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Saturday, 23 May 2015

Reflection/Homily: Pentecost Sunday (May 24 2015)

Reflection/Homily: Pentecost Sunday (May 24 2015)
Theme: “Receive the Holy Spirit”

The Word “Pentecost” is derived from the Greek word “pentekoste (hemera)” meaning “fiftieth (day). Pentecost Sunday is a Christian feast with a Jewish origin in the Old Testament known as the “festival of weeks” (Shavuot) (cf. Ex. 34:22). Since Shavuot is celebrated 50 days after the “pesach” (Passover or Christian Easter) in thanksgiving to Yahweh for the reception of the Torah, Hellenistic Jews gave it a Greek name pentekoste and that was the major reason why the Jews gathered in the first reading. (Acts 2:1-11). In Christianity, we celebrate Pentecost as the fiftieth day after Easter, commemorating the descent of the Holy Spirit on the Apostles. It is also the tenth day after the Ascension.

Christians could find some relationship between the Jewish and the Christian Pentecost. Moses had to go up to Mount Sinai to receive the Law, as the apostles had to go up to the Upper Room to receive the Holy Spirit. While the Law guided the Jews, the Holy Spirit guides the Christians for they are no longer governed by the Law but by the Spirit. The descent of the Holy Spirit as we saw in the first reading did not just occur in history. It was prophesied both in the Old Testament and the New Testament. In Joel 3:1, God promised to pour out his Spirit on all humanity in the latter days and in Mt 3:11, John spoke of the One who will baptize with the Holy Spirit and fire. Jesus also spoke of ascending to the Father, so that the Holy Spirit would come. The Holy Spirit is the third person of the Blessed Trinity which is known as the Paraclete, the Comforter and the promise of the Father. He performs the functions of sanctification and empowerment. At the Pentecost, He sanctified the Apostles and empowered them to lead the Church. Some theologians consider today to be the birthday of the Church and the baptism of the Apostles.

The significance of this celebration is on the impact of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Without the Holy Spirit, the redemptive mission of Christ would have remained incomplete because it is the mission of the Blessed Trinity to redeem mankind. The Father began it in the Son and completed it through the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit united the Apostles and the early Christians, empowered them in their missionary activities and they were successful. Till now, the Holy Spirit still illumines us to understand the message of the Scripture by leading us to the complete truth. He enables us to cry “Abba Father” and is continually interceding for us especially when we are weak. He empowers us to do good always and to exercise multifarious charisms as we saw in the second reading (1 Cor. 12:3-7, 12-13).

In the gospel reading (Jn. 20:19-23), Jesus breathed on his Apostles saying “receive the Holy Spirit” and gave them the power to forgive sins. The Holy Spirit is the breath of life in the Church and the means of forgiveness and sanctification in the Church and its members. That the Church has survived all ages and difficulties is through the power and promptings of the Holy Spirit. Like the Church, we need the Holy Spirit in our lives. He is a precious gift from the Father and we need Him to achieve success in whatever we do. Mary received Him at the Annunciation and was able to be the Mother of God (Theotokos). Jesus received Him at his baptism and was successful in his salvific mission, the Apostles received Him on Pentecost day and were successful in nurturing the early Church. You too have received Him at your baptism and ought to be successful in your Christian life and endeavours.

Therefore beloved friends, to achieve success with the gift of the Holy Spirit, we should try to avoid sin, practice holiness of life, and be devoted to the Holy Spirit through prayer. This will renew His power in us and give Him the opportunity to work in and through us. In this spirit of prayer, let us then join the psalmist to say “Lord send forth your spirit and renew the face of the earth”. But remember to co-operate with the Holy Spirit because He wants to use you to renew the face of the earth beginning with your immediate environment as you go out today to proclaim the Good News as the Apostles did on the first Pentecost. God loves you.

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