Diocese of Tyler

Pentecost Reflection: Overcoming our lukewarmness in the faith

A window of yellow alabaster is illuminated at its centre with an image of the Dove of the Holy Spirit. This is above the Cathedra Petri or "Chair of St. Peter" altar at St. Peter's Basilica. The altar was created by Bernini. Bernini created a large bronze throne in which it was housed, raised high on four looping supports held effortlessly by massive bronze statues of four Doctors of the Church, Saints Ambrose and Augustine representing the Latin Church and Athanasius and John Chrysostom, the Greek Church. The four figures are dynamic with sweeping robes and expressions of adoration and ecstasy.

In St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican, as soon as you enter the magnificent church, something bright and beautiful can be seen through the baldacchino, all the way in the apse.  It is a beautiful window of the dove – who represents the Holy Spirit – shining forth into the church.  This window was designed by Gian Lorenzo Bernini, but it is actually not stained-glass.  It is alabaster from Bohemia — a very precious, translucent marble.  It shows that the Holy Spirit is the One Who is in charge, the One Who guides the Church, and the One Who gives us supernatural life.

Today the holy Church celebrates the Solemnity of Pentecost.  The name “Pentecost” comes from the Greek word for “fiftieth.”  It is exactly fifty days since the resurrection of our redeemer, Jesus Christ.  Like Easter, Pentecost is tied to a Jewish Feast, Shavuot, which celebrates becoming God’s People and accepting God’s Law.  Pentecost is our celebration of becoming the New People of God and having His Law written on our hearts.  But also from a practical point of view, Shavuot was a perfect time for the Holy Spirit to descend on the Apostles and Our Lady because it was a pilgrimage festival; many Jews and Gentile converts from other countries were in Jerusalem during this time to receive this promised gift.  Therefore, Pentecost is also a celebration of the universality of the Catholic Church.

Jesus promised to St. Peter and the Apostles that He would send them the Holy Spirit to guide them into all truth.  This stable gift of Jesus to His Church is not a thing, but a Person: the Holy Spirit Himself.  He proceeds from the Father and the Son.  He is their eternal, mutual love.  He knows the Father and the Son perfectly, and so he alone is able to guide the Church into the full truth.

But which truth?  Yes, all truths – all doctrines – reflect the Truth.  The Truth we seek is none other than the Person of Jesus Christ.  The Holy Spirit is promised to lead us always to Jesus Christ, to sanctify us with the sacraments, and to guide the leadership of the Church in constantly teaching the truth in doctrine and morals.  The Holy Spirit is also the heart of the Church’s mission to evangelize all nations.

So, why have we not done that?  Well, it is partly hardness of heart in the world, but also it is partly our own lukewarmness in the faith.  Whatever our weaknesses are, we must surrender them to the Holy Spirit so that we can be completely His to evangelize the world: starting in our towns, starting in our parishes, starting in the family — starting with ourselves.  Come Holy Spirit, fill us with the fire of your love!

– Rev. Nolan Lowry, STL, is Pastor of St. Edward Parish in Athens, Texas.