“No one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ except by the Holy Spirit.” (1 Cor 12:3). How consoling it must be for us to be reminded of these words of St Paul to the community in Corinth. For all of us who profess that ‘Jesus is Lord’, these words assure us that the Holy Spirit is with and in us – even the simplest assertion of faith can only be made with the help of the Holy Spirit. The Christian life that we are called to live and the graces that we receive to live this life can only be attributed to the Holy Spirit – the third person of the Trinity.

Today, in the Church, we celebrate the great feast of the Holy Spirit – Pentecost. We know from our catechism that the word Pentecost is rooted in Greek for “fiftieth” and it celebrates the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Church, while at the same time marking a new era for the people of God.

In the Acts of the Apostles, we read of Jesus telling His disciples that He was going to send the Holy Spirit. “While staying with them, he ordered them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait there for the promise of the Father. ‘This,’ he said, ‘is what you have heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now’” (Acts 1:4-5). Though the Holy Spirit manifests in many different ways, the promise that the Father makes is to be fulfilled in the three-fold role of the Holy Spirit that is made clear in the Gospel today.

Firstly, Jesus often refers to the Advocate (Paraclete) as the “Spirit of Truth” and to His disciples He says, ‘When the Advocate comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who issues from the Father, he will be my witness.” The primary role of the Spirit will be to bear witness to the Father and Jesus Christ. The revelation made by Christ is now going to be made clear through the Holy Spirit.

Secondly, “when the Spirit of truth comes he will lead you to the complete truth”. The spirit will act as teacher and guide to all those who seek the truth with a sincere heart. Only the Holy Spirit must be our reliance when in search of spiritual truth and guidance – our inner conscience. As we search for the truth, the Holy Spirit gives us the grace to live the way of Jesus. 

Thirdly, the Spirit “will glorify me, since all he tells you will be taken from what is mine”. The glory of God will be made real in Jesus’ invitation to love one another as how we have experienced God’s love. If we are able to call Jesus as Lord, it is because the Spirit convinces us of God’s love for each one of us and to follow in the concrete example of Christ: “Love one another as I have loved you” (John 15:12).

Having looked at the three-fold role of the Advocate, our celebration today must remind us that, as persons called to the way of Jesus Christ, we are commissioned to WITNESS the TRUTH, and GLORIFY through love. Our Christian witnessing must be grounded only on two foundations – truth and love. In the words of St Paul, “Truth and love coincide in Christ. To the extent that we draw close to Christ, in our own lives too, truth and love are blended. Love without truth would be blind; truth without love would be like “a clanging cymbal” (1 Cor 13:1).

The promise of the Holy Spirit is not merely for the supernatural gifts that the Spirit brings (sometimes we overplay this aspect of the Advocate) but the promise of the Spirit to us is for witnessing – a demand that our faith puts on us. If we do claim to have real faith, then real faith must be shared! We need to create a culture of witness in our lives, something that many of us shy away from. 

If Pentecost is to remain alive, it is not for the sake of remembering an event two thousand years ago but to create more witnesses that can glorify God. What the world needs is witnesses: “Modern man [and woman] listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers, and if he does listen to teachers, it is because they are witnesses” (Pope Paul VI). 

As Pentecost reminds us of the richness of the gift of the Spirit, it should not be reduced to a prayer vigil, novena or a seminar on the Holy Spirit. Pentecost must happen every day so that we, the Church, will be filled with courage and zeal to go out to the whole world and proclaim that ‘Jesus is Lord!’ – only the Holy Spirit can inspire us to do this. Blessed Pentecost.