Reflections 31st May 2020

A Reflection for Pentecost Sunday

JN 7: 37-39 (

Comparisons or images help us to understand something that is difficult or unfamiliar. The following example, to help us understand the Holy Spirit, is a good one: wind, fire, (today’s First Reading) a dove descending (Jesus’s baptism) and two from St. Paul, where he calls the Holy Spirit a “first instalment” and a “seal”:

But it is God who establishes us with you in Christ and has anointed us, 
by putting his seal on us and giving us his Spirit in our hearts as a first instalment.

(2 Cor 1:21-22).

I often thought that if Paul was alive today, he would use a modern example, say electricity.  In reality he did so when he says:

  • so that in the power of the Holy Spirit you may be rich in hope” (Rom 14:13),
  • by the power of signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God” (Rom 15:18) and
  • to demonstrate the convincing power of the Spirit. (1 Cor 2:3). 

Fire and wind, in particular, are wonderful sources of power. Recent Australian wildfires and a litany of Atlantic storms are extreme examples. 

Whatever the image, the results on Pentecost were extraordinary. The disciples, who had been hiding, scared of the civil and religious authorities, who had abandoned Jesus in his hour of greatest need, were the very ones who – after the Spirit descended on them with a powerful wind and tongues of fire – burst out and courageously preached his crucifixion, death, resurrection and ascension. Those listening also were inspired by the Holy Spirit and they accepted their preaching.  And, when they could not continue doing it in Jerusalem, they went elsewhere – Judea, Galilee and Samaria, Antioch and on to Rome, the capital of the world. 

Francis Libermann, the second founder of our Congregation, was very conscious of the power of the Spirit and of our need to be led by it:

Divine Spirit, I wish to be before you as a light feather,
so that your breath may carry me off where it wishes
and that I may never offer it the least resistance.

In these days of the COVID-19 pandemic, we cannot go to church to worship or pray together. However, even when we are under lock-down in our own “upper room”, we can make ourselves present to the Spirit anywhere and anytime and we can pray that the Spirit of the Lord may be on us today as it was on Jesus when he began his ministry in the synagogue in Nazareth.

Martin Kelly C.S.Sp. – From Co. Clare and an ex-student of Rockwell College, Fr. Martin is the Provincial of the Spiritans in Ireland. On mission in Ethiopia for just under 30 years, he also worked in formation in Ireland for a decade and as Director of World Missions Ireland.