Blessed be the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete

paracleteToday we celebrate the third of the three solemnities of the Easter season, the Solemnity of Pentecost. It is the feast of the Holy Spirit and is often called the birthday of the Church.

“Who is the Holy Spirit?” When my class was being prepared for confirmation in 1966, our new parish priest, Father Patrick Hollern, wanted us to be sure to know the answer to that question. As many of us remember, in those days the confirmandi were always quizzed by the bishop before being confirmed. Father Hollern had attended some confirmations administered by Bishop Frederick Freking, still new to the diocese. He told us that this was one question Bishop Freking always asked and it usually was not answered correctly. Most would answer, “The Holy Spirit is the third person of the Blessed Trinity.” However that was not good enough for Bishop Freking. The correct answer was to be: “The Holy Spirit is God, the third person of the Blessed Trinity.” When the question was asked and the right answer was given, Bishop Freking correctly surmised that Father Hollern had tipped us off.

In the gospel of John the Holy Spirit is called the “Paraclete” or “Advocate.” παράκλητος (Paráklētos) in Greek means the same as Advocatus in Latin: “One who has been called to one’s side.” Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit would be with his Church until the end of time and would preserve the authenticity of the Church’s faith. The Holy Spirit was given to the Apostles on Easter Sunday evening, then in a more abundant way 50 days later, on the Jewish feast of Pentecost. With both speakers and hearers inspired by the Holy Spirit, the Church began her mission. On that day Peter explained that Jesus was both “Lord” and “Messiah.” Then he said:

“Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the holy Spirit. For the promise is made to you and to your children and to all those far off, whomever the Lord our God will call.” He testified with many other arguments, and was exhorting them, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand persons were added that day. (Acts 2:38-41)

May we, who have received the gifts of the Holy Spirit in baptism and confirmation, with the Holy Spirit ever at our side, continue to live the life of faith as active members of the Church.

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