June 7, 2022 // Bishop's Column: In Truth and Charity

‘The soul’s most welcome guest’

Following is the homily delivered by Bishop Rhoades on Pentecost Sunday at adult Confirmations in the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception:

On this feast of Pentecost, we remember the great event of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the disciples gathered in prayer in the upper room in Jerusalem, fifty days after the resurrection of Jesus. We relive this event here today since 33 of our brothers and sisters will receive the sacrament of Confirmation at this Mass. 

We heard in the first reading from the Acts of the Apostles St. Luke’s account of the first Pentecost. When the Holy Spirit descended upon the disciples, the upper room was filled with a strong driving wind. Then, tongues of fire rested upon each of them. Interiorly, they were filled with a power that gave them the courage and fortitude to go out and proclaim the Gospel to the world. They were freed from all fear and began to speak openly about Jesus with great confidence. They became courageous heralds of the Gospel, as we read throughout the Acts of the Apostles. 

Some call the book of the Acts of the Apostles “the Gospel of the Holy Spirit.” On every page of that book, we read about how the Holy Spirit guided the primitive Church and strengthened the Apostles in the midst of persecution. The enemies of the Apostles could not understand how uneducated and ordinary men could show such courage and endure difficulties and suffering, even with joy. Nothing could stop them. To those who tried to silence them, they replied: “We cannot keep from speaking about what we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:20). This is how the Church was born, and from the day of Pentecost on, the Church has not ceased to spread the Good News to the ends of the earth. Throughout the ages and today, the Holy Spirit continues to guide the Church, strengthening her in her mission. 

Often in the Gospels, Jesus spoke about the Holy Spirit and called Him “the Paraclete,” like in today’s Gospel where Jesus told the disciples that He would ask the Father and the Father would give them another “Advocate.” “Advocate” is an English translation of “Paraclitus” or “Paraclete.” Why does Jesus say “another” Advocate? Because Jesus had been their Advocate, but He was soon going to leave them to return to the Father. So Jesus tells them that they would receive from the Father “another Advocate,” namely, the Holy Spirit who would remain with the disciples always (that includes us). 

In what sense was Jesus their “Advocate,” their “Paraclete?” The Greek word transliterated as “Paraclete” literally means “called alongside” and signifies someone who is called to one’s side to assist, to guide, to counsel, and to comfort. It’s translated as “Advocate.” When Jesus walked this earth, He walked with His disciples and guided them. He was their Advocate. When Jesus ascended to heaven, He didn’t leave them without an Advocate. He didn’t leave them orphans. He sent them another Advocate, the Holy Spirit, to be with them and to be with all the disciples who would come after them, including you and me.  He’s at our side to assist, guide, and counsel us. In fact, He is in our souls. 

Notice in the beautiful Sequence that was sung before the Gospel, the “Veni, Sancte Spiritus,” we prayed “Come, Holy Spirit, come! … Come, You of comforters the best; You, the soul’s most welcome guest!” What a great description of the Holy Spirit: “the soul’s most welcome guest.” It’s true – through Baptism and Confirmation, the Holy Spirit dwells in our souls. 

Jesus said to the disciples in the Gospel today: “Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him.” That’s the Holy Spirit, God who comes to dwell within us, truly “the soul’s most welcome guest.” So we can always pray to this guest, saying “Come, Holy Spirit.” In moments of difficulty, we can pray “Come, Holy Spirit, help me, I’m in trouble.” When we’re feeling in the dark, we can pray “Come, Holy Spirit, enlighten me. Guide me, I don’t know what to do.” If we’re tempted to sin, we can say “Come, Holy Spirit, strengthen me. Come, because I am about to fall.” Or when we’re hurting or suffering, we can pray: “Come, Holy Spirit, heal me, comfort me.” It is good often to invoke the Holy Spirit “of comforter’s the best, the soul’s most welcome guest.” 

Today, through the sacrament of confirmation, our candidates will receive a special outpouring of the Holy Spirit, strengthening them to live the Gospel with conviction. They will receive an increase of the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit. These gifts are ways in which the Holy Spirit helps us as our Advocate. For example, through the gifts of wisdom, understanding, and knowledge – He illumines our minds about the mysteries of our faith and helps us know and understand them and the Holy Spirit’s gift of counsel in which He guides or counsels us to know God’s will. Of course, it’s not enough to know God’s will, we have to do it, so He gives us the gift of fortitude, to be strong in living our faith, to have fortitude in the midst of difficulties and struggles, and even persecution. The Holy Spirit also gives us the gift of piety – He helps us to pray and instills in us the desire to worship God and He gives us the gift of fear of the Lord so that we will resist offending God. He helps us to resist the temptation to sin. 

Allow me to address for a few moments our confirmation candidates. In confirmation, you will be sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit and receive His seven gifts. The Holy Spirit will give you the special strength to witness to Christ in your words and deeds. It will be up to you to open yourselves to the Spirit’s gifts. St. Paul encouraged the early Christians to do so. He would tell them: “Live by the Spirit” or he would say “Follow the Spirit.”  When we do, we each bring our own contribution to the building up of the Church. 

When we open ourselves to the Holy Spirit, He brings His fruits to our souls, namely: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. When we see these fruits in our lives, when we see ourselves becoming more loving, more at peace, more patient, more generous, etc., we know that we are living and growing by the Spirit. If we don’t see this happening, we know something’s wrong in our spiritual lives. Even then, we can call upon the Spirit to help us. He helps us in our weakness, St. Paul says. The Holy Spirit convicts us of our sins so that we repent and convert and it’s by the Holy Spirit that we are absolved in the sacrament of penance. 

We now proceed to the sacrament of confirmation. We pray “Come, Holy Spirit, upon these our brothers and sisters.” This is what Mary and the disciples prayed in the upper room after the Ascension of Jesus. They invoked the Holy Spirit and He descended upon them on Pentecost. And thus began the mission of the Church, the mission that continues today. Through confirmation, our brothers and sisters will be strengthened by the Holy Spirit to participate in this mission as disciples of the Lord Jesus. 

* * *

The best news. Delivered to your inbox.

Subscribe to our mailing list today.