The natural phenomena that impress most the imagination of man—fire, lightning, hurricane, earthquake, thunder (Ex 19:16-19)—are used in the Bible to describe the manifestations of God.
The sacred authors used images also to present the outpouring of the Spirit of the Lord. They said that the Spirit is a breath of life (Gn 2:7), the rain that irrigates the land and transforms the desert into a garden (Is 32:15; 44:3), a force that restores life (Ex 37:1-14), the rumble of the sky, wind that strongly blows, thunder, tongues of fire (Acts 2:1-3). All vigorous images that suggest the idea of uncontrollable bursts of strength.
Where the Spirit comes radical upheavals and transformation always happen: barriers fall, doors are opened wide; all the towers built by human hands and designed by “the wisdom of this world” shake; fear, passivity, and quietism disappear; initiatives are developed and courageous decisions are made.
Who is dissatisfied and aspires the renewal of the world and of man can count on the Spirit: nothing can resist its power. One day the prophet Jeremiah asked himself discouragingly: “Can an Ethiopian change his skin or a leopard his spots? And can you do good, you who are accustomed to doing evil” (Jer 13:23). Yes—one can answer him—every prodigy is possible where the Spirit of God erupts.
To internalize the message, we repeat: “The Spirit of the Lord fills the earth and renews the face of the earth.”
With the coming of Jesus in the glory of the Father, has anything on earth changed?
Outwardly, nothing. The lives of the people continued to be what it was before: to sow, reap, trade, build homes, travel, cry and party, as usual. Even the apostles did not receive any reduction on dramas and anxieties experienced by other people. However, something incredibly new happened: a new light was projected on the existence of people.
On a foggy day, the sun suddenly appears. The mountains, the sea, the fields, the trees of the forest, the scent of the flowers, the songs of the birds remain the same, but the way of seeing or perceiving them is different.
It also happens to one who is enlightened by faith in Jesus ascended into heaven: he sees the world with new eyes. Everything makes sense, nothing saddens, nothing scares.
In addition to the fatality, the miseries, the errors of persons, the Lord who builds his reign is seen.
An example of this completely new perspective could be the way to consider the years of life. We all know, and maybe we smile, of octogenarians who envy those who have fewer years than them. They are ashamed of their age. Well, they turn their gaze to the past, not to the future. The certainty of the Ascension reverses this perspective. While the years pass, the Christian is satisfied because he sees the days of a definitive encounter with Christ coming soon. He is happy to have lived, does not envy the young ones and looks at them with tenderness.
To internalize the message, we repeat: “The sufferings of this present time are not worth compared to the future glory that will be revealed in us.”
We usually imagine the Spirit as something invisible, intangible, quite the opposite of what is material. This way of understanding it is not biblical. The Spirit is very real, is a breath, a strong breath. God is Spirit inasmuch as there is in him an overwhelming and uncontrollable force, similar to the strong wind. The dream of man is to be made partaker of this Spirit.
The rabbis taught that in man there are two tendencies: a bad one born at the time of conception and a good one that is manifested only at the age of thirteen. The evil inclination exercises its power ever since man is in the embryo and can dominate him until the seventies and even eighties. How to resist them?
The rabbis gave these tips: “God created the evil inclination and the Torah, the Law, as an antidote to it. If you engaged yourself with the Torah you will not fall into its power.” “If a despicable temptation comes to you, drag it to the house where the Torah is studied.” “When you engage yourself with the Torah, your evil inclination is given to your power and not you in the power of evil.”
If you were wrong then the Torah is like a signposting: it indicates the right direction, but it does not move the car. This needs a driving force that leads it to the destination.
Jesus has not taught only “the way”. He communicated his Spirit, his force to reach the goal.
To internalize the message, we repeat:
“Create in us, O Lord, a new heart, infuse in us your Holy Spirit.”
One of the characteristics of the primitive community described in the Acts of the Apostles is the absence of classes, titles, honorifics, greater prestige or recognized dignity of some eminent member.
All believers are considered on a level of equality. No one would be called rabbi because there was only one Master and they were only disciples. They felt themselves brothers and no one claimed the title of father. They knew the fact of having one Father in heaven (Mt 23:8-10).
They neither knew degrees in terms of holiness. “Saints” was the collective title which they were fond of calling themselves. Paul addresses his letter “to the saints in Philippi…” (Phil 1:1), “to the saints in Ephesus” (Eph 1:1) “to all of you, the beloved of God in Rome, called to be holy” (Rom 1:7).
Yet a difference was recognized and held in high esteem: that of the ministry of service that each was called to play in favor of the brothers and sisters.
The only Spirit—Paul reminds the Corinthians—enriches the community with diverse and complementary gifts: “to one he gives the language of science, to another that of wisdom, to another faith, to another the gift of healing. Another works miracles, another speaks in tongues and still, another interprets “all for the common good” (1 Cor 12:7-11).
Peter recommended to “serve one another with the gifts each of you received thus becoming good managers of the varied graces of God” (1 Pt 4:10).
With this ministerial church, “whose cornerstone is Christ and whose foundations are the apostles” (Eph 2:20), our current communities are called to confront themselves.
To internalize the message, we repeat: “Let not the gifts that you have given swell us with pride, but the will to serve the brethren.”