Readings (for Mass during the day):
Psa 104:1, 24, 29-30, 31, 34
1 Cor 12:3b-7, 12-13 or Gal 5:16-25
Jn 20:19-23 or Jn 15:26-27; 16:12-15
How are relationships created? What is the primary means by which people first encounter one another and connect? Through words. The use of words and language is unique to man among all the creatures. The Catholic novelist and essayist Walker Percy, who had a lifelong fascination with semiotics—the study of signs and how meaning is communicated—wrote that “the place where man’s singularity is there for all to see and cannot be called into question, even in a new age in which everything else is in dispute … is language”.
This is a very biblical notion, for Scripture is filled, from beginning to end, with examples of the unique power of words. Genesis opens with God creating the heavens and the earth by speaking: “Let there be light, and there was light.” And there was, we read, “a mighty wind sweeping over the waters,” that is, the Spirit of God (Gen 1:1-3). The words of God are always accompanied or communicated by the Spirit of God. When King David, on his death bed, stated, “The spirit of the Lord spoke through me; his word was on my tongue” (2 Sam 23:2), and similar statements were made by the prophets.
Jesus, in his great discourse in the Gospel of John, promised to send “the Advocate” and “Spirit of truth,” who would “testify to me” and “will guide you to all truth.” The Holy Spirit gives witness to the Son. And just as the Son came to do the will of the Father, the Holy Spirit speaks on behalf of the Father and Son: “He will not speak on his own, but he will speak what he hears, and will declare to you the things that are coming.” He glorifies the Son, just as the Son glorifies the Father, for the three divine Persons are completely and perfectly communicating themselves to one another. And that is the essence of love: total and perfect self gift.
Such is the perfect intimacy of the three Persons of the Trinity: the Father, rich in mercy, has sent the Son, who humbles himself to carry out the Father’s will in love; the Holy Spirit is sent by the Father to testify to the Son and to give him glory; the Son and Holy Spirit both, in turn, give everything back to the Father in love.
God is, of course, the author of all Truth. “Every truth,” said St. Thomas Aquinas, “without exception—and whoever may utter it—is from the Holy Spirit.” The Holy Spirit’s work of guiding the Church, as the soul of the Church, is one of truth. The promise given by Jesus to the disciples is revealed at Pentecost. How so? Through a “noise like a strong driving wind” which filled the house, and then through what appeared to be tongues of fire, which rested upon each one there. And then came the words: “And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim.”
Those gathered in Jerusalem for the feast were amazed “because each one heard them speaking in his own language.” People from all throughout the Mediterranean heard the Gospel proclaimed: “we hear them speaking in our own tongues of the mighty acts of God.” Those mighty acts had been realized and fulfilled in the Incarnate Word, who became man by the power of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary, who suffered, died, and rose again on the third day.
We have been saved by the Word. In baptism, by the power of the Holy Spirit, we are filled with divine life and are thus in communion and communication with God. We are joined to the Body of Christ—the Church—drinking “of the one Spirit”, the Giver of Life.