Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
On Thursday we celebrated the great solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord. Jesus returns in glory to the Father’s side, ascending in His resurrected body into Heaven. Just as He humbled Himself to share in our humanity – He who is the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, light from light, true God from true God, consubstantial with the Father – so now He raises our humanity to an even greater dignity by bringing our humanity into Heaven. This shows us our own destiny. We are created for union with God, not only on this earth, but also in the heavenly kingdom. That union is not only spiritual, but entails a union of our whole person, body and soul. In the Ascension, Jesus shows us the full dignity of the human body and promises that we will be where He is.
From the moment of the Ascension our Lord also promises to send the Holy Spirit to guide the Apostles into truth, to inspire them, to lead them in their ongoing journey of faith and discipleship. And so the Apostles wait in prayer with Mary, the Mother of Jesus. Tradition tells us that it is during these nine days that Mary spoke to the Apostles, reminding them of Jesus’ teaching, encouraging them in faith, and giving them insight into the life of Jesus. On Pentecost, which we will celebrate next Sunday, the Holy Spirit falls upon the Apostles and Mary. Having prayed and reflected together, they are filled with the Spirit and sent out to proclaim the Good News.
The Church has always viewed these days after the Ascension in a special light. We are in the Novena of Pentecost, awaiting the Holy Spirit. We say “awaiting” as a present reality. The novena of Pentecost is no commemoration of a past event, but rather a present-day action, calling on the Lord to send us the Holy Spirit here and now. In every age, the Church needs the renewal and power of the Holy Spirit. The Counselor, the Paraclete, the Spirit of Truth leads the Church, guides the Church, reminds the Church. By the power of the Holy Spirit at work even now, the sacraments have efficacy, our words of preaching reach hardened hearts, and the grace of God is continually poured out on the world. And so the Church prays in these nine days for a renewed outpouring of the Holy Spirit.
In this time of pandemic, we see an immediate need for the power of the Holy Spirit, especially to inspire and guide the medical and scientific communities closer to a vaccine, closer to effective treatments, closer to a comprehensive understanding of this virus. We also see the need for the Spirit’s guidance and inspiration in the lives of those who are suffering, those who are despairing, those who are mourning. We see the need for the power of the Holy Spirit in countless areas of our personal lives as we deal with widespread disruptions and changes to the way we live. In all of this, let us open our hearts to receive the Spirit, to let the fire of the Spirit burn in our hearts. Let us ask our good God to send us the Spirit to lead us and teach us, so that we can remain faithful to the Lord in all things and keep our eyes fixed on that gift of Heaven that the Lord promises.