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Sunday, May 24, 2015

In the months following the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the multiplication of Christ’s followers was achieved through the work of God’s grace and the Holy Spirit. Those old wineskins: the Sadducees, the Pharisees, the Roman empire, the pagan religions, were not what the new wine of Christianity was to be kept in. In the Baptism of new Christian followers, there was no distinction between Jewish, gentile, pagan or other religious background. All were converted to the one true faith, receiving the Holy Spirit in the words of Baptism. The ultimate transformation of that tragic day on Calvary where the Son of God was brutally murdered, to a joyful resurrection in the fifty days after Easter, is marked by Pentecost. Pentecost, where the Holy Spirit descended on the apostles and all of the world, was a practical event, the culmination of the resurrection of Christ, where death and sin are overcome. Not even the scheming of the Pharisees, Sadducees and human governance at the time could stop the ‘Jesus movement’.

The gifts of the Holy Spirit are wisdom, insight, counsel, power, knowledge and fear of the Lord. These gifts enable all of us to grow in virtue, and indeed carry on the work which Jesus proclaimed, as recorded in the Gospels. The work of the Holy Spirit gives Christians the power to expose and resist evil in the world, as well as the power to forgive and make the world holy. No matter what smoke and mirrors the devil might put up, we have received the Holy Spirit through our Baptism and we are strengthened through the grace of God when we confess our sins and attend the Holy Mass.

I have heard Catholics say they often wish the Mass was more like the ‘pentecostal’ churches in the United States, where choirs belt out cheerful hymns and the liturgy is filled with zeal. No matter how boring the Catholic Mass might feel in some parishes, the great error would be to think the Holy Spirit is somehow ignoring these congregations! We are strengthened in our faith by regular attendance at Mass, and by receiving the sacraments. Our mission as Christians would falter if we give in to the sin of acedia, that is a state of not caring about one’s condition in the world. Acedia can lead to a state of being unable to perform one’s duties in life, a spiritual sorrow which becomes a mortal sin when reason consents to flight from the Divine Good. In other words, a state where we do not care that we do not care. The sinful element is also when something prevails over the work of the Holy Spirit, particularly when the rewards are slow to appear (e.g. scientific research, long term marriages, religious life). We can reflect today on Pentecost Sunday, as a time to revitalise our lives and stamp out the mortal sin of acedia in our lives, in our parishes and in the work we do.

Luke Doherty O.P.

Fr Luke Doherty is assistant priest at Holy Cross, Leicester, and Catholic Chaplain to HMP Leicester |  luke.doherty@english.op.org


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