Our Lady Will Lead Us to the Holy Spirit
June 8, 2003 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Feast of Pentecost
Reading I (Acts 2:1-11)
Reading II (1 Corinthians 12:3b-7, 12-13)
Gospel (St. John 20:19-23)
In the second reading today, Saint Paul tells us that all of us have been baptized into the same body and all of us have been given to drink of the same Spirit. And he tells us in regard to the Holy Spirit that there is one Spirit but there are many different gifts of the Holy Spirit. We need to consider the work of the Holy Spirit. It always fascinates me to see the utter humility of God. When we stop to think about the patience of God and His humility, at the very beginning when Adam and Eve walked with God and over the generations that people forgot Who God even was, they began worshiping pagan gods. And so God had to choose for Himself one people from the face of the earth when initially all people were intended to know God and to know Him very intimately. Now the Lord had to choose one people and He had to show Himself all-powerful.
We recall the events on Mount Sinai, how God had to prove Himself to the people through signs and wonders. We recall, then, some thousand or fifteen hundred years later, when the prophet Elijah went to the exact same mountain and the same sorts of signs and wonders were occurring but God was not in any of them. But Elijah found God in the tiniest little breeze. God had made Himself known, and now He had pulled back as far as the extraordinary things go. He was present to His people always, but in a very hidden way. And when God chose to come into this world, one would think that it would be with trumpet blasts and all kinds of extraordinary events. But instead, God comes into this world clothed in our human nature, looking just like one of us, being born in a stable. The only ones who recognized Him initially were the most humble people on the face of the earth: the little shepherds and, of course, Our Blessed Lady and Saint Joseph.
God also sent His Holy Spirit into the world. Jesus told us in the Gospel that it is better for us if He leaves because if He does not leave the promised Paraclete would never come. We hear in the Acts of the Apostles in the first reading from today’s Mass that there was the sound of a strong driving wind, and suddenly tongues of fire descended upon the apostles and they began to speak as the Spirit gave them. The Holy Spirit spoke through them so that each person heard them speaking in their own language, even though they themselves were speaking in their own native language. And in the Gospel, Jesus breathed on His disciples and He told them to receive the Holy Spirit with the power to forgive sin. He tells us elsewhere in Saint John’s Gospel that the Holy Spirit will come to lead us into all truth. Jesus, of course, is the truth. And so the Holy Spirit is given to lead us to union with Jesus Christ. Saint Paul reminds us that we are temples of the Holy Spirit, that He dwells within each one of us.
Now when we look back at what happened on Pentecost day, that first Pentecost Sunday, we see the extraordinary events. There are little plays on words here that we would not recognize in English, but the word “wind” in Greek and the word “spirit” in Greek are one and the same; for instance, when Jesus says, “You hear the wind but you neither know where it comes from nor where it goes, so it is with the Holy Spirit Who blows where He wills and you know neither from where He comes nor where He goes.” In the Acts of the Apostles, we heard about the strong driving wind. It is the Greek word pneuma from where we get our English word “pneumonia” and words like that. “Wind” and “spirit” are the same. When Jesus breathed on His disciples, that again is the exact same word; even in English we have it as the same word. If a person expires, that means to breathe out. To inspire is to breathe in.
And so we have the Spirit Who is the breath. We see that right in the Book of Genesis. At the moment of creation, God created Adam from the dust of the earth but he did not have life. Then it says, “God breathed into him His Spirit.” So the Holy Spirit is that breath of God Who on the day of Pentecost was more like a strong driving wind, sort of the way things were on Mount Sinai when the Israelites first got there. He showed Himself in extraordinary ways so the people would believe and they would understand. But once He was clearly demonstrated, there was no longer any need for Him to show Himself in extraordinary ways. And so in time, just as it was with God at the beginning, the Holy Spirit receded into the background where He became merely a breath, something almost imperceptible. Yet we all know that without that breath we would have no life. So we recognize the absolute importance of the Holy Spirit for everything.
The Holy Spirit is the Spouse of Our Lady. It is the Holy Spirit Who overshadowed her so that the Incarnation of Christ could occur within her virginal womb. It is the same Holy Spirit Whom we call down upon the bread and the wine to change them into the very Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, something akin once again to the Incarnation where Christ becomes present among us in the fullness of His being. The Holy Spirit is given to us in His sevenfold gifts, and the fruits of the Holy Spirit are abundant within our lives. Yet we so often do not recognize Him because, like Elijah on Mount Sinai, He is just the tiniest little whisper, a breath.
The day is coming when there is going to be a New Pentecost and we are going to see things that have never been seen in the history of the world, extraordinary outpourings of the Holy Spirit that are going to make the greatest saints that the world has ever known with exception, I think, to Our Lady, Saint Joseph, and Saint John the Baptist. Beyond that, we are going to see the greatest saints that have ever been known in the history of the world.
