Homily for the Solemnity of Pentecost
Here is a question for you: Has anyone ever seen the Holy Spirit? Has anyone ever watched the Holy Spirit, like you watch a movie?
The Holy Spirit has always been God, always the third Person of the Blessed Trinity, and He always will be. With the Father and the Son, the Holy Spirit dwells in unapproachable light for all eternity. With the Father and the Son, the Holy Spirit created the universe out of nothing. With the Father and the Son, the Holy Spirit sustains everything in existence. With the Father and the Son, the Holy Spirit called and guided the Chosen People of old.
Through all of this, the Holy Spirit remained utterly invisible. Divinity is, of course, inherently invisible to our eyes. In a sense, the Holy Spirit is especially invisible. The Holy Spirit remained invisible even at the moment when, by His power, the eternal Son was conceived as a human being in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
It was only at the Baptism of Christ that the Holy Spirit made Himself visible for a moment, in the form of a dove. He did so again on Pentecost–for a moment–when He made Himself visible as tongues of flame.
Then the Holy Spirit disappeared from sight again. So, the question is: O, Holy Spirit, why are you so inscrutably invisible?
There have been movies about the mission of the Son, like “Jesus of Nazareth” and “The Passion of the Christ.” Shouldn’t there be a movie about the mission of the Holy Spirit? Of course, since the Holy Spirit is invisible, the movie might be boring to a lot of people. It would be like a movie about sap keeping trees alive. Two hours of trees, with their branches swaying in the gentle breeze. Relaxing, maybe—pretty boring. The Holy Spirit’s mission is not to be dramatic, but to get people to heaven. More often than not, people get to heaven in un-dramatic ways.
Getting back to the missions of the second and third Persons of the Blessed Trinity…We know what the mission of the Son was. His mission was to assume human nature to Himself in order to save the human race and give us eternal life. The eternal Son made God visible by becoming man. Christ is the image of the invisible God. When He accomplished His mission, Christ ascended into heaven, vanishing from our sight for now, until He comes again in glory.
What is the mission of the Holy Spirit? The mission of the Holy Spirit is to make us holy, to unite us with the holy Body of Christ. The Holy Spirit made Himself visible for a moment on Pentecost, because it was the moment when He began His mission. It was the dawn of the age of grace.
Then He became invisible again, because grace is invisible, too. But our search for something visible is not altogether hopeless, because the invisible Holy Spirit gives us invisible grace through visible sacramental signs. Through water, oil, bread, wine, and the actions of priests, the Holy Spirit gives us grace and makes us holy.
By the power of the Holy Spirit, we can live in the state of grace. Being in a state of grace means that if I die, I will go to heaven—eventually anyway, once I get through Purgatory.
There is only one thing that can put a person into the state of grace: Holy Baptism. And there is only one thing that can take a person out of the state of grace: committing a mortal sin. Now, since baptized Christians have been known to commit mortal sins, the Lord has given us a way back to the baptismal font: the sacrament of Confession.
This is the fundamental mission of the Holy Spirit: giving us the state of grace. But of course there is much, much more. In addition to bestowing the state of grace, the Holy Spirit also outfits us with His seven gifts of wisdom, understanding, knowledge, counsel, piety, fortitude, and fear of the Lord. He prompts us and strengthens us throughout life. Every day the Holy Spirit works to help us avoid sin, do our duty, grow in holiness, and discern God’s plan so that we can faithfully do it. Also, the Holy Spirit commands the angels to minister to us.
Someday we will see the Holy Spirit in all His divine glory, along with the infinite glory of the Father, and the infinite glory of the Son. Until then, the Holy Spirit will remain invisible. There probably won’t be any blockbuster movies about Him, at least not on earth. Heaven will be one glorious, unending movie about the Holy Spirit.
The thing is: the Holy Spirit does not mind being invisible now. He does not want us to see Him. He wants us to see Christ. When we behold Christ, when we grasp that Christ is God, our Savior, our Lord, our model and guide—the Holy Spirit is working in us. As St. Paul put it: No one can say that Jesus is Lord, except by the Holy Spirit.
Thank you, O Holy Spirit, for Your tireless invisible labor. Thank you for faithfully executing Your mission to make us holy. Help us always to co-operate.