It's 50 days since our Easter celebration and we end this Season with the Feast of Pentecost. We remember how the Holy Spirit came upon the apostles and the Blessed Virgin Mary as they prayed in the upper room. The apostles were transformed. They went from cowards to bold witnesses. The readings at Mass today are filled with symbols of the One who transformed them.
First we have wind. Think for a moment of its qualities. It is unseen and can be a gentle cooling agent or it can be a powerful force that destroys. In light of the Gospel from John 20:19-23, the wind or breath of Jesus Himself, destroys sin and brings forgiveness. Breath gives life. It is close to us and essential, just like the Holy Spirit whom Jesus sent at Pentecost and at each of our baptisms.
Secondly we have fire. Again, think for a moment of its qualities. It is mysterious. It brings light and warmth and, in the ancient world, protected humans from dangerous beasts. Like wind, it can also destroy. Metals that are placed in it are purified. Just so, we are purified by the Holy Spirit.
I'd like to add another symbol that we don't find in the readings at Mass today--water, the symbol of baptism, that moment when each of us became a temple or dwelling place of the Holy Spirit. In the second reading in today's Office of Readings in the Breviary, St. Irenaeus speaks of the unifying nature of water. He writes: "Like dry flour, which cannot become one lump of dough, one loaf of bread, without moisture, we who are many could not become one in Christ Jesus without the water that comes down from heaven. ... Through the baptism that liberates us from change and decay we have become one in body; through the Spirit we have become one in soul."
We find this theme of unity amidst diversity in the second reading at Mass from St. Paul's First Letter to the Corinthians. He writes of many gifts and parts but one body that is made one by the Holy Spirit which joins each member to Christ. When sin enters into the picture, diversity becomes a source of division and war. But when the Spirit comes, diversity leads to a rich, harmonious unity. Like the body. The Holy Spirit has been called "the Soul of the Church, the Body of Christ," and as the human soul gives life to the physical body, so the Holy Spirit gives life to each member of the Body of Christ and to the entire Body.
It has also been said that the Spirit is the bond of love between the Father and the Son. This is the mystery of the Most Holy Trinity which we will be celebrating next Sunday. God is one and God is three. Humans are made in the image and likeness of this Trinitarian Communion of Love. We are not individuals doing our own thing, like cancer cells in a body, but we are joined to one another through the Spirit, the bond of love in the Trinity. The human family was created for a harmonious unity that reflects Trinitarian love. Sin breaks that unity and so Jesus breathes on His Body, the Church, the breath of mercy, the Holy Spirit.
Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of all the faithful so that we may truly be one and reveal the one, true God who is Love itself to the world!