Now whenever there is truth, there is going to be falsehood. The devil is the great imitator and he does everything he can to mock Christ and everything that the Lord does. So we need to be very careful because we have all kinds of people running around claiming all sorts of things for the Holy Spirit these days, really for the last forty years. We need to be very cautious about this because initially what appeared to be an extraordinary outpouring of the Holy Spirit back in the 1960’s has proven to be anything but. The Holy Spirit is given to lead us into all truth, and what has happened is that we live now in a society where the second largest Christian body are fallen-away Catholics. The largest Christian body is Catholics. The second largest body of Christian people are fallen-away Catholics, all because the Holy Spirit supposedly descended upon them and led them right out of the Church. That was not the Holy Spirit. There are numerous unholy spirits that are given to mock the true Spirit. We need to be very cautious.
When we look for signs and wonders and extraordinary things, the devil is always more than happy to provide them. God too can provide them without any problem, but that is not always the way He works. In fact, most often it is not. Recall the tiny whispering breeze, the little breath. That is not God manifesting Himself in extraordinary ways. What He is doing is asking us for extraordinary faith. When we cannot see the working of the Holy Spirit in clear manifestations, we have to believe and trust that He is there working in our hearts and leading us to Christ. What would indeed be easier is if there were great signs and flashing lights and bells and whistles and everything else. It would be obvious what we were supposed to do, but that would not require a lot of faith. To listen intently to a tiny whisper, to believe that your sins are forgiven when you do not feel anything different, to believe that Jesus Christ is truly present in the forms of bread and wine when you do not see any change requires much more faith than if there were extraordinary signs and wonders being worked.
With regard to the false manifestations, let me simply say this: The first person in the modern world to speak in tongues took place in Wichita, Kansas on January 1, 1901, the first day of a new century – a century which I may remind you, from the vision of Pope Leo XIII, was handed over to Satan. Within thirteen years, it had spread like wildfire out into California (where else?!). And by 1917, several churches had come together that were all these Pentecostal groups and they formed what is today called the Assemblies of God, which is the largest-growing Christian body – almost entirely fallen-away Catholics led by the Holy Spirit, supposedly, into the worship of self and away from Jesus Christ and His sacraments. It was not until the 1960’s that this entered into the Catholic Church, and people left in droves supposedly led by the Spirit. Now they were indeed led by a spirit; we need not discuss which one.
Following signs and wonders, following extraordinary things, people started looking not for the ordinary but for the extraordinary. They wanted to see things, they wanted to experience things, rather than doing things in the ordinary way that God has chosen. They wanted to go back to Moses on Mount Sinai with the lightning and the thunder and the earthquake and the wind and all of the extraordinary phenomenon. They forgot about Elijah and the tiny whispering sound. They wanted the strong driving wind and the tongues of fire coming down, and they forgot that Jesus breathed on His disciples. We need to be very careful.
There is indeed a New Pentecost coming. It has not yet occurred. We will see extraordinary things unknown in the history of the world only because they will be absolutely necessary at that time, because it will be a time unparalleled in human history where evil will have run its course and God will then raise up the greatest saints to crush the head of Satan through the power of Our Blessed Lady, the spouse of the Holy Spirit.
What we need is to remember the Holy Spirit Who is present within us in such a hidden way, in such a humble way. The easiest way to do that is to turn to His spouse who is so perfectly united to the Holy Spirit that God could become incarnate within her. Saint Maximilian Kolbe could call her the closest thing to the incarnation of the Holy Spirit. If we unite ourselves with Our Lady, since this is the time given over by Our Lord to His mother, she is truly led by the Holy Spirit and she will obtain for us that Spirit of God to lead us into all truth, to unite us to Jesus Christ, and to help us to live our faith in an extraordinary way rather than looking for extraordinary phenomenon in order to have faith. It is to do as Our Lady did. She never worked any miracles. Well, the greatest miracle was worked in her but she herself was not running around working miracles. She never spoke in tongues. She never did anything that seemed extraordinary, and yet she is the most extraordinary person to have walked the face of the earth led by the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Christ, the Holy Spirit Who is the soul of the Church.
The Church is the Person of Christ, and each one of us is a member of that Church and a member of Jesus Christ through Baptism. So each one of us has been given the Holy Spirit. He is there already in that humble, hidden form. All that remains for us is to recognize Him in that breath of God, in the tiniest little whisper, to listen to His voice and to obey. The easiest way is to look to her who has already done that. She will teach us how to hear His voice, she will teach us to obey, and she will lead us to the New Pentecost where the Holy Spirit will be given to make each one of us into the saints that God desires. The only way that can happen is if we are attentive now to the working of the Holy Spirit in our hearts and we are preparing ourselves by living an extraordinary faith in the love of God poured forth into our hearts through the Holy Spirit Who allows us to cry out, “Abba! Father!” and Who gives to us the grace to say that Jesus Christ is Lord.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.