiah’s, but was to be communicated to the whole messianic people.” Christ fulfilled this promise “first on Easter Sunday and then more strikingly at Pentecost” (Catechism paragraph 1287).

That very date was significant to the Jewish people. Pentecost, meaning the “fiftieth” day after Passover, was the “feast of the Covenant which commemorated the Sinai event, when God, through Moses, proposed that Israel be His own possession among all peoples to be a sign of His holiness” (Pope Benedict XVI, May 11, 2008).

The descent of the Holy Spirit likewise came on the fiftieth day after Christ’s Resurrection, fulfilling His Passover (Catechism paragraph 731) and forming the Church as the People of God (751).

“The gift of the Spirit ushers in a new era…the age of the Church, during which Christ manifests, makes present, and communicates His work of salvation through the liturgy of His Church, until He comes” (1076).

“The Church is the temple of the Holy Spirit” (797), where we come to know Him “in the Scriptures He inspired; in the Tradition…in the Church’s Magisterium, which He assists; in the sacramental liturgy…in prayer…in the charisms and ministries…in the witness of saints” (688).

Question for reflection: How might I grow in devotion to the Holy Spirit?


Summary of Catechism paragraphs 1285-1321:

  • As its name implies, Confirmation strengthens and completes the grace first received in Baptism, and empowers us in a special way through the Holy Spirit.
  • The rite of anointing with perfumed oil, or chrism, signifies the anointing by the Holy Spirit; hence the Eastern Churches refer to this sacrament as “Chrismation” or “myron” (another term for chrism).
  • Anointing plays a significant role in the Old Testament, consecrating kings, priests, and occasionally prophets; Messiah literally means “anointed” in Hebrew, and the equivalent in Greek is “Christ.”
  • The prophets foretold that the Spirit, Who anointed the Messiah, would ultimately be poured out upon all the people of God.
  • Jesus fulfills this promise, first at Easter and in a striking way at Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit descends upon the disciples and empowers them for mission.
  • The Holy Spirit comes upon us in a similar way in the sacrament of Confirmation, which therefore perpetuates the grace of Pentecost in the life of the Church.
  • As recounted in the New Testament, the apostles bestowed the Spirit through the laying on of hands; for this reason, the original ministers of Confirmation are the bishops, the successors of the apostles.
  • The bishop (or his designated priest) anoints the confirmand and pronounces, “Be sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit,” a seal that marks us irrevocably for Christ; because this imprints an indelible character, like Baptism, we receive it only once.
  • Through Confirmation, we are united even more firmly to Christ and His Church, equipped to carry out our responsibilities as members of the faithful, and commissioned to go forth and witness to Christ.
  • Confirmation is so closely related to Baptism that it was historically administered at the same time; the Eastern Churches have preserved this ancient custom, and still confirm infants, underscoring that the sacrament is about God’s gift of grace.

Live Your Faith

Confirmation is not a religious graduation, or a coming-of-age ritual. While it is excellent to prepare for this sacrament, so that we may be better disposed to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, we must not lose sight of the fact that God is freely bestowing His grace – we are not earning it.

And He fills us with His grace not merely for our own benefit, but for the building up of His Body, the Church. Have we used the gifts that God gave us in our Confirmation, or have we let them lie dormant?

The Holy Spirit and Pentecost

Summary of Catechism paragraphs 683-747:

  • The Holy Spirit has been at work with the Father and the Son throughout salvation history, but was only revealed as a divine Person when poured out upon the disciples at Pentecost.
  • “Spirit” is the translation of the Hebrew ruah, meaning breath or wind; the Holy Spirit evokes a rich array of symbolism, including water, a dove, anointing with oil, the finger or hand of God, cloud, light, and fire.
  • The Son and the Spirit have a joint mission: when the Father sends His Word, He also sends His Breath; the Son is anointed (“Christ”) by the Spirit.
  • According to Old Testament prophecy, God would send His Spirit in the last days to gather people, renew their hearts, reveal His new law, and dwell among them; this expectation grew alongside the cherished hope for the Messiah.
  • Jesus promised to send the Spirit after accomplishing the Paschal mystery; for nine days following His Ascension, the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Apostles were absorbed in prayer – the forerunner of our “novena” – until the Spirit came.
  • The term Pentecost, from the Greek for “fiftieth,” was first used for the Jewish feast on the fiftieth day after Passover; the outpouring of the Holy Spirit likewise occurred seven weeks after Easter, on the fiftieth day after Christ’s Passover.
  • At Pentecost, the Holy Spirit makes the Church manifest, fulfilling the Old Testament prophecy about God’s gathering and renewing His people; the joint mission of the Son and the Spirit now becomes the mission of the Church.
  • Hence the Church is not an optional add-on; it is the sacrament, the sign and instrument, of this divine mission; the Spirit is active in the Church’s sacramental and liturgical life.
  • The Holy Spirit, the Love between the Father and the Son, communicates to us God’s great gift — the very Love of the Holy Trinity.
  • The Spirit’s title of Paraclete comes from the Greek for an advocate who is literally “called to one’s side,” a consoler; He draws us to Christ and reminds us of His words, leads us into truth, helps us to live morally, and sustains our prayer.

Live Your Faith

Pentecost is not simply an historical event, but an ongoing reality in the life of the Church.

We too have received the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in the sacrament of Confirmation, our personal Pentecost, and we come to know the Spirit in the Scriptures, Tradition, the Magisterium, the Church’s various ministries, the saints, the liturgy, and our own prayer.

Let us not neglect this divine Guest in our soul!