Yesterday in the Church we celebrated Pentecost; the coming of the Holy Spirit and the beginning of the Church. It must have been incredible to be in that room when the Holy Spirit manifested Himself so fully in the world as tongues of fire and a great noise of rushing wind. I can only imagine what it was like to be in the room having seen the risen and ascended Lord, knowing your mission to spread the gospel, yet still living in fear of death for speaking the name of Jesus. I’m sure there were countless discussions and arguments over what to do with their commission and how to begin their mission. Suddenly, a huge noise rises in the room “like the rush of a mighty wind,” like the sound of a fighter jet flying over, and tongues of fire come to rest on their heads. All of them were overcome with awe and fear of God so much so that they left their fear of the world and death behind them. They bust open the doors and began to proclaim the risen Lord in many languages to the same people who had threatened to kill them. How then did this new-found audience react to this magnificent, Spirit filled preaching of the Apostles…? “They have had too much new wine!” (Acts 2:13). They’re drunk!
Peter, as the leader of the group, defends the Apostles alleged drunkenness. The original Catholic gentleman, Peter himself, does not condemn the drunkenness but rather cites the hour of the day. “These people are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning” (Act 2:15). Peter is my kind of guy… leaves his options open. Who’s to say 9 p.m. won’t be a different story? We can discuss the virtues and morality of drunkenness some other time, however, this reaction to the moving of the Holy Spirit brings up some interesting questions: How does the Holy Spirit work in us? What does He do? Does He make us drunk?
I always laugh about the sacrament of Confirmation being the most anti-climactic of all the sacraments. All this prep and organization leads up to a poke on the forehead and a hand shake. Of course, God’s grace is acting through the sacrament, but the babies at baptism get a free shower… all confirmandis receive is a few extra zits for their trouble. The first confirmation at Pentecost had tongues of fire and they thought they were drunk. Where was this after my confirmation?
I’m assuming many of us have never spoken in tongues, picked up snakes without consequence, been slain in the Spirit, or drunk in the Spirit. So what the heck does the Spirit do? The simple answer would be everything. Thomas Aquinas calls Him “the hidden origin of things, impulse of motion, holiness of life, and subtleness of substance.” That’s a dense job title. Aquinas tells us that the Holy Spirit is our origin, motion, and holiness. He is the way in which we have our being and become Holy; therefore the Spirit is always working in us by the fact of our being. The fact that we know Jesus at all is due to the Spirit. It is His job to reveal the Son to us (CCC 689). It is through the Spirit that we have the propensity to know, love, and serve Jesus. This can manifest in greater or lesser way depending upon our participation with the Holy Spirit.
I tell every confirmation class that I’ve ever had that the sacrament is not a magic trick! The Holy Spirit will show up in our lives, however, it is up to us to participate with Him. In the Psalm today we heard “Lord, send out your Spirit, and renew the face of the earth.” The Holy Spirit has the ability to renew the face of the Earth through us. The Holy Spirit is actively working through us to renew the face of the Earth in the name of Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit wants to work through our entire being as the hidden origin of things and impulse of motion to enact that renewal. Not by making us drunk, but by making us fully alive. We can remain average by not participating with the Holy Spirit or we can receive fullness of life through the Spirit. “The glory of God is man fully alive” because man fully alive is man filled with the Holy Spirit! (shout out to St Irenaeus)
The Apostles were accused of drunkenness because they were acting weird; weird in the eyes of the world. This kind of reaction is nothing new to those people filled with the Holy Spirit. St Francis, Bl Charles de Foucauld, lay missionaries, and families with 8+ kids are no stranger to being called weird. All of these individuals (and many more) are allowing the Holy Spirit to work through them to renew the face of the earth. The Holy Spirit wants to act in all of us as members of the Church that began on the day of Pentecost. The Spirit gives us the ability to be great just as the saints are great, but only if we participate with Him. This greatness will seem odd to the world… maybe even a little like drunkenness, however, this first seemingly drunk sermon was actually the beginning of the greatness of the Church. So, get a little drunk on the Holy Spirit and allow Him to make you a little weird in the eyes of the world!
Come Holy Spirit, renew the hearts of the faithful and renew the face of the Earth!