Come, Holy Spirit!

By Jim Tonkowich Published on May 19, 2024

There are three, not two, major Christian holy days. Christmas and Easter are the obvious ones, but the third is Pentecost — fifty days after Easter. This year, it falls on Sunday, May 19. TODAY!

I love Pentecost for two reasons. First, it’s ours. The world, the marketeers, and the sentimentalists have not spoiled it. Toyota will not be having a “Pentecost Sale-A-Bration.” Macy’s, Walmart, and all the rest will not offer special Pentecost deals. And the day isn’t cluttered with the likes of Santa Clause or the Easter Bunny. Gifts, greeting cards, chocolates, cookies, decorations, lights, and office parties are all blessedly absent. Only Christians are in on the celebration.

Second, Pentecost fulfilled Jesus’s promise in John 14:18: “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.”

Orphans. The Greek word carries with it a sense of desolation and abandonment, of utter helplessness in a cruel and uncaring world. Orphans in the ancient world — and in much of the world today — have no one and nothing. Fear, want — and above all, loneliness — mark their lives.

“I Will Come to You”

Celebrating Passover with His disciples, Jesus anticipated the abandonment they would feel after His arrest, crucifixion, and burial. “I won’t leave you there,” He promised. “I will come to you.”

He did that first in the resurrection appearances and then at Pentecost as the Holy Spirit filled the gathered disciples (Acts 2:1-4). And He will consummate the promise at the Second Coming.

Pentecost celebrates the coming of the Holy Spirit, who Jesus calls “another Counselor” (John 14:16). With that, the Church was birthed. We have not been left as orphans — and that’s particularly good news today when we live in a nation of orphans.

Rescue From a Cultural Tragedy

A year ago, U.S. Surgeon General Vivek H. Murthy issued a health advisory, “Our Epidemic of Loneliness and Isolation.” He summed it up by writing:

Loneliness is far more than just a bad feeling — it harms both individual and societal health. It is associated with a greater risk of cardiovascular disease, dementia, stroke, depression, anxiety, and premature death. The mortality impact of being socially disconnected is similar to that caused by smoking up to 15 cigarettes a day, and even greater than that associated with obesity and physical inactivity. And the harmful consequences of a society that lacks social connection can be felt in our schools, workplaces, and civic organizations, where performance, productivity, and engagement are diminished.

While seniors have high rates of social isolation, “young adults are almost twice as likely to report feeling lonely than those over 65.” In fact, “The rate of loneliness among young adults has increased every year between 1976 and 2019.” Meanwhile, “Loneliness and social isolation among children and adolescents increase the risk of depression and anxiety.” And depression and anxiety can lead to suicide.

Pentecost is the way out of this cultural tragedy.

No Longer Orphans

The Holy Spirit is “the spirit of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:19), who promised to be with us “always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). The Holy Spirit is called the “spirit of adoption” who makes us “children of God” (Romans 8:14-16).

Evangelical theologian J. I. Packer wrote, “Adoption is the highest privilege that the gospel offers: higher even than justification…. To be right with God the Judge is a great thing, but to be loved and cared for by God the Father is greater.”

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The Holy Spirit comes and, through the merits of Jesus, welcomes us into the divine household — which is to say not only does the Spirit give us the Father, He also gives us a mother.

St. Cyprian of Carthage (210-258) famously said, “No one can have God for their Father who does not have the Church for their mother.” Lest someone think this is just an ancient Church or Catholic thing, Reformer John Calvin (1509-1564) echoed Cyprian: “to those to whom [God] is a Father, the Church must also be a mother” (Institutes, IV.1.1).

Vineyard pastor Geoff Holsclaw sums up the reason:

‘Church as mother’ protects against the stunted discipleship rampant in the churches in America where people think they can follow Jesus all by themselves, read the Bible without reference to anyone else, and decide what is good and true all alone.

The Church, our mother, prevents us from acting like orphans.

Pentecost is a Reminder

As the Surgeon General’s advisory on the epidemic of loneliness, any number of studies, and our own experience make plain, people around us, though they may hide it well, live in deep, solitary sadness.

Pentecost reminds us of what we have been given and what we have to offer to others: the adopted love of the Father, and the maternal love of the Church on Earth until we reach the Father’s “many mansions” in our heavenly house (John 14:2).

This Sunday, celebrate it all at your church and prepare to share the good news and joy with neighbors, many of whom feel like orphans all the time.

“Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love.”

 

James Tonkowich is a freelance writer, speaker, and commentator on spirituality, religion, and public life. He is the author of The Liberty Threat: The Attack on Religious Freedom in America Today and Pears, Grapes, and Dates: A Good Life After Mid-Life and serves as director of distance learning at Wyoming Catholic College. He also hosts the college’s weekly podcast, The After Dinner Scholar.

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