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Receive the Holy Spirit

On the Gospel of John 20:19-23

Pentecost Sunday

‘After saying this he breathed on them and said: “Receive the Holy Spirit”‘. This was an extraordinary moment in the formation of the first disciples. For the first time they received the Spirit of love, the third Person of the Blessed Trinity, and not as guidelines or directions that were outside them, but as a life within them, a life deep in them which would open their minds and their hearts to the true knowledge of God. It would become as Jesus had prophesied : “He who believes in me, as the scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart shall flow rivers of living water'” (Jn 7:38)

As we read this it is vital that we take to heart that this is an ongoing reality for believers in Christ. The Holy Spirit comes to dwell in us when we are baptised, in such a profound fashion that we can be called ‘Temples’ of his presence. It is meant to be the case that we live every moment in awareness of this indwelling presence and that we live in a manner befitting this awesome dignity, whereby God has made his home in us. Pentecost is a good time for us to take a honest look at ourselves and ask how we are doing on that score.

This is such a special feast because we are celebrating the beginning of the mission of the Church. Before Pentecost the disciples seemed to have everything they would have needed to go out and proclaim the Gospel – they had seen and accompanied Jesus, and they had witnessed his Passion, Death and Resurrection – except something was missing because they were huddled together in the Upper Room, and the Gospel tells us they would not go out ‘for fear of the Jews’.

But when the Spirit descends on them, they are changed forever. The Spirit gives to them whatever they were lacking, and they have power, eloquence, fearlessness, and above all a tremendous sense of a mission and desire to make Christ known. And we need the very same Gifts and Fruits of the Holy Spirit today if we are serious about being disciples, because it is very possible for us to end up hiding away from the mission out of many kinds of fear. It is not easy to announce the Gospel in our age, but turning to the Spirit and begging him to descend on us and fill us with his life, we may find ourselves a little like the first disciples at Pentecost – amazed at what we can do for the Lord if we stop making objections and let him take over. I think we can safely say that he knows what he is doing!


On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord. Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”

– John 20:19-23



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