THE SPIRIT OF EMPOWERMENT

Pentecost Sunday (Year C)

Acts 2:1-11; Psalm 104:1ab and 24ac, 29bc-30, 31 and 34 (R.v30); Rom 8:8-17; John 14:15-16, 23b-26

THE SPIRIT OF EMPOWERMENT

Happy birthday to all of us, sons and daughters of the Church. This is the day when we celebrate the birth of the Church. On this day of Pentecost, we celebrate the special outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the disciples of Jesus and those gathered with them (cf. Acts 2:1-11), a fulfillment of Jesus promise to them. This outpouring serves one important purpose, which is empowerment.

Remember that towards the end of his earthly life, he was constantly telling them that he would send them the advocate, who is going to empower them and make them to understand all that he had taught them. It is through this empowerment that the Church is able to carry out Christs mandate upon her to go out and make disciples of all nations (Matt 28:19).

Etymologically, the word Pentecost is from a Greek word, πεντηκοστή (pentekoste) which means the 50th Day. And traditionally, it used to be a feast of thanksgiving for the wheat harvest among the Canaanites. Later, the Israelites inherited it after conquering the Canaanites. It was normally a celebration that takes place 50 days after the Passover celebration. That was what the people gathered to celebrate on the day of the descent of the Holy Spirit. With that descent of the Holy Spirit however, Pentecost became Christianized.

What then do we mean by empowerment? Jesus had earlier told the disciples, You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem andto the end of the earth (Acts 1:8). Consider what happened on that day of the Pentecost in line with that. Ordinary illiterates, who were not sure of themselves and were afraid of speaking out for fear of the Jews, suddenly became orators that kept the intellectuals alert while listening to them. Most of them could not speak beyond their native Aramaic, but on that day, they spoke foreign languages. That is what we call empowerment.

In the Gospel, Jesus promised to empower his disciples by sending them a Counselor, who shall be with them for ever (cf. John 14:16) to teach them all things and remind them all that he had already taught them in the past (cf. John 14:26).

Note that this Counselor is not going to begin a completely different teaching from that of Christ; his teaching would be based on that of Christ (cf. John 16:13-14). This clarification is important in order to avoid the temptations of thinking that revelation or the inspiration of the Holy Spirit could be a private business.

That kind of thought and understanding is the reason we have differences in our confession of faith in Christ and in thinking that the Word of God can change to suit us (as in the case of gay rights and Pro-choice activism). To live in the Spirit, we must be controlled by an orientation towards the love of God and not the love of the self above God. St. Paul tells us in the Second Reading that whoever is controlled by self-love cannot belong to Christ.

If we allow ourselves to be controlled by the love of God, that is the most effective way of joining the disciples in speaking the language which everyone would understand (cf. Acts 2:6).

Today marks the end of the Easter season. The Ordinary Time of the Year resumes once more tomorrow. That Paschal Candle which represents the risen Christ would now be removed from the Church. It would now begin to burn throughout the world through us.

Secondly, the green colour, a sign of life and vegetation, that we shall begin to use again invites us to use the gifts of the Holy Spirit that we have received to bear abundance of fruits in the world. May God help us all in this task. Amen.

Have a Spirit-filled Pentecost Sunday. Peace be with you.

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