Last Sunday we celebrated the Solemnity of the Lord’s Ascension. Before ascending into heaven, Jesus gave his parting words to his apostles, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
On Pentecost, Jesus fulfilled his promise. He sent the Holy Spirit from the sky like a strong wind that filled the room where the apostles and the community gathered around Mary. Appearing like tongues of fire, the Spirit rested on the each of them.
There and then, the apostles were transformed from fearful fugitives to fiery evangelizers. They came out of their hiding place and began to preach Jesus boldly to all peoples. They were emboldened and enabled to fulfill their mission because they were filled with the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit is the power of God himself. We read in Genesis that when the Spirit hovered over the formless earth and dark abyss, God created the universe. Throughout the Old Testament, we read of the Spirit empowering the leaders and prophets of Israel to fulfill their task of leading God’s people. Jesus himself was “anointed with the Holy Spirit” in the river Jordan before starting his ministry. The Acts of the Apostles record numerous miracles worked by the Holy Spirit through the apostles and the Christian community.
Today the Holy Spirit continues to work wonders in the Church. Take for instance the Eucharist. At Mass, we witness the miracle of transubstantiation when the bread and wine on the altar are turned into the Body and Blood of Christ. This is the work of the Holy Spirit. Before consecration the priest lays his hands over the bread and wine and prays, “Make holy therefore these gifts, we pray, [O Lord], by sending down your Spirit upon them like the dewfall, so that they may become for us the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
The Holy Spirit works wonders in the sacraments and in each of us, if we only allow him. In baptism, we received the Holy Spirit and became his temples. (1Cor 6:19) The Holy Spirit however comes not only to live in us but more importantly to work in us. He fills us with his presence and power to enable us to live as children of God and fulfill our mission of continuing Christ’s work of salvation.
Every time I administer the sacrament of Confirmation on our children and young people, I explain the significance of the sacrament by telling them that to confirm means to strengthen (make firm). In confirmation God sends the Holy Spirit in order to be their strength. God knows how hard it is to live as his children. At their age, they are surrounded by all sorts of challenges and temptations, like barkada, vices, internet, etc. At the same time, they start to experience more intensely the force of concupiscence within them. They themselves realize that they do not have the strength to overcome the evil forces on their own. For this reason, God sends them his own power, the Holy Spirit, so that they can say with St. Paul, “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” (Ph 3:14)*