|Pentecost by Jean Restout|
Psalm 104:1, 24, 29-31, 34
1 Corinthians 12:3-7, 12-13
One of my favorite paintings of the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost is by the French painter Jean Restout. In the center of the painting in an elevated place is the Blessed Mother, her hands folded in prayer as the winds whirls around her and the tongues of fire descend. Around her are the Apostles and other disciples, who, unlike the Blessed Mother, are depicted running away, falling over each other, shrinking back from the Spirit and covering their faces in fear.
As I reflected on that image, I began to reflect on who beautiful it was both visibly, but also theologically. It is a long-held belief of the Church that Mary was highly favored by God and thus given certain graces that no other person in history received. She was free from sin from the moment of her conception until her assumption into Heaven, leading her to be open to the will of God entirely and perpetually. She stands joyfully to receive the Spirit because her ‘Yes’ to God at the Annunciation never really ended, but rather continues in all things. The depiction of the Apostles and other disciples is quite profound in that it shows the reality of our sinful state. In the midst of our days there is generally a peace and joy that abides in us as the Lord walks with us, but when we come face to face with God in a powerful way there is often within our hearts a certain fear or hesitancy.
If we look at the scriptures we can all discern that the Lord calls us to Himself for three reasons: 1) to purify us in His burning love so that we might 2) be sent out to continue His mission and so 3) remain with Him forever in Heaven. To be purified and sent means that it will cost us something and so when we encounter our God our hearts immediately begin to raise questions.
What will it cost me? What will the future hold for me? What about my plans? Am I strong enough to do what God wants? And ultimately, If I give myself wholly and entirely to Christ, will I be happy?
The questions come up because there is something in us that doesn’t trust God fully yet. Unlike the Blessed Mother who was perfectly receptive to all of God’s desires, we have places in our hearts that we are unsure we can open up just yet. If these words register at all in your heart, be at peace, for the disciples and first followers of Jesus were of that same heart and yet when they set fear aside and opened up their hearts they were filled with the Spirit and changed the world.
Today we celebrate Pentecost once more, rejoicing in the gift of the Holy Spirit poured out upon the Church and the world. As we do so, we are reminded by St. Paul that “To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit.” God has a plan in place for each of us and has planted the seed of gifts within our hearts. Like the disciples at the first Pentecost, may we too set aside our fears and reservations, that the Spirit might come and fill us as He did them and so produce within each of us the many gifts He has planted. May they bear much fruit, for His glory and the salvation of our souls and the souls of many others.
And so we conclude by praying that great prayer to the Holy Spirit:
Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created. And You shall renew the face of the earth.
O, God, who by the light of the Holy Spirit, did instruct the hearts of the faithful, grant that by the same Holy Spirit we may be truly wise and ever enjoy His consolations, Through Christ Our Lord, Amen.