Welcome him today. Both ways bring his peace.
The Holy Spirit comes in two ways in the readings for this Sunday, Pentecost Sunday.
He also comes in two ways to each of us, bringing something very different in each kind of visit.
First, there is the private, person-to-person visit of the Spirit after the Resurrection.
The drama of Pentecost comes in the first reading from the Acts of the Apostles. But the Gospel records an earlier, no less important, event:
Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you. … As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”
This is a remarkably intimate gesture. Jesus comes to his friends where they are, tells them to have peace, and breathes on them. His breath is the breath of God, and it confers the Holy Spirit, the animating principle of their spiritual life.
This the same encounter we have in the blessed Sacrament, when Christ comes to each of us in Communion, where his flesh is “given life and giving life through the Holy Spirit.”
In these intimate visits, the Spirit leaves his stamp on each of us uniquely.
When you experience this kind of visit by the Holy Spirit, you realize you are entirely known and utterly unique.
In his letter to the Romans, read at the vigil, Paul explains why that is. The Holy Spirit is not “a spirit of slavery” but ”a Spirit of adoption, through whom we cry, ‘Abba, Father!’”
In the Spirit, you realize that God himself made you, shaped the depths in your soul unlike any other soul, with a shape that exists for him.
St. Paul puts it this way in the second reading of Pentecost Day: “To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit.”
He explains, “There are different kinds of spiritual gifts but the same Spirit; there are different forms of service but the same Lord; there are different workings but the same God who produces all of them in everyone.”
This intimacy with the Holy Spirit is quiet and hidden and tailored. He brings ease to the weary, cools the tempted and consoles the sorrowful.
There is another kind of visit from the Holy Spirit, though.
The second way the Holy Spirit comes is all about uniting us, not singling us out.
Compare the gentle breath of Jesus in the Upper Room to what happens in the Upper Room on Pentecost Day: “Suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house in which they were.” Fire “parted” and came to rest on each of them.
What happens next is extraordinary:
Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven staying in Jerusalem. At this sound, they gathered in a large crowd, but they were confused because each one heard them speaking in his own language.
Before, the Spirit came to each in a singular way, with a specialized task. Here, the Spirit comes to them all and makes their differences go away.
Other readings compare it to the world before the Tower of Babel angered God, the thundering voice of God choosing the Jews from Mount Sinai, bones returning to life together in Ezekiel, or the nation of prophets foreseen in Joel.
This is the uniting power of the Holy Spirit, the power of the Holy Spirit to remind us that we aren’t so special after all, tie us together, and make us no longer a collection of individuals but an army, a unit, a people, a Church.
This is a supernatural reality, but it is also very familiar and human.
We have each had lunch alone with a family member — a son or daughter, aunt or cousin. There, we tailor our words to each other and connect in an intimate way.
Then, we have sat with the same individual at a table full of people, and there, with the whole family together weighing in, we have bonded in an equally powerful way.
There are very specific, named ways the Holy Spirit does this in the Church.
The Holy Spirit is the quiet voice of conscience in each of us. But he is also the mighty voice of the moral teachings of the Church.
He comes to each of us in the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, granting us personal wisdom, insight and knowledge. But he also comes in the seven sacraments, guaranteed channels of supernatural grace.
He inspires our personal prayer but also the Bible; our personal devotions but also the Liturgy; individual holiness but also the canonization tradition in the Church.
So welcome the Holy Spirit today. Welcome him in the thundering hymns at church and in the quiet prayers by your bedside. Both bring his peace.