By Fr José LaBoy, LC
The Easter season ends with the celebration of the Solemnity of Pentecost. Even though it is an ending of a liturgical period, the mystery itself marks a beginning: the life and mission of the Church.
Pentecost is the apex of the Paschal mystery, since Christ makes it very clear that the goal of his “going away” (his death, Resurrection and Ascension) is to send the Holy Spirit. This is what we find Jesus saying in the last Supper discourse: “But I tell you the truth, it is better for you that I go. For if I do not go, the Advocate will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.” (Jn 16:7)
It is not enough, though, to consider the mystery of Pentecost in the light of the Paschal mystery. It is necessary to see it in the light of God’s plan of salvation. St. Paul, tells us in his Letter to the Ephesians that God, the Father or our Lord Jesus Christ “in love, destined us for adoption to himself through Jesus Christ.” God the Son became man so that we might become children of God.
The mystery of the Incarnation is the underlying mystery of all the mysteries of Christ. Therefore to better understand the mystery of Pentecost we need to see it’s relation to the Incarnation. In his Letter to the Galatians, St. Paul explains: “When the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son born of a woman, born under the law, so that we might receive adoption. As proof that you are children, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts crying ‘Abba, Father!’ So you are no longer a slave but a child, and if a child than also an heir, through God.” (Gal 4:4-7)
Pope John Paul the II in one of his catecheses on the Holy Spirit, titled Pentecost: God’s Gift of Divine Adoption (General audience, July 26, 1989), explains how in this text of the Letter to the Galatians we find the goal of the mystery of Pentecost:
“Here we touch the goal of the mystery expressed in Pentecost: the Holy Spirit descends ‘into our hearts’ as the Spirit of the Son, he enables us to cry out together with Christ; ‘Abba, Father.’” He goes further and explains that “this cry expresses the fact that not only are we called to be sons of God, ‘but we are so indeed,’ as the Apostle John emphasizes in his First Letter (3:1). Because of this gift, we truly share in the sonship proper to the Son of God, Jesus Christ. This is the supernatural truth of our relationship with Christ, a truth that can be known only by those who ‘have known the Father’ (cf. 1 Jn 2:13)”.
It is exactly the indwelling of the Holy Spirit that allows us, members of the Church of Christ, to fulfill our supernatural vocation to be joint heirs with Christ, since we are children of God. St. Paul in his Letter to the Romans reminds us that “those who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you received a spirit of adoption, through which you cry, ‘Abba, Father!’ The Spirit itself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if only we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.” (Rom 8: 14-17).
Explaining these verses Pope John Paul II states the following:
“The Spirit reproduces in man the image of the Son, thus establishing the intimate fraternal bond with Christ which leads us to ‘cry out with him, Abba! Father!’ The Holy Spirit ‘breathes’ in the hearts of believers as the Spirit of the Son, establishing in man the divine sonship in the likeness of Christ and in union with Christ. The Holy Spirit forms the human spirit from within according to the divine exemplar which is Christ. Thus through the Spirit, the Christ known in the pages of the Gospel becomes the ‘life of the soul.’ In thinking, loving, judging, acting and even in feeling, man is conformed to Christ and becomes ‘Christlike.’”
Let us follow Pope John Paul II’s suggestion to those that were present at his audience and “never tire of repeating and meditating on this marvelous truth of our faith.”