I THOUGHT YOU SHOULD KNOW | Pentecost encourages us to become intoxicated in the Spirit

On the Feast of Pentecost, as the disciples gathered in prayer, "there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind ..." In addition to this, tongues as of fire came upon each one, and all were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues.

Scripture then tells us: "They were all astounded and bewildered, and said to one another, 'What does this mean?' But others said, scoffing, 'They have had too much new wine.'"

It is almost impossible for us to exaggerate what a phenomenal event this was. In importance, the Pentecost event ranks right after the Incarnation, Passion, Death and Resurrection of Christ! No one witnessed the Resurrection of Jesus, but many, many people witnessed the spectacular events surrounding the feast of Pentecost.

For believers, this was a life-changing experience. As the disciples were filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke in tongues, each one "heard them speaking in his own language." In the history of the universe, this never before happened. Just imagine God speaking personally to you through others, and you alone know what God is saying to you. What a remarkable experience for this to happen to so many people at the same time! Those involved must have felt exhilarated and even giddy at times.

Even scoffers, who did not understand, said, "They have had too much new wine." Peter got up and told them, "These are not drunk as you suppose, for it is only nine o'clock in the morning."

The term "wine" in Scripture frequently symbolized the coming of the Holy Spirit. We see at the Wedding Feast of Cana that changing water into an abundance of wine was a foreshadowing of the future outpouring of the Holy Spirit. In chapter seven of the Gospel of John, we read that Jesus "stood up and exclaimed, 'Let anyone who thirsts come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture says, 'Rivers of living water' will flow from within him.' He said this in reference to the Spirit that those who came to believe in Him were to receive. There was, of course, no Spirit yet, because Jesus had not yet been glorified."

The Fathers of the Church referred to this as a "spiritual intoxication, an inebriation of the Holy Spirit." Commenting on this passage, St. Cyril of Jerusalem tells us, "They are not drunk in the way you might think. They are indeed drunk, but with the sober intoxication, ... which kills sin and gives life to the heart and which is the opposite of physical drunkenness. Drunkenness makes a person forget what he knows; this kind, instead, brings understanding of things that were not formerly known. They are drunk insofar as they have drunk the wine of that mystical vine which affirms, 'I am the vine, you are the branches'(John 15:5)."

St. Ambrose tells us: "Every time you drink, you receive the remission of sins and you become intoxicated with the Spirit. It is in that sense that the Apostle said, 'Do not get drunk with wine ... but be filled with the Spirit'. ... He who becomes intoxicated with the Holy Spirit is rooted in Christ. How truly excellent is this intoxication which produces the sobriety of the soul."

In his book, "Sober Intoxication of the Spirit," Father Raniero Cantalamessa tells us, "The Holy Spirit, when received in the sacraments and especially in the Eucharist, gives the soul a kind of intoxication that has nothing disordered or superficial about it. Rather, this intoxication takes the soul beyond its normal experience, beyond its poverty and powerlessness, into a state of grace where there is no room for doubts, regrets or self-absorption but only for joy and thanksgiving. The soul is rooted in Christ."

You may say, "this is nonsense, I don't get it!" Really? Think of a moment in your life when you were overwhelmed with a sense of holy joy. Perhaps it was the birth of a baby; perhaps it was the sudden realization that God had given you a very special person to love you with His love; perhaps in response to prayer you received some incredibly good news about the sudden cure of an illness, or the return to the sacraments of an individual who had been away from the Church for decades.

I remember someone telling me with great joy one Sunday morning after Mass about a missionary visiting him the previous day at his house. "Yesterday, after living in serious sin for 70 years, ... I went to confession, and Satan was defeated!" he said.

To watch him gesture with his fist was to be convinced that this was a source of deep joy in the Holy Spirit.

Perhaps the finest way you and I can celebrate this feast and this season is to simply say to Jesus: "Fill me with the new wine of Pentecost." Keep it simple. Pray this prayer every day. Make a good confession. Every day read a few verses from the Acts of the Apostles.

This is the culture of the Holy Spirit that the soul loves. It fills us with so much joy and peace. We develop a love for prayer and reading the Scriptures. We find ourselves with surprising "outbreaks of kindness" towards others!

Jesus wants you to experience this. Your heavenly Father wants you to experience this. "If you then ... know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him."

May I also suggest that you watch your parish bulletins for information about "Life in the Spirit Seminars" that are given in the archdiocese throughout the year. These are wonderful ways to discover the surprise of the Holy Spirit.

Weekly readings

Sunday, June 1

Ascension of the Lord

Acts 1:1-11

Psalms 47:2-3, 6-7, 8-9

Ephesians 1:17-23

Matthew 28:16-20

Monday, June 2

7th week of Easter

Acts 19:1-8

Psalms 68:2-3, 4-5, 6-7

John 16:29-33

Tuesday, June 3

Sts. Charles Lwanga and companions, martyrs - Memorial

Acts 20:17-27

Psalms 68:10-11, 20-21

John 17:1-11

Wednesday, June 4

7th week of Easter

Acts 20:28-38

Psalms 68:29-30, 33-35, 35-36

John 17:11-19

Thursday, June 5

Saint Boniface, bishop and martyr - Memorial

Acts 22:30; 23:6-11

Psalms 16:1-2, 5, 7-8, 9-10, 11

John 17:20-26

Friday, June 6

7th week of Easter

Acts 25:13-21

Psalms 103:1-2, 11-12, 19-20

John 21:15-19

Saturday, June 7

7th week of Easter

Acts 28:16-20, 30-31

Psalms 11:4, 5, 7

John 21:20-25

Sunday, June 8

Pentecost Sunday

Acts 2:1-11

1 Corinthians 12:3b-7, 12-13

John 20:19-23 

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