The scriptures for the Feast of Pentecost describe the coming of the Holy Spirit in dramatic terms. Strong winds and tongues of fire come upon the disciples of Jesus in the Upper Room, the Cenacle, fifty days after the resurrection of Jesus. They’re filled with energy and joy. It seems like an unrepeatable experience.
Then, immediately, confidently, they preached the gospel to people from the ends of the earth who are amazed at their new knowledge and new words
Certainly the Holy Spirit gave them a burst of new enthusiasm that day. We marvel–as their first listeners did– how these ordinary Galileans were transformed by the gifts they were given. Peter eventually made it to Rome. John may have gotten to Ephesus in Asia Minor. Maybe Thomas got to India. Inspired by the Holy Spirit, “their message went out to all the earth.” Transformed, they began a universal church centered on Jesus Christ.
But, like the other mysteries of our faith, Pentecost is repeatable, on-going. It’s not one burst of enthusiasm, a jump-start never to happen again. Without the strong wind or tongues of fire we experience the Holy Spirit too, usually in quieter ways.
Behind the Chair of St. Peter in the Vatican Basilica, the artist Bernini, created a beautiful alabaster window where a steady light pours into the dark church through the image of the Holy Spirit, in the hovering form of a dove.
Day by day, the light comes quietly through the window. Day by day, the Holy Spirit dispenses light for the moment, graces for the world that is now. As Jesus promised, the Holy Spirit dwells with us. The Spirit remains with us as Jesus’ final gift.
“Lord, send out your Spirit and renew the face of the earth…Come, Holy Spirit, and fill our hearts with the fire of your love.”