Pentecost and the Gifts of the Holy Spirit

El Greco's Pentecost (detail)
El Greco’s Pentecost (detail)


 Central idea: Pentecost. Doctrine: Gifts of the Holy Spirit. Practical application: The Gift of Piety.

Lectionary 63.

Central Idea: Pentecost, the Gift of the Holy Spirit

Reading 1 Acts 2:1-11

When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled,
they were all in one place together.
And suddenly there came from the sky
a noise like a strong driving wind,
and it filled the entire house in which they were.
Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire,
which parted and came to rest on each one of them.
And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit
and began to speak in different tongues,
as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim.

Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven staying in Jerusalem.
At this sound, they gathered in a large crowd,
but they were confused
because each one heard them speaking in his own language.
They were astounded, and in amazement they asked,
“Are not all these people who are speaking Galileans?
Then how does each of us hear them in his native language?
We are Parthians, Medes, and Elamites,
inhabitants of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia,
Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia,
Egypt and the districts of Libya near Cyrene,
as well as travelers from Rome,
both Jews and converts to Judaism, Cretans and Arabs,
yet we hear them speaking in our own tongues
of the mighty acts of God.”

  • Each disciple in that upper room received the one Holy Spirit who chose to make his presence known through their sense of sound with a noise “like a strong driving wind” and their sense of sight through an appearance “like tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them.” The immediate effect was this ability to speak in different languages “of the mighty acts of God” such that people from many lands could hear them in their native languages.
  • When the Holy Spirit is given to the Church, He is given to individual members of the Church. So, what St. Paul says to the Corinthians comes about: “To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit.” The One Spirit manifests himself in many different ways to benefit the members of the Church and persons outside the Church.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 104:1, 24, 29-30, 31, 34

R. Lord, send out your Spirit, and renew the face of the earth or Alleluia

Bless the LORD, O my soul!
O LORD, my God, you are great indeed!
How manifold are your works, O Lord!
the earth is full of your creatures;

May the glory of the LORD endure forever;
may the LORD be glad in his works!
Pleasing to him be my theme;
I will be glad in the LORD.

If you take away their breath, they perish
and return to their dust.
When you send forth your spirit, they are created,
and you renew the face of the earth.

  • The Psalmist prays, “May the glory of the LORD endure forever.”
    • Is he praying that God always exist? No. “The glory of the LORD” is God’s works, his creation (CCC 293-294). We are the part of God’s creation that matters the most to us and, Revelation tells us, matters the most to him.
    • The Psalmist prays, Let your creation keep existing. Let human beings keep living. Even though we perish in death, you can recreate us. Be glad in your works, LORD, by renewing our lives.

Reading 2 1 Cor 12:3b-7, 12-13

Brothers and sisters:
No one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit.

There are different kinds of spiritual gifts but the same Spirit;
there are different forms of service but the same Lord;
there are different workings but the same God
who produces all of them in everyone.
To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit
is given for some benefit.

As a body is one though it has many parts,
and all the parts of the body, though many, are one body,
so also Christ.
For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body,
whether Jews or Greeks, slaves or free persons,
and we were all given to drink of one Spirit.

  • The Holy Spirit gives us the power to live the new life that Christ has won for us. One name for this new life is holiness. It is the moral perfection of human life–of doing good and not doing evil. It is also a share in God’s own life.
  • Every baptized person has this gift of the Holy Spirit. “To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit.”
  • Because the one Holy Spirit is at work in countless human beings in countless unique circumstances, the gifts of the Holy Spirit are also too many for any of us to count, although they are traditionally enumerated as seven, the number which symbolizes perfection.

Sequence – Veni, Sancte Spiritus

Come, Holy Spirit, come!
And from your celestial home
Shed a ray of light divine!

Come, Father of the poor!
Come, source of all our store!
Come, within our bosoms shine.

You, of comforters the best;
You, the soul’s most welcome guest;
Sweet refreshment here below;

In our labor, rest most sweet;
Grateful coolness in the heat;
Solace in the midst of woe.

O most blessed Light divine,
Shine within these hearts of yours,
And our inmost being fill!

Where you are not, we have naught,
Nothing good in deed or thought,
Nothing free from taint of ill.

Heal our wounds, our strength renew;
On our dryness pour your dew;
Wash the stains of guilt away:

Bend the stubborn heart and will;
Melt the frozen, warm the chill;
Guide the steps that go astray.

On the faithful, who adore
And confess you, evermore
In your sevenfold gift descend;

Give them virtue’s sure reward;
Give them your salvation, Lord;
Give them joys that never end. Amen.

