Today we celebrate the Feast of Pentecost, the day on which the Holy Spirit was poured out upon the Apostles, the Blessed Mother and the others gathered in the Upper Room. It was 50 days after the Resurrection of Christ on Easter, and nine days after his Ascension. Pentecost is an ongoing reality in the Church. It is the Big Bang of the Church, which launched the Church into being, and which continues the work of the Church throughout history. What difference does it make that this great explosion of the Spirit took place?
Last Sunday, as we celebrated the Feast of the Ascension of the Lord, we heard Jesus promise that the Apostles would receive power when they were baptized with the Holy Spirit. You will remember that the word translated from Greek into English as “power” was “dynamis.” This word is the root of our word dynamite, and I encouraged us to hear it as, “You will receive spiritual dynamite when the Holy Spirit comes upon you!”
In Saint Paul’s Letter to the Galatians, in chapter five, he teaches us what are called the “Fruits of the Holy Spirit.” These are the effects of the Spirit in our lives. They are what happens when the Holy Spirit explodes with the force of spiritual dynamite. The nine Fruits of the Spirit in Saint Paul’s teachings are: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control.”
These may seem to be ordinary virtues that many people have, including those who have no faith at all and no relationship with Christ. And this is true. Even atheists might possess some or all of these traits. But they are taken to new levels once the explosion of the Holy Spirit takes place.
Let’s take love, for example. Almost everyone, with the exception of true narcissists and sociopaths, has a capacity for love. This is the “natural” love of family and friends, and the erotic and romantic love that partners feel for one another. In English, we use this one word ”love” to describe our love for our family, our friends, our spouses, our cars, our houses. We may love to ski, to hike, to listen to music, to read, to cook, etc. We may love certain cultures and foods. In Greek, there are a number of words for love that speak of different realities.
The word “philia” refers to the love we have for our family and friends, our neighbors and acquaintances. It is the root of the word Philadelphia, which is the City of Brotherly Love. The word “eros” refers to the sexual and romantic love between spouses and partners. These are “natural” loves.
But the love that is spoken of in the Bible, the love that we are called to as Christians, uses a different Greek word. That word is “agape,” which means to love as God loves. This is a love, not only of those close to us or familiar to us. It is love of the stranger, as well. It even includes love of the enemy. God does not love us because we are good. He loves us because He is good. God loves because that is who He is. His love is not influenced by any outside realities. That would make God’s love conditional. God’s love is completely unconditional. By the power of the Holy Spirit at work in us, we can go beyond those natural loves, and we can learn to love as God loves.
The same is true for joy. There is a natural joy that anyone can know, but there is a supernatural joy which we achieve by the power of the Spirit. This is a joy that we can know, even in the midst of tragedy and loss. We can know that peace “which is beyond all understanding” because of the Holy Spirit. This is true for all of the Fruits of the Holy Spirit. Each is a natural trait or virtue that is taken to a far deeper and more powerful state by the Spirit. This is what holiness looks like. It is what sanctity is all about.
As we celebrate this great feast of Pentecost, pray that the spiritual dynamite of the Spirit will fill you with the power of his love.
— Fr. Mike Comer