As we celebrate Pentecost, let us remember the gits that God freely blesses us with, and what they mean for us as educators and parents.
Have you ever been so absorbed in the busyness of life that you forgot to open a gift? Perhaps a Christmas present you only opened after the New Year? Or that birthday card you only read a month later? As silly as it sounds, many of us do in fact go through life without ever realising we sometimes forget to open the greatest gift we have – the Holy Spirit.
The gift of the Holy Spirit, infinitely good and beneficial to us in so many ways, is indeed offered freely to everyone. But often, we are so absorbed in the activities of modern life that we simply forget to open this gift and use it to its fullest ability.
As we celebrate Pentecost, let us remind ourselves what it truly means to receive the Holy Spirit, and what the significance is for us as educators and parents.
Receiving a gift
The Holy Spirit is offered to you. Whether baptised yet or not, there is no doubt that God unconditionally offers His Spirit to all, because He calls everyone to Himself. “Since all men possess a rational soul and are created in God’s likeness, since they have the same nature and origin, we have been redeemed by Christ and enjoy the same divine calling and destiny,” Pope Paul IV writes in Gaudium et Spes.
All we need to do to attain such an incomparably rich gift then, is to simply reach out for it through baptism. During Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit manifested as tongues of fire and attracted a crowd to the apostles, St Peter had stood up and declared, “Every one of you must be baptised in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise that was made is… for all those whom the Lord our God is calling to himself” (Acts 2:38-39).
However it is also important to be aware that receiving a gift does not only stop at acceptance. There is also the next step of actively opening this gift and allowing ourselves to be blessed by it. After all, what sense would it make to accept a present but keep it in its wrapping? Or what sense is there to order pizza but only admire the box and let its contents go cold?
This is why the term, “Act1v8”, a play on the word “activate” and “acts 1, verse 8”, still holds a truly relevant reminder to educators and parents. Do we remember to regularly activate the Holy Spirit who dwells in us?
Here, the emphasised verse from the Acts of the Apostles is Jesus’ proclamation that, “You will receive the power of the Holy Spirit which will come on you, and then you will be my witnesses not only in Jerusalem but throughout Judaea and Samaria, and indeed to earth’s remotest end” (Acts 1:8).
There is an undoubtedly energetic tone as Jesus describes the power that will guide His disciples to witness to even the remotest ends of the earth. And this very same energy truly dwells in us, prompting and guiding us on the same mission – to reach even the remotest hearts of our students and children.
The upbringing of children for God is one of the greatest areas of work in the Church, and teachers and parents are the blessed ones called to this important mission. In the 1997 Vatican document, The Catholic School on the Threshold of the Third Millennium, teaching is described to have “an extraordinary moral depth and is one of man’s most excellent and creative activities, for the teacher does not write on inanimate material, but on the very spirits of human beings.”
This is why it is important to be aware of the gift of the Holy Spirit we have received (or called to receive for those not yet baptised), and the wealth of graces we can find in this great gift!
When the Spirit manifests
When the Holy Spirit was activated in the apostles during Pentecost, not only were the signs of the Spirit noticeable in the form of tongues of fire and a loud gushing wind, but more importantly, the work of the Spirit through each apostle was so powerful that thousands were converted that very day.
In the Acts of the Apostles, it was described that a crowd of various nationalities gathered upon hearing the gushing sound, and were “amazed and astonished” (Acts 2:7) to see the apostles speaking in their own native languages. A little later on, the crowd were “cut to the heart” (Acts 2:37) as they listened to St Peter explain that this was the work of the Holy Spirit, who was promised by Christ Jesus whom they crucified. That very day, about three thousand “accepted what he said and were baptised” (Acts 2:41).
When we struggle to reach the hearts of our students and children, when we feel as if our words fall on deaf ears, let us remind ourselves that this very same Spirit that empowered the apostles to speak in such a way that cut to the heart of those listening, also dwells in us this very moment.
With this knowledge, we can approach our everyday responsibilities with a renewed strength and joy, because we are truly blessed by God with everything we need to follow His call. “For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the spirit of sonship. When we cry ‘Abba! Father!’, it is the Spirit Himself bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him” (Rom 8:15-17).