No one can say ‘Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit.” (1 Corinthians 12:3)
Today’s feast is older than Christianity. The Jews celebrated Pentecost (meaning the fiftieth day) feast fifty days after the Feast of Passover. It is the memorial celebration of the giving of the Ten Commandments to Moses at Mount Sinai. Since every adult Jew needed to come to Jerusalem to celebrate this Feast, the city was filled with visitors. On this great day, the Holy Spirit manifested visibly among the disciples in the Upper Room, praying.
Interestingly, just as the children of Israel received the tablet of the Law on Mount Sinai, marking a new dispensation for them – freedom from the captivity of the Egyptians, the coming of the Holy Spirit became the beginning of a new era for God’s children; the birth of the Church and the writing of the Law in our hearts. “A new spirit I will put within you, and I will take out of your flesh the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you and cause you to walk in my statutes and carefully observe My ordinances.” (Ezekiel 36:26-27)
Again, just as God descended on Mount Sinai “in fire and the smoke of it went up like the smoke of a kiln” (Exodus 19:18), God came down upon the Apostles in tongues as of fire. Furthermore, just as a baby would cry out loudly at birth, the Church gave a loud cry on this day; a cry of the tongues. As Luke puts it, “Suddenly a sound came from heaven like the rush of a mighty wind… at this sound, the multitude came together, and they were bewildered because each one heard them speaking in his language.” (Acts 2:2-6).
What is the significance of the Holy Spirit’s manifestation at Pentecost for Christians today? How can Christians receive a fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit? How does the Holy Spirit enable the sacramental remission of sins? These questions bring us to our lessons for today:
*1. The Power of Prayers*
Last Sunday, we reflected on the power of the upper room, where the disciples, in the company of Mary, the mother of Jesus, gathered to pray night and day. In this same room, the Holy Spirit came down mightily upon them. So as we celebrate this great Feast of Pentecost today, we are reminded once again of the power of prayers.
The Church stands at the threshold of a new era as it was two thousand years ago. Many have left the faith; some churches that used to be filled up as early as fifty years ago in developed nations have now been sold and converted into mosques, movie theatres, dancing halls, etc. As a result, we stand in need like never before of a fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit.
We are still lucky that our churches are filled in this part of the world, but the problem is that many Christians today do not seem to translate their values into their everyday life. It is as if once we pull off our Sunday attires, we also pull off our love for God and our neighbour. We need the Holy Spirit. We need a fresh anointing today that just as the entire company of those gathered in the upper room became evangelised, we all may go out today and influence our world for good.
*2. God is a Promise Keeper*
God never promises and fails. The coming of the Holy Spirit was a direct fulfilment of the promises of God in the Scriptures. So today, we are not just celebrating the fiftieth day of Easter; we are celebrating the fact that Jesus promised and kept His word. We are celebrating our total reliance and dependability on God.
In John 15:26, Jesus promised: “When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who comes from the Father, he will testify on my behalf.” In Acts 1:8, just before ascending to the right hand of God, Jesus again promised: “You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem and all Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth.” Just as Jesus said it, it came to pass. God is a promise keeper.
*3. The Holy Spirit Enables Sacramental Remission of Sins*
In today’s Gospel passage, Jesus appeared to the disciples. “He breathed on them, and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.’” (John 20:22-23).
Adam was lifeless until God breathed on him. Until that moment, no human being had the power to absolve a person of their sins. By breathing on the disciples, Jesus gave them supernatural life and extraordinary grace, enabling them to forgive or retain people’s sins.
Bear this in mind when you next go for confession. Then, by the power of the Holy Spirit, the priest can absolve you of your sins.
*4. The Holy Spirit makes us Charismatic*
As St. Paul explains in today’s second reading: “There are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of working, but it is the same God who inspires them all in everyone. Each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.” (1 Corinthians 12:4-7)
To be charismatic is to be gifted; the word ‘charism’ means gift. Every Christian is Charismatic because we all possess different varieties of these gifts of the Holy Spirit. However, when we hear the word Charismatic, we tend to associate it only with a particular group of people who may speak in tongues.
St. Paul explains the other charismatic gifts, such as the utterance of wisdom, the word of knowledge, the gifts of healing, the working of miracles, prophecy, the ability to distinguish between spirits, various kinds of tongues, the interpretation of tongues and so on. (1 Corinthians 12:7-11). The truth is that the Holy Spirit decides which is best for everyone at any point in time. All we need to do is to make our hearts habitable for the Holy Spirit to use us.
*5. The Holy Spirit Unites Us as One*
St. Paul mentions in today’s second reading: “For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For by one Spirit, we were all baptised into one body — Jews or Greeks, enslaved people or free — and all were made to drink of one Spirit.” (1 Corinthians 12:12-13).
With the coming of the Holy Spirit, God seemed to have reversed the confusion of the people attempting to build the Tower of Babel by giving them different languages (Cf. Genesis 10:1-9). With the Power of tongues, people could now understand other languages and work together again, this time not to challenge God’s authority but to provide further glory.
With the Holy Spirit, God’s children should see themselves as one body. Therefore, we must eschew racial discrimination, ethnicism and bigotry from our lives.
*Conclusion:* The Holy Spirit is everything to us. The Holy Spirit is our Life. He is the breath of God in the life of a Christian. Therefore, as we celebrate the Coming of the Holy Spirit today, let us incline ourselves more readily to His mighty working in our lives. If we are good Christians and bear fruits for God, keeping His Commandments means we have the Holy Spirit in us. Otherwise, let us in prayer fan into flames today, the Spirit of God in us.
Let us pray: Come Holy Spirit fill our hearts, and enkindle in us your Sacred Fire. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Bible Study: Acts 2:1-11, Ps. 104:1,24,29-31,34, 1 Corinthians 12:3-7,12-13, John 20:19-23)*
@Rev. Fr. Evaristus E. Abu