And now, Lord, take note of their threats, and enable your servants to speak your word with all boldness, as you stretch forth your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are done through the name of your holy servant Jesus. As they prayed, the place where they were gathered shook, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness. (Acts 4:29-31; today’s First Mass Reading, April 12th, 2021)
Back in the day when I used to preach to crowds in person, I would often read this verse and then ask them, “So, what was this event?” Inevitably, several would answer: “Pentecost!” But when I told them they were wrong, the room would fall silent. I would explain that Pentecost was actually two chapters earlier. And yet, here we read that once again “they were all filled with the Holy Spirit.”
The point is this. Baptism and Confirmation are only the beginning of God’s infilling of the Holy Spirit in a believer’s life. The Lord can fill us to overflowing time and again — if we invite Him to do so. In fact, if we are “earthen vessels” as St. Paul said,2 Cor 4:7 then we are leaky vessels in need of God’s grace over and over again. This is why Jesus stated clearly:
I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing. (John 15:5)
Whoever believes in me, as scripture says: ‘Rivers of living water will flow from within him.’ He said this in reference to the Spirit that those who came to believe in him were to receive. (John 7:38-39)
But as soon as we disconnect from the vine, the “sap of the Holy Spirit” ceases to flow, and if we leave our spiritual life unattended, we risk become a “dead” branch.
Anyone who does not remain in me will be thrown out like a branch and wither; people will gather them and throw them into a fire and they will be burned. (John 15:6)
The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches:
Prayer is the life of the new heart. It ought to animate us at every moment. But we tend to forget him who is our life and our all. This is why the Fathers of the spiritual life in the Deuteronomic and prophetic traditions insist that prayer is a remembrance of God often awakened by the memory of the heart “We must remember God more often than we draw breath.” But we cannot pray “at all times” if we do not pray at specific times, consciously willing it These are the special times of Christian prayer, both in intensity and duration. —n. 2697
So, if we have no prayer life, the “new heart” given to us in Baptism begins to die. So while we may appear successful to the world in terms of our physical life, career, status, wealth, etc. our spiritual life is dying in many subtle but crucial ways… and so too, then, is the supernatural fruit of the Holy Spirit: “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.” (Gal 5:22) Don’t be fooled! This will end in shipwreck for the careless and unconverted soul — even if they are baptized.
Make no mistake: God is not mocked, for a person will reap only what he sows, because the one who sows for his flesh will reap corruption from the flesh, but the one who sows for the spirit will reap eternal life from the spirit. (Gal 6:7-8)
I would like to add perhaps one more fruit: courage. From one day to the next, it was Pentecost that changed the Apostles from cowering men to towering martyrs. From one hour to the next, they went from hesitant disciples to emboldened witnesses who spoke the holy Name of Jesus at the risk of losing their lives.cf. Courage in the Storm
If there ever was a time that we needed to enter the Upper Room again, it is now. If ever there was a time to beg the Lord to “take note of their threats” to close our churches, silence our praise, chain our doors and barricade our walls, it is now. If ever there was a time to plead that God enable us to boldly speak the truth to a world swimming in lies and deception, it is now. If ever there was a need for the Lord to stretch forth His hand in signs and wonders to a generation that worships science and reason alone, it is now. If ever there was a need for the Holy Spirit to descend upon the faithful to shake us from complacency, fear, and worldliness, it is most certainly now.
And this is why Our Lady has been sent to this generation: to gather them again into the Upper Room of her Immaculate Heart, and form them in the same docility to the Divine Will that she had so that the Holy Spirit may come upon us and overshadow us, too, with His power.Luke 1:35
…so great are the needs and the perils of the present age,
so vast the horizon of mankind drawn towards
world coexistence and powerless to achieve it,
that there is no salvation for it except in a
new outpouring of the gift of God.
Let Him then come, the Creating Spirit,
to renew the face of the earth!
—POPE PAUL VI, Gaudete in Domino, May 9th, 1975
The Holy Spirit, finding his dear Spouse present again in souls,
will come down into them with great power.
He will fill them with his gifts, especially wisdom,
by which they will produce wonders of grace…
that age of Mary, when many souls, chosen by Mary
and given her by the the most High God,
will hide themselves completely in the depths of her soul,
becoming living copies of her, loving and glorifying Jesus.
—St. Louis de Montfort, True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin, n.217
Be open to Christ, welcome the Spirit,
so that a new Pentecost may take place in every community!
A new humanity, a joyful one, will arise from your midst;
you will experience again the saving power of the Lord.
—POPE JOHN PAUL II, “Address to Bishops of Latin America,”
L’Osservatore Romano (English language edition),
October 21, 1992, p.10, sec.30.