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Thunder, gales and sighs | Gospel of May 19

By 15 May, 2024No Comments
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Gospel according to Saint John 20:19-23:

On the evening of that first day of the week, when the doors were locked, where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.” When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.”

Thunder, gales and sighs

Luis CASASUS President of the Idente Missionaries

Rome, May 19, 2024 | Pentecost Sunday

Acts 2: 1-11; 1Cor 12: 3b-7.12-13; Jn 20: 19-23

On one occasion, a doctor asked a priest why he preached the existence of the Holy Spirit and spoke of his action in us. The doctor said to him: Do you ever see the Holy Spirit? Do you ever hear the Holy Spirit? The priest answered: No.

The doctor continued: Have you ever tasted the Holy Spirit, or have you ever smelled the aroma of the Holy Spirit? To all these questions, the doctor received a No. But when the doctor asked: Do you ever feel the Holy Spirit? The priest replied: Yes, of course.

Well, said the doctor, there are four of the five senses against one, Father. So I doubt that there is such a thing as the Holy Spirit.

Then it was the priest’s turn to ask. You are a medical doctor, you treat pain. Have you ever seen, heard, tasted or smelled a pain? No, answered the doctor. Did you feel the pain? continued the priest. Yes, I have felt it, answered the doctor.

There are four senses against you. However, you know and I know that there is pain. By the same proof, I believe that the Holy Spirit exists, concluded the priest.

The story is illustrative, but it is not enough for us. It is not sufficient to believe that the Holy Spirit exists. It is a matter, as this priest says, of feeling Him, of recognizing in my life His company and His permanent action, announced by Christ. And how can we feel his activity in us? Perhaps the simplest way to understand him is to observe that he is trying to attract our attention, which is a way of respecting our freedom and at the same time of helping and orienting us in the complexity and confusion of this life.

Experts in advertising and marketing know a lot about the importance of attention, because it is about competing with many messages using a phrase, an image, or a key idea, to get a potential customer to lean towards what they are advertising. French philosopher Simone Weil (1909-1943) went so far as to say that attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity. And she concluded that attention, taken to its highest degree, is precisely prayer. It is worth thinking about.

In the First Reading we see how an impetuous wind that invaded the room where the disciples were, captured their attention. Then, the tongues of fire served to make the presence of the Holy Spirit perceptible in each of the disciples, not in a general or collective way. He succeeded in catching their attention and, amidst the feelings of doubt, fear, nostalgia… they chose fidelity to the mission that Christ entrusted to them. It seems that the Holy Spirit did it very well…

And let us not forget that he also acted on all the pilgrims who were listening. The Holy Spirit is not exclusive to religious or Christians, which is not a mere theological proposition, it is rather a responsibility for the apostle, aware that holiness is a universal vocation, and that, for example, a young woman from Nazareth whom we call Most Holy, was not even baptized. Today’s Second Reading is a serious appeal not to forget this truth.

Our Father Founder says that the Spirit gently inclines us to thoughts and desires that are truly divine. That is why they heard each one speak of the greatness of God in his own language. This is not a simple “philological” observation, nor a prodigy destined to attract attention; what is important is that each of the pilgrims was able to understand without difficulty the will of God, without their culture, their ideas and plans about the feast they were celebrating being an obstacle.

All this is reminiscent of what the Book of Exodus recounts, when the Israelites gathered on Mount Sinai and Moses received the Law directly from God. In fact, Pentecost, or for the Jews, the Feast of Weeks, commemorated this event. On this mountain, the Israelites heard the rumbling of thunder and saw the clouds covering the top of that sacred mountain. Then God pronounced his law, embodied in the tablets of the Commandments. But instead of hearing thunder and seeing a cloudy theophany or hearing God speak his law, the apostles and early Christians heard, saw and spoke what was clearly the manifestation of the Holy Spirit, whose law was now written in their hearts, no longer in stone.

Now it is up to you and me. What is my sensitivity – and first my attention – to the voice of the Holy Spirit? The Second Reading reminds us that no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit. Far from being a statement for professional theologians, it means that the Spirit continually illuminates the response Christ would give if he were in my place, in my situation at this moment.


