Acts 2. 1 – 21

John 14. 8 – 17

Fr Alex


Finally we’ve reached the 50th day of Easter, the ‘Pentecost,’ and our liturgical celebration of the Paschal cycle is completed.

Christ is risen, he is ascended, and he has sent the Spirit as he promised, to equip his followers to take his Gospel to the ends of the world.

We’re celebrating today the anniversary of the birth of the Church, almost two millennia ago.

So it’s very appropriate that on this great anniversary, this jubilee of the Church, we should be celebrating another jubilee: the Platinum Jubilee of Her Majesty the Queen.

As St Paul tells us, the fruits of the Spirit are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control… I think all of those are wonderfully apt words to describe our Sovereign Lady, as we celebrate her 70th year on the throne.

And it is her faith that has been central to her vocation as Queen. 

The Archbishop of York in his sermon on Thursday said that in Her Majesty, we see an example of the best kind of Christian service: a faithfulness to God, an obedience to a vocation that is the bedrock of her life.  The deep well of her faith pouring out like a fountain to bless others.

But I saw in the news that there’s another anniversary that falls in these days of celebration.  Another Christian leader, Vladimir Putin, ordered the invasion of Ukraine, 100 days ago on Friday.

And indeed, there’s a sacral element to this terrible war: Putin’s reason for subjugating Ukraine is as much spiritual as anything else.  He’s even backed by the Russian Church.

The longer this war goes on, the worse it gets.  And the further away our humanity falls from the desires of the Father.

So what can we make of these conflicting anniversaries?  What’s the Holy Spirit doing, in all of this?

I was struck by the very first line of our first reading this morning.  “When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place.”

“They were all together…” in unity of purpose, united in prayer, all ready to devote themselves to the great work that Jesus began.

We celebrated just over a week ago the Ascension of Christ: we saw the destiny of our fallen humanity, to be gathered up into the love of God.

Now on Pentecost, the work that Christ began on earth is entrusted to us, his Church. 

And it’s not entrusted to individuals: it is entrusted to a Church: a body of believers, united in faith and love, and united in purpose.

The Spirit that brings the Church to birth at Pentecost continues to work within us to draw us together in the unity of faith, just as Jesus worked to draw our humanity together with the divinity of God.

It is the perfect unity of the Trinity – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – that gives life to the world, that redeems it, and sustains it.

And we see in our monarch a leader who gets that.  Whose life has always been devoted to others: who has been sustained by her faith, that great well of the unity that is the life of heaven.

Her speech on her 21st birthday sums it up perfectly: “I declare before you now that my whole life, whether it be long or short, shall be devoted to your service and the service of our great family to which we all belong.  But I shall not have strength to carry out this resolution alone unless you join in it with me, as I now invite you to do.  God help me to make good my vow, and God bless all of you who are willing to share in it.”

Unity of purpose; united under God in service of one another.  A far cry from Vladimir Putin, who seeks to tear apart, and destroy, for his own selfish ends.

We know, all too well, that the gift of the Spirit at Pentecost didn’t magically make the world all ok.  We just have to look to what the people of Ukraine are experiencing to see that.  We humans are not yet perfect as Christ is perfect.  His work is the work of ages, not just a lifetime.

But we humans have been empowered by the Spirit at Pentecost with the capacity for that unity that is God’s will.  We still strive for that unity because we know that, with the Spirit, it is possible.

That is what the Spirit has been doing since the first spark of creation, and will continue to do until creation is remade – drawing us together, bringing us closer to God and to each other.

So what can we do to enter into this great work?  Well, we can pray.  As we heard, when the disciples received the Spirit they were all gathered together in one place, and praying. 

So keep praying that God will send his Spirit to strengthen you in your faith, and draw you closer to him.

Keep praying that God will reveal his purpose for you in his Church; and through the gift of his Spirit, will empower you in your vocation.

Keep praying that the Spirit will turn the hearts of those who seek to tear apart and destroy; and draw them towards the unity of the Trinity.

In short: just keep praying.

Holy Spirit, ignite in us your holy fire; strengthen your children with the gift of faith, revive your world and your Church with the breath of love, and renew your creation; that we may experience on earth that unity that is the life of heaven, through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.