By: Rev. Fr. AMEH Sylvanus
Readings: Acts 2:1-11; Psalm 104; 1Cor 12:3-7, 12-13; John 20:19-23
Theme: Come Holy Spirit, Renew the Earth
The Church celebrates today, the Feast of Pentecost, on which we recall the day that the Holy Spirit descended on the disciples of Jesus. It is important to point out here that it is not the coming of the Holy Spirit that made the day ‘Pentecost’. Pentecost was a Jewish feast known as the “Feast of Weeks”, occurring seven weeks (or fifty days) after the Passover. It was a Jewish national holiday that recalls the receiving of the Law by Moses from God as well as thanksgiving for the harvest. Pentecost was one of the three obligatory festivals for all Jewish males from twelve years upwards living in Jerusalem or within a twenty mile radius of Jerusalem to make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, the others being the Feast of the Passover and the Feast of Tabernacles. It was also a business time for people of other nationalities, who brought wares to sell to the Jews, thus explaining the multilingual crowd that understood the disciples praying in their different tongues. It was on this day of Pentecost that the Holy Spirit descended on the disciples of Jesus; it was on this day that the church was born and publicly manifested.
This coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost which we read of in our first reading brought about and still continues to bring about new changes in the world and in the lives of believers. From the very first experience of the outpouring of the Spirit, an irreversible transformation occurred, and the Holy Spirit still continues his work in our world today. Jesus had told his disciples to wait in Jerusalem for the coming of the Paraclete, the Comforter, the Advocate. For “fear of the Jews” (Jn 20:19), they huddled themselves up in the Upper Room and when the Spirit came, that fear disappeared. A renewal took place in their lives that they began to bear witness to Jesus from Jerusalem, just as Jesus had told them they would (Acts 1:8). This happened because the Spirit they had just received was not the spirit of fear and timidity, but the Spirit of power! The Holy Spirit renewed the believers!
In our second reading, Saint Paul likened the community of believers to the many parts of the body. This is irrespective of nationality, race, tribe, gift/potentials, social and/or economic status and all the other differentiations that people make among themselves. Saint Paul simply says “we were baptized into one body and made to drink of the one Spirit” (1 Cor 12:13). He therefore goes on to teach that our differences are all works of the Spirit and they are meant to be used for the glorification of the body of Christ, where one complements the other. By the power and workings of the Holy Spirit, these diversities are redirected for the common good, thus bringing about a renewed communal experience. This renewal is also to be seen in families and other communities where the individuals making up such communities play different roles but for the common good.
As we read in the gospel text, the breathing of the Holy Spirit on the Apostles, by which Jesus gave them the power to forgive sins, thereby instituting the Sacrament of Penance in the Church, is another source of renewal by the Spirit. In Penance, we come to God stained with our sins; by the action of the Holy Spirit in the sacrament, we return from cleansed and completely renewed. This act of renewal by the Spirit restores our injured relationship with God. We see therefore, that at every point and every time the Holy Spirit is at work, something new happens, or something existent is given new life, new vigour.
As we celebrate Pentecost today, we remind ourselves that the Holy Spirit is still very much with us. He is still actively working in, among and through us. It is therefore important for us to submit to the power and promptings of the spirit as he leads us, especially as it concerns the renewal of our lives, our homes, our marriages, our neighborhoods, our work/business places, our Church and our world. The Holy Spirit needs us as his active agents to bring about the renewal of the face of the earth when we use our gifts, talents and resources for the common good. As the Spirit which gives and also unites different gifts and different people in the one body of Christ, the Holy Spirit also needs us to be agents of peace and unity wherever we find ourselves. Our world today is sick, especially with the coronavirus pandemic. We are all looking up to God for an end to it, but we all have roles to play also. By the power of the Holy Spirit, this pandemic shall either pass and be no more, or we shall be given the immunity to resist and live with it. However, as the Spirit of God does his work of renewing the health of the world, we must also do our part of helping to contain the spread of the virus by following the preventive guidelines given to us by government and health officials.
We pray that the Holy Spirit whose feast we celebrate today may come down mightily upon us upon our families, upon our marriages, upon our work/businesses, upon our church and upon our world and renew every tired, sick, wounded or dying part(s) of them. Amen. Come Holy Spirit… renew the face of the earth.