In the movie, Captain America, Steve is a young man of strong character who wants to work for justice in the world, in spite of his evident lack of bulk and brawn. Steve has everything going for him except the physical strength to carry out his laudable ambitions. 

His situation reminds me of the apostles before Pentecost, before the promised Holy Spirit descended upon them in the upper room as He did in today’s First Reading. The apostles loved Jesus. Their intentions were golden. These earnest men had learned a great deal by being with Our Lord, and it was their desire to continue His life-saving mission. But they were too feeble. 

In the case of the earliest Church leaders, it wasn’t physical strength they needed, it was the courage, the love, and the power to do all that Jesus had commissioned them to do. Now, in the upper room, Christ keeps his last promise to his beloved friends and sends them the Holy Spirit. Similar to the way Steve was changed in mere moments through a scientific experiment into the buff and beautiful Captain America, the apostles were filled with the Holy Spirit and utterly transfigured. This historic moment wasn’t just a radical turning point in the lives the apostles, it was the birth of the Church. Furthermore, ever since that moment, every human being has had the opportunity to share in God’s Divine life through the Spirit. The power Pentecost unleashed on the world was tsunamic in the best way possible.

Again and again, the Catechism of the Catholic Church refers to the action of the Holy Spirit: He animates all creation, awakens faith, enables communication with Christ, helps man grow in spiritual freedom, is the master and source of prayer, is the principal author of Scripture and so on. The Catechism also highlights the gifts of the Holy Spirit (1831), His fruits (1832), and His charisms (2003).

It is breathtaking to think that, at the moment of our baptisms, the third Person of the Trinity comes to dwell in us and bestows supernatural gifts upon us. If we cooperate with the movement of the Spirit in our lives and in our souls, we will receive whatever we need to grow in holiness and minister to those around us. He wants to empower us. The apostles, who desired the Holy Spirit, awaited Him eagerly, and responded whole-heartedly to His inspirations, are models for us to imitate. 

The kind of decision that the character of Steve in Captain America had to make was one that faces all of us in the spiritual realm. Are we content to be spiritually puny, reticent to tap into Divine power? Or are we ready to take our good intentions and our knowledge of Christ to the next level, out of love of God and neighbor, by allowing the Holy Spirit to even more radically transform us? The world awaits our answer.

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Saint Boniface

Saint Boniface was an English Benedictine monk who made it his life’s mission to convert the Germanic tribes to Christianity. He found it was no easy task and ended up giving his life for the cause. Boniface was martyred on June 5, 754.