Christ confers on the apostles the power to forgive sins. But this does not mean ONLY giving absolution in the Sacrament of Penance or Reconciliation. What Christ gives to ALL his disciples is the power to overcome every form of sin in the world. He is not saying that the confessor, in the Sacrament, evaluates whether or not to forgive the sin. It is forgiven, but it may not be destroyed, for this requires the ascetic’s willingness to listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit, which, we cannot tire of repeating, is gentle, continuous and clear.

It would be naive and unrealistic to think that a paradise on earth can be achieved, that evil, violence, any kind of abuse or attachment can be eliminated, where then is the power that Christ has given to his followers? In that they can be witnesses, living proof that the most generous love is always possible and goes beyond the evil that surrounds us, beyond death, beyond my own insensitivity and lack of gratitude.

I will recount a small experience I shared in our parish in Rome.

When we were children, my brother and I used to climb the wall that separated our small garden from that of an elderly neighbor who lived alone. With great enthusiasm and without saying anything to our parents, we would steal a bunch of grapes that were near the wall. When, years later, I returned to my parents’ house, the neighbor had already passed away and my mother told me that the poor woman put a bunch of grapes on the fence wall for us every day… and she was very sorry if we “stole” them.

And it also reminds me to this day that people who truly love give something of their lives, as Jesus’ hands and side show us.


As it happened at Babel, so it happens today. The normal thing is that human beings, even if we have a common project, even if we share the same faith and the best intentions, we are capable of separating in many ways. From schisms in the Church, or splits in political parties, to the separation of a couple who once loved each other, or the barriers of silence and rancor between two people of the same parish or religious community.

In that story of the tower, in response to human arrogance, God confused the tongues of mankind and scattered them over the face of the earth. Instead of hearing and speaking the Word of God present through His Spirit, the builders of Babel planned to make their own voices heard, to see their monumental feat and, finally, they spoke in the tongues that no longer understood each other or communicated anything from heaven. After Pentecost, the division of Babel forged by man’s pride will be torn down and the Good News of Jesus Christ will be the language that unites all these different peoples.

Like Adam and Eve, the builders of Babel did not want to receive from God; they wanted to rise to God’s level – to be self-sufficient – and establish unity on their own terms. The lesson of Babel is clear: it is human pride that has produced and will continue to produce confusion and division in the world. God’s act of confusing their language and means of communication was not an act of vengeance and punishment. In fact, it was an act of mercy that would set them on a long road to discover the true source of sanctification and unification: the work of the Holy Spirit.

Ours, in many cases, is a post-Christian society, an anti-culture that has rejected the Word of God. In our pride, we want on our own terms and by our own achievements what creatures can only receive from God. We have discarded their reality – about gender, sex, life, etc. – and tried to construct our own. As a result, our language is increasingly disconnected from the truth, our words are not credible and our ability to communicate is paralyzed.

On the contrary, the Apostles, filled with the Holy Spirit, speak in a way that all listeners can understand. Redeemed by the Word, man can now speak intelligibly of God and of himself. And since he can communicate the truth to others, this intelligibility leads to unity.

This is why we need the help and guidance of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, on this Pentecost we must pray intimately: Come, Holy Spirit, come!

Let us not overlook the fact that the Holy Spirit not only acts in each one of us, but is also the author of unity and true peace among men, when we are willing to accept it.

The prophet Nehemiah says: The joy of the Lord is my strength (Neh 8:10). Indeed, this is the measure of whether we have been touched and filled with the Holy Spirit.  When the Spirit descends upon us, we are filled with joy and peace. This is what happened to the apostles when they saw the risen Christ. We experience true freedom, the freedom to love others before oneself, freedom from guilt and the joy of spontaneously praising and worshipping God.

St. Paul wrote: What the Spirit brings is very different: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Gal 5: 22f.). This is the freedom that the Spirit gives.


In the Sacred Hearts of Jesus, Mary and Joseph,