Pentecost Sunday: 23 May 2021
|(Picture courtesy: Jean-Marc Arakelian)|
One of the post-resurrection promises of Jesus was to send the Holy Spirit upon the disciples, and it is fulfilled today. The first reading from the Acts of the Apostles gives us a fascinating description of the coming down of the Holy Spirit on the fear-stricken disciples of Jesus. The Pentecost scene described here is a vivid and colourful one – tongues of fire, a powerful wind. When the disciples were together the Holy Spirit came upon them and fills them with a heart of Christ. In other words, Jesus appears to them again and the oneness is exemplified. The Father reunites Jesus with his followers in a new way through the Holy Spirit, so that they may continue to live the life of Jesus through their actions and words. The Holy Spirit appeared to them as tongues of fire. It made its way through a loud noise like a strong driving wind. Then they began to speak in tongues, which means they began to speak in different languages. This was a moment we generally call the establishment of the Church.
1. Holy Spirit is the foundational experience of the first Chruch
Pentecost was a foundational and defining moment in the life of the early Church. The Church would become an instrument of salvation, which will speak about the resurrection of the Lord. The Gospel reading tells us that Jesus breathed on the disciples the Holy Spirit. It has some similarities with the first book of the Bible, Genesis, where God breathed on the first man and gave him life; just as Adam’s life came from God, so now the disciples’ new spiritual life comes from Jesus.
Jesus becomes the center of life and mission of the disciples. This process begins on the day they receive the Holy Spirit. The Spirit allows them to carry out the works of Jesus including those of preaching, healing, teaching and bringing salvation. The disciples become new visionaries of the kingdom of God and the energy of God flows from them now reaching beyond the confines of nationalities, temperaments, languages, races and ideologies.
2. Holy Spirit renews and transforms the life of the disciples
The Holy Spirit renews the disciples of Jesus and their life is changed. They no more are going back to their old trades like fishing or tax collection but they become new people filled with a new dream of building and fortifying the work their master had already begun. There is an enthusiasm and vigour in them. They go out of their towns and villages to preach Christ. The resurrected Jesus becomes their breath and subject matter of preaching.
What does it mean for us to be filled with the breathing of God? It is to be a beautiful garden where everyone can breathe in freedom and truth. It is to become like that desert of our lives which flourishes. The obvious thing that we see today through the experience of Pentecost is the visible institution to which we belong, the Church. This Greek term ecclesia means assembly, in other words, those who carry the name of Jesus, gather together in Jesus’ name, celebrates life with him. As Christians, we are called to cherish a life of holiness and sanctification. The Holy Spirit helps us in doing it, and in making our life meaningful and worthy.
3. Holy spirit makes one bold to be another Christ
When I speak of Christ I cannot but convey the idea of what the Christian faith means to me. The faith in Jesus Christ concretizes or realized in the Church. There is no Church without Jesus; there is no Jesus of our faith without the Holy Spirit. There are many baptized Christians today who are skeptical and uncomfortable about their faith not only in an institutional Church but also in Christ. A dialectical confusion or delayed agnosticism occurring in a particular stage of one's life could be one of the reasons. Perhaps there is also a growing tendency among people to a lack of sense of beauty or wonder or openness to see things in a mystical way. The Church is the foundation where we are instructed of our faith. From our baptism until we become part of the dust we are accounted within the Church through various sacraments, liturgical practices, and other pious activities. It is no secret that many of us do think and wonder why so many of our youth seem not to take our Church as seriously as we once did.
We do try out to give our reasons like our homilies are boring, that we should be as entertaining as MTV or the new supermarket cathedrals. We can blame the music, the irritating improvisations, the lack of reverence, the loss of chant, the irrelevance of sermons, the traditional Latin Mass, the carping about money, the use of language, scandals, etc. As a priest, I do ask myself whether these reasons have any ground at all. I do my prayers every day because I believe that I need God and I am in his hands. I believe that the above said reasons should not determine my practice of faith. At times we may despair at the darkness in this world, in our Church as well but we must remember that Jesus is still as near to us now as he was to his disciples.
4. Holy Spirit flows in the Church with its sacramental grace.
The Church is the sacrament of Christ. Church gives us all an identity to our faith in Christ. The Early Church was moved by the fire which went on proclaiming God and His love. The Early Church was different, pluralistic in its approach, differences of opinions and ideas did prevail. However, these did not prevent them from carrying out the work of proclamation. They cherished whatever they experienced. It was enough to make them feel like one vibrant body, unified in a common good and goal.
So what is that common gift we share as Christians? Certainly, it is the gift of the Holy Spirit, which is expressed in common with all Christians: our Gospels, our Lord, our one faith, baptism, and communion. The Holy Spirit makes something special that is καθολικός "Catholic" means universal. This Catholic dimension is holistic, organic, and integral. And we profess this in our Creed.
Christ is not confined just to an experience. He calls us to proclaim through our lives. He is not in our sanctuaries alone. He is not in the law alone. He is not in sacraments alone. He is not in scripture alone. He is not in our devotions, our saints, or our poor alone. He lives in and through them all. And through them all, he blesses and calls us. No one of them is supreme. Only he is supreme. And only in him do we find the spirit of God that vivifies all his parts. We also try to let the peace of God rest within us, and rejoice in the hope that his work is not done yet. Finally, we trust in his goodness and wait patiently upon him. Especially during this time, we need the Holy Spirit more than ever to heal us as global illness and its devastating effects are ravaging us ceaselessly. Let the Holy Spirit make us bold, courageous, strong and resilent to face the challenges and tragedies which we have been encountering these troubled times.
On this Pentecost Sunday, let us implore the Holy Spirit to awaken our slumbering hearts and remove the blindness from our eyes, so that we may see and hear Jesus, Risen Lord, and that we might be given, through the Spirit’s manifold gifts, the grace to more boldly proclaim Him.
Questions for your reflections:
1. Have you realized at any time the Spirit of God acting in your life boldly, and courageously?
2. Put yourself in that scene of the apostles receiving the Holy Spirit. Now imagine yourself that you have received the Holy Spirit. What would you do if you were in the place of the disciples now?
3. God’s Spirit is present here and now, present in this place, present within you, because you are a temple of the Holy Spirit. Knowing that God’s Spirit is with you right now, what do you want to say to him?
4. Don't you like to make a commitment from today onwards to pray to the Holy Spirit reverently and fervently?
Dear Lord, Thank you for the precious gift of your Son. Help us to live peacefully as we follow you, and to call upon your Holy Spirit when we are lost. Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit, and they shall be created and you will renew the face of the earth. Make me and all who confess your holy name people of this light. Make me faithful to your Word that I may bring your life to the waiting world. Grant this through Christ our Lord. Amen.
- Olvin Veigas, SJ
21 May 2021