The Holy Spirit is a Spirit of Transformation, Unity, Peace, and Forgiveness

by Susanna Mak
Pentecost Sunday

Acts 2:1-11

1 Corinthians 12:3B-7, 12-13

John 20:19-23

The whole Church rejoices in jubilation with resounding “Alleluia’s” and “happy birthdays” as we celebrate Pentecost this week. The moment when Jesus emerges through the locked doors of the “house where the disciples had met” is equally triumphant as it is shocking (Jn 20:19). This reminds me of the scene in “The Avengers: Endgames” (2019) when all the “disappeared” Avengers miraculously emerge from portals opening up all over the battlefields in the final and ultimate contest between good and evil. Both scenarios defy human logic: modern science tells us that it is almost impossible for mortals to return from the dead, walk through locked doors or appear out of thin air from another dimension. The breaking through of doors, or portals in the movie, is definitely not the “endgame” but what follows. At the end, the Avengers triumph over Thanos, the villain, despite fear, doubt or personal concerns; they persevere in their mission and push toward their final goal of saving humanity as a united body. Upon receiving the Holy Spirit, Jesus’ disciples are also commissioned to bring the good news to the world, that is, to bring the gifts of transformation, unity, peace, and forgiveness to the ends of the world.

This week’s readings highlight the unique qualities of the Holy Spirit. In the first reading, we witness how the Spirit transforms and renews: the Spirit comes crashing down onto the Apostles “like the rush of a violent wind”; appearing as “divided tongues … of fire” (Acts 2:2-3). This fire has sparked in their hearts and minds a renewed courage and determination to proclaim the Risen Christ and “God’s deeds of power” (Acts 2:11). This fire is so powerful that it melts away their resistance that is rooted in fear and has transformed them into evangelization “machines”, immediately speaking “in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability”, reaching out to people of all nations (Acts 2:4). After being touched by the Holy Spirit, they are empowered to bring the good news to all. Indeed, God “send[s] forth [His] Spirit “ to “renew the face of the earth” (Ps 104:30).

The second reading demonstrates how the Spirit not only brings “varieties of gifts” but more importantly, it brings unity. St. Paul explains that though there are varieties of “gifts”, “services”, and “activities”, it is the same “Spirit”, “Lord” and “God who activates all of them in everyone” (1Cor 12:4-6). All those who have been baptized are baptized into the one body of Christ, and “to each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good” (1Cor 12:7). Whether our gift is speaking or listening; walking or running; writing or interpreting; creating or fixing; giving or receiving; sowing or harvesting, we are one in Christ and are “all made to drink of the one Spirit” (1 Cor 12:13).

Finally, John’s account of the Pentecost event reveals that the Holy Spirit is a Spirit of peace and forgiveness. In the early days after Jesus’ death, the disciples lived in “fear of the Jews” behind locked doors (Jn 20:19). Yet, Christ’s presence among them dispels all their fears. The first thing Jesus offers to his disciples is a profound “Peace be with you” (Ibid). Then, Jesus also sends them on a mission, “As the Father has sent me, so I send you”; to proclaim forgiveness and reconciliation, “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained” (Jn 20: 21,23).

"No one can say 'Jesus is Lord' except by the Holy Spirit." "God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, 'Abba! Father!"' This knowledge of faith is possible only in the Holy Spirit: to be in touch with Christ, we must first have been touched by the Holy Spirit. He comes to meet us and kindles faith in us. By virtue of our Baptism, the first sacrament of the faith, the Holy Spirit in the Church communicates to us, intimately and personally, the life that originates in the Father and is offered to us in the Son. (CCC 683)

When we received the Holy Spirit through the Sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation, we, too, have been transformed and renewed, and are gifted with unity, peace, and forgiveness. The Spirit in us opens our hearts to God’s love so that we may become living signs of this love in the world.