Imagine what it would have been like to have been present at the great events recorded in the New Testament.

Imagine if you had been there when Jesus fed the crowd of thousands with a few loaves and fish, when he changed water into wine at Cana, when he gave sight to a man blind from birth, when he walked on water, when he called Lazarus out of the tomb, when he was crucified, and when he rose to life that first Easter Sunday.

Since we were not there, we can only picture what it would have been like to see those events happen before our eyes.

This Sunday, we hear about the great event of Pentecost (Acts 2:1-11). Consider what it would have been like to be in Jerusalem that day, to hear the driving wind, to see flames of fire come down upon the disciples, and then to hear them boldly preaching about Jesus in words that were understandable to people of every language.

While we were not present that first Pentecost Sunday, that day is not something for us to only imagine. Pentecost is something that we can experience ourselves, for the Holy Spirit continues to come into our lives and into our world.

The Holy Spirit that emboldened the disciples to go into the streets of Jerusalem has continued to empower Christians to proclaim the Gospel in every land and in every language. Those first disciples could never have conceived that the Spirit who inspired them would be actively guiding the work of the Church some 2,000 years later.

The continuing power of the Spirit is evident in the Church’s proclamation that Jesus is Savior and Lord. As St. Paul tells us in Sunday’s Second Reading (1 Corinthians 12:3b-7, 12-13), “No one can say, “Jesus is Lord,’ except by the Holy Spirit.”

The Spirit’s power is also apparent in the Church’s uninterrupted celebration of the Sacraments, in its service to the poor, in its work for justice and peace, and in its ongoing ministry of forgiveness and mercy. As Jesus tells his disciples in Sunday’s Gospel (John 20:19-23), “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them.”

The Holy Spirit is also with each of us. The Holy Spirit came into our hearts at our Baptism and blessed us at our Confirmation with the gifts we need to live out our faith.

While it takes imagination to picture the great events recorded in the New Testament, that is not true with Pentecost. Pentecost does not have to be imagined, for the Holy Spirit is working today in our Church and in our personal lives. To recognize the action of the Spirit does not take imagination, it takes prayer, silence, and reflection. It also takes being attentive to the subtle inspirations that come to us when we pause to remember the presence of the Spirit who dwells within us.

But it is a challenge to appreciate the presence of the Holy Spirit for we live at a time when the Spirit’s flames of inspiration are often overshadowed by the glittering lights of our culture and its message is lost in the blaring sounds of society’s never-ending distractions.

The coming of the Holy Spirit is not something for us to imagine. It is something for us to experience in our own lives.

“Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful people. And kindle in us the fire of your love.”

© 2021 Rev. Thomas B. Iwanowski