The great Feast of Pentecost heralds two great truths of our Faith. First, it is the birth of the Church. Second, the Church is the Temple of the Holy Spirit. He dwells within us. Let me explain.
The descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Church at Pentecost did not inaugurate the Church. It already existed but Pentecost was the moment when the Church was born with power form on high. It is a little like when a child is born. The child already exists in the womb long before its birth, well, normally nine months. This is a fundamental aspect to the whole debate about Abortion. We can talk of woman’s right to decide but what exactly is she deciding about? Clearly life begins at conception, not at birth, and it is never right to take life from another: whether that is a child in the womb or a pensioner dying in a hospital we none of us has the right to decide when life begins or ends.
Not that life is ever as black and white as this. On no. Life is complicated, partly through our own meddling, but partly because we decide that we know better than God. We can easily lose sight of the fact that the Holy Spirit is Christ’s first gift to the Church. The Holy Spirit is, for each and every one of us, the guiding light who shows us the way to our salvation. How often do we rely upon His guidance? Let me give you one simple expression of what I mean. Just before I preach, well, just before I ever address people as a priest I am humbled to recognise that it is not me who brings the wisdom of God. It is, of course, the Holy Spirit. Before ever I preach, therefore, I always mutter under my breath: “Come, Holy Spirit.”
Now you will notice that I almost always have my homily written out and whilst I try not to bore you by reading it, I have yet to gain the courage that the Spirit will fill me with His words and, therefore, I rely on myself. I am not perfect. So, still I ask for His assistance. Come, Holy Spirit. Today, I hope you will join me in saying Happy Birthday to the Church and to helping her to open her first birthday present: The Holy Spirit. Let Him rule in your heart and you will be ever so pleased with the result.
When we let the Spirit course through our lives, more dependent upon him do we become than the air which we breathe. We come to know that all is gift and it is all from Him. We become what we are: temples of the Holy Spirit. As the Church is guided by the Spirit, and, therefore, we can say she is infallible, in the same way the Spirit cannot be fallible, so we can rely upon the Church to guide us in our need. When we face difficult situations, difficult decisions and do not know how we are to live our lives, let the Church be our guide.
Again, it’s not easy. Lord knows that we find it difficult to give up control of our lives and to trust that the Church will not err. If, like me, you’re thinking this: the Church is surely just men who tell us what to do, then we have missed the point. The Church is not men in Rome, it is you and I. It is we, the children of God; the heirs of the Father and co-heirs with Christ. We are the Church.
Let us stand united in the Spirit and let him rule in our lives.
Come, Holy Spirit, and renew the face of the earth.