Gospel Jn 20:19-23

On the evening of that first day of the week,
when the doors were locked, where the disciples were,
for fear of the Jews,
Jesus came and stood in their midst
and said to them, “Peace be with you.”
When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side.
The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.
Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you.
As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”
And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them,
“Receive the Holy Spirit.
Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them,
and whose sins you retain are retained.”

  • Christ greeted the disciples with the words “Peace be with you” because there was no longer a reason to be afraid, or anxious, or suspicious, or guilty, or sneaky. The tyranny of sin and death that causes all the turmoil of life is now vanquished by Christ’s atonement and resurrection.
  • The peace of Christ’s victory is transferred from him to us by the Holy Spirit. Christ dramatically illustrated this by breathing on the disciples.

Doctrine: Gifts of the Holy Spirit

  • While the Holy Spirit gives a wide variety of individual gifts for service to the Church, the traditional sevenfold gifts of the Holy Spirit are permanent habits that make it easy to follow the inspirations He gives us.
  • For each of the seven gifts here are two definitions—one for adults, followed by one written for third graders—and an example.
  • The gift of wisdom is a loving knowledge of God and everything that comes from and leads to him.[1]
    • WISDOM: the ability to respond to divine truths.[2]
      • I love the natural world not just because of its beauty and the good things I can receive from it but because (1) it is God’s gift to humanity, (2) in its own way it reflects some of the perfections of God, and (3) it is meant to draw us to God.
  • Understanding is the power which perfects our perception of the mysteries of the faith, enabling us to penetrate more deeply into the divine truths revealed by God.
    • UNDERSTANDING: the ability to recognize truth in the Catholic Faith.
      • I see the connection between these three statements: “This is my body . . . This is my blood,” and “Unless you eat my flesh and drink my blood you will have no life in you,” and “The Eucharist is the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Christ.”
  • The gift of counsel helps us make wise decisions promptly, correctly, and according to the will of God.
    • COUNSEL: the ability to make good decisions.
      • I have the impulse to do something but immediately reject it as wrong and don’t do it.
  • Fortitude makes us steadfast in the faith, constant in struggle, and faithful in perseverance.
    • FORTITUDE: means we have the courage to do what is right.
      • I refuse to tell a lie that might get me out of trouble or benefit me, but instead face the trouble that telling the truth will entail.
  • Knowledge enables us to be wise in using the things of this world.
    • KNOWLEDGE: the ability to judge from the viewpoint of eternity.
      • If a friend says let’s go to that party, the gift of knowledge can help me see whether that would really be a good thing or could harm me or others.
  • The gift of piety teaches us the meaning of divine filiation, the joyful supernatural awareness of being children of God and brothers and sisters of all mankind.
    • PIETY: means we have a deep love for God as our Father.
      • I want to greet God first thing each day because we love each other.
  • Fear of the Lord is respect for the all-powerful and loving God.
    • FEAR OF THE LORD: we understand the greatness of God and desire not to sin.
      • I don’t want to do anything that God disapproves of.

Practical Application: The Gift of Piety

  • We all have natural gifts we may never employ. We may not even know we have them.
  • We can also have supernatural gifts, not know it, and not employ them.
  • But those supernatural gifts can also be working in us without our knowledge. God is taking the initiative. We can thank God for this and ask him to do it even more.
    • This is what we just prayed in the Veni, Sancte Spiritus sequence. And can pray daily the “Come Holy Spirit” prayer.
  • On our part, one way we can begin to unwrap and to use the Gifts of the Holy Spirit is by simply doing the will of God as we see it. We have this opportunity at every waking moment.
  • Our own easiest entry into the Gifts of the Holy Spirit might by via the gift of piety.
    • If I often think about the truth that I am a child of God, and consider everything that truth might entail, I will also be happy to do the will of God my Father.
    • Fear of the Lord will make sense: Who wants to disappoint a good parent?
    • I will not be afraid of the gift of knowledge, which tells me the true importance of the good things of this world.
    • I will want fortitude, because I will want what God wants, not just what seems easiest in the moment.
    • I will not be afraid of the answers the Holy Spirit offers me in the gift of counsel.
    • I will want to be in the presence of God and to think about God and so can contemplate God and creation through the gifts of understanding and wisdom.
  • Due to original sin, we have the tendency to see God as our enemy who wants to take away from us the little that we have. The gift of piety helps us “get” that God is on our side and that he wants to guide us and bless us, best Father that he is.

[1] The definitions in bold are from the Didache Semester Series Our Moral Life in Christ.

[2] The definitions in caps are from the third grade text from the Ignatius Press Faith and Life Series.








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