Eastertide is a wonderful season in the life of the church. It begins with the victory of Easter Sunday (April 16) and reaches its summit, with a new coming of the Holy Spirit, on Pentecost Sunday (June 4).
The glory of Jesus’ Passion gives way to the joy of the Risen Christ and the pouring out of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost.
The Gifts of Easter invites us on an adventure as we contemplate together the many gifts of this holy season. The first gift of Easter is the gift of the Holy Spirit from which many others flow: the gift of scripture, the gift of life, the gift of prayer, the gift of unity, the gift of peace and, of course, the gift of the fruits of the Spirit.
The Liturgy of the Word focuses on the Acts of the Apostles. St Luke’s masterpiece is a thrilling read, full of the dynamic action and joy of the Holy Spirit working through the apostles.
St John Chrysostom said of the the Acts of the Apostles: ‘To many people, this book, both its content and its author, is so little known that they are not even aware it exists. I have therefore taken this narrative for my subject, both to initiate those who are ignorant and so that such a treasure shall not remain hidden out of sight. For indeed it will profit us no less than the Gospels themselves, so replete is it with Christian wisdom and sound doctrine, especially in what is said concerning the Holy Spirit.’ (Homilies on the Acts of the Apostles 1)
I highly recommend its reading. You will be richly blessed. The courage, joy, enthusiasm and conviction of the first apostles is inspiring and infectious.
God is love and it is the gift of love which is poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit (Romans 5:5). The first apostles were, first and foremost, witnesses of the love of God poured into their hearts.
We eagerly desire a fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit and his gifts on Pentecost Sunday, especially the gift of love (1 Corinthians 12:31-13:1-13).
Be expectant that the Spirit will be poured out in a new and exciting way. Replacing fear with courage, love with hate, timidity with boldness; warming our lukewarm hearts, renewing our spirits and filling us with the joy of the Holy Spirit, forming us into missionary disciples.
And so we pray: Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful. And kindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created. And you will renew the face of the earth.
The Gift of the Spirit
Jesus returned to the Father and sent the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Jesus promised to baptize with fire and the Holy Spirit. This promise was fulfilled on the feast of Pentecost. The blessing of Pentecost is a perennial gift to the Church.
In Baptism we receive the fullness of the Holy Spirit; in Confirmation we are strengthened by the Holy Spirit.
Our vocation invites us to fan into flame the fire of the Spirit. God’s love is poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit (Romans 5:5) and we receive the forgiveness of our sins.
Through the gifts, charisms and fruits of the Holy Spirit we witness to being children of God.
The Gift of Scripture
The prophet Jeremiah wrote: ‘Stand at the crossroads, and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is; and walk in it, and find you will rest for your souls’ (Jeremiah 6:16).
St Paul wrote many centuries later: ‘Whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, so that by steadfastness and by the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope’ (Romans 15:4).
The gift of the Holy Spirit opens up for us the gift of the sacred scriptures, and in them we discover ever afresh and anew, the riches and treasures of the mystery of Christ.
The Holy Bible is our gift and our treasure and through prayer and study we find strength and nourishment to carry out our mission.
The Gift of the Fruits of the Holy Spirit
Jesus spoke a lot about fruit. A good tree produces good fruit; a bad tree, bad fruit. ‘We don’t pick grapes from thorn bushes or figs from thistles’ (Matthew 7:16).
Jesus taught that his disciples would be recognized by their love for one another (John 13:35) and the fruit in their lives (Matthew 7:20).
Through baptism we were chosen and appointed to bear fruit that will last – but what kind of fruit?
St Paul describes the fruit of the Holy Spirit: ‘But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control’ (Galatians 5:22).
The Gift of Life
Life is truly a precious gift. We value life, protect it and cherish it from the cradle to the grave.
However, in Christ, life isn’t merely existing but is being fully human and fully alive.
Life is about having a living relationship with God and experiencing all that God intends for us as children of the Father (John 10:10).
The key to knowing God’s life is the Holy Spirit, which we received in all its fullness at Baptism, and are strengthened in at our Confirmation.
The Holy Spirit is a pledge guaranteeing our inheritance to the praise of God’s glory (Ephesians 1:14).
The Gift of Faith
The Bible describes faith like this: ‘Faith is being sure of what we hope for, certain of what we cannot see’ (Hebrews 11:1).
Human reason leads us to see in the created world the design and imprint of the good Creator: ‘For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that we are without excuse’ (Romans 1:20).
However, human reason alone cannot grasp the revealed truths of our faith – for this we need the gift of the Holy Spirit, so that we can understand what God has freely given us (1 Corinthians 2:12).
The Gift of Prayer
Jesus did not leave us as orphans but asked the Father to send the Holy Spirit (John 14:16).
The Holy Spirit is the Counsellor, the Spirit of truth, who guides and strengthens us in many ways.
One of these ways is in helping us to pray – the gift of prayer is the gift of the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit intercedes for us and gives us the grace to pray as children of God, to our heavenly Father, ‘Abba.’
With confidence then, and filled with the Spirit, we pray the ‘Our Father’, that God’s kingdom would come and his will be done, on earth, as it is heaven.
The Gift of Unity
The Psalmist prayed: ‘How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!’ (Psalm 133:1).
Jesus prayed that his disciples would be one, as he and the Father are one, and brought to complete unity:
‘May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me’ (John 17:23).
Unity and peace are gifts of the Holy Spirit.
This week, as we prepare for the feast of Pentecost, we pray for an outpouring of the gifts of peace and unity in our lives, in our homes, in our parishes and in the Body of Christ.
The Gift of Peace
It is striking that Jesus’ first words to the disciples after his resurrection were ‘Peace be with you’ (John 20:19).
He repeated his message twice more, as if to highlight its importance (John 20: 21, 26).
Peace is more than the absence of war or a sense of inner calm. Peace is, first and foremost, peace with God.
‘Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ’ (Romans 5:1).
Peace is a gift of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22) and by God’s grace, peace can dwell in and rule our hearts.
‘Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful’ (Colossians 3:15)