Pentecost Sunday. Year A. Bible Study: Acts 2:1-11, Psalm 103, 1 Corinthians 12:3-7.12-13 and John 20:19-23).
“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 this feast fifty days (hence the word Pentecost), after the Passover as a Feast of Harvest and more importantly as the memorial celebration of the giving of the Ten Commandments to Moses at Mount Sinai. Since, it was compulsory for every adult Jew to come to Jerusalem to celebrate this Feast and on this day, the city was filled with visitors. It was just the right time for the Holy Spirit to descend.
Interestingly, like the children of Israel received the tablet of the Law on Mount Sinai, marking a totally 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 be careful to observe my ordinances” (Ezekiel 36:26-27).
Again, like God descended on the 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, like a baby cries out loudly at birth, the Church gave a loud cry on this day, 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 on heard them speaking in his own language.” (Acts 2:2-6).
What is the significance of today’s celebration for us and what lessons are contained in liturgy today:
1. The Power of Prayers.
As we celebrate this great Feast today, we realize that as a Church, as people of God, we are in need of this outpouring of the Holy Spirit more than ever before. So much has gone wrong today, like these Apostles, we are filled with fear and anxiety over the pandemic and its effects, we are locked down, depressed and hungry. Even though we cannot all be gathered in one place like the Apostles, we must unite ourselves in prayer.
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. For instance in Acts 1:8, Jesus said “you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth.” Trust in God.
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. Up till that moment, no human being had the power to absolve a person of his or her sins. By breathing on the disciples, Jesus gave them supernatural life, extraordinary grace, so to say to enable them forgive or retain the sins of people. So bear this in mind when next you go for confession. It is by the power of the Holy Spirit that the priest is able to 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 every one. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good” (1 Corinthians 12:4-7). To be charismatic is simply 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 certain group of people who may for instance, be speaking in tongues.
St. Paul explains the other charismatic gifts such as the utterance of wisdom, the utterance 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 baptized into one body -- Jews or Greeks, slaves 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 who were 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 different languages and work together once again, this time, not to challenge God’s authority but to give greater glory to God. With the Holy Spirit, all of us God’s children should now see ourselves as one body. 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. As we celebrate the Coming of the Holy Spirit today, let us dispose ourselves more readily to His powerful working in our lives. If we are good Christians, if we bear fruits for God, if we keep His Commandments, it 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, take possession of my whole being, and enkindle in me your Sacred Fire. Amen.
Happy Sunday. Be Happy. Live Positive. Have Faith. It is well with you. God bless you.