Today’s solemnity is a milestone in the liturgical year, when we celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit.
As we read the Gospel account of these days, there is a stark difference between the disciples’ fear in the upper room, closed away and unsure what to do next, and their bursting forth into the world to spread the Gospel message. They were taken up by the fire that was set on them, and they were given new life.
We are participants in this dynamic change between dark and light, between inaction and the fire of proclamation.
How can this change in the disciples’ behaviour be described? Well, it is like the difference between day and night. Perhaps it is a little like someone who is unable to go out because they are ill, like someone who is stuck and unable to bring themselves out of their situation. Then, in an outpouring of grace, they are given the gift of the Spirit. With courage they cast off their old selves and live in a newer, more vibrant way as witnesses of the light. It is like two separate worlds.
But the life of faith is not that simple. For us, it feels more like we live both of these lives (the light, and the dark) at the same time. We are in a time of waiting even when we are confirmed in the Spirit. We must go through times of fear even though we are given the grace to be fearless. There’s no magic wand in the gift of the Spirit. No, this agent works alongside and through all the aspects of our humanity, without redacting our free will.
What is this but messy?! That’s how it can feel: a spiritual path of unimaginable grace fused with constant failure. That said, we can use today’s Gospel to remind us of one thing: that the gift of the Holy Spirit is just that: a gift, freely given. When on our road we come into the darkness, the fear, the helplessness of our condition, then we can remember what Jesus said: ‘If anyone loves me he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we shall come to him and make our home with him.’
Our part, then, is to love. It will almost certainly be a love that must pass through the rocky valley of our own humanity, a love that is not yet perfect. But if we love, despite our situation, then we shall have a home forever. If we love, then the Spirit shall be with us forever.
Jesus said to his disciples
‘If you love me you will keep my commandments.
I shall ask the Father,
and he will give you another Advocate
to be with you for ever,
‘If anyone loves me he will keep my word,
and my Father will love him,
and we shall come to him and make our home with him.
Those who do not love me do not keep my words.
And my word is not my own:
it is the word of the one who sent me.
‘I have said these things to you
while still with you;
but the Advocate, the Holy Spirit,
whom the Father will send in my name,
will teach you everything
and remind you of all I have said to you.’
A reading from the holy Gospel according to John 15:26-27, 16:12-15
Jesus said to his disciples
‘When the Advocate comes,
whom I shall send to you from the Father,
the Spirit of truth who issues from the Father,
he will be my witness.
And you too will be witnesses,
because you have been with me from the outset.
I still have many things to say to you
but they would be too much for you now.
But when the Spirit of truth comes
he will lead you to the complete truth,
since he will not be speaking as from himself
but will say only what he has learnt;
and he will tell you of the things to come.
He will glorify me,
since all he tells you
will be taken from what is mine.
Everything the Father has is mine;
that is why I said:
All he tells you
will be taken from what is mine’
The Gospel of the Lord.
Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ.