“YOU WILL RECEIVE POWER WHEN THE HOLY SPIRIT COMES UPON YOU” (Acts 1:8)
📕Acts 2:1-11; Psalm 104:1ab and 24ac, 29bc-30, 31 and 34 (R.v30); Gal 5:16-25; John 15:26-27, 16:12-15
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.
The Gospel also has a promise of an empowerment. Jesus promised his disciples that the Holy Spirit would lead them to understand the complete truth. This does not mean that Jesus did not teach the complete truth. He is truth himself (cf. John 14:6). The work of the Holy Spirit is to make Jesus teachings clearer to the disciples, enabling them to be true witnesses of Jesus (cf. John 15:27).
To be true witnesses to Christ, as those led by the Spirit, we must mortify our flesh and live in the Spirit. That is the message of St Paul to the Galatians in our Second Reading of today. He has been teaching them that their faith has liberated them from the burdens of the Law. And so, their freedom in Christ is a perfect one (cf. Gal 5:1). But that led many of them into complacency and many of them began to live in immorality according to the desires of the flesh (see Gal 5:19-21).
Is that not the same thing that happens with some religious teachings of this day? Many of them would teach you that it is only by grace that you are saved. To these, St. James asks, What good is it to profess faith without having works? (James 2:14). Those works are contained in the fruits of the Spirit which St. Paul recommends to us today (cf. Gal 5:22).
If we bear those fruits of the Spirit, we shall join the disciples in speaking the language which everyone would understand. That is the language of love.
Today marks the end of the Easter season. The Ordinary Time of the Year begins 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. And 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 celebration. Peace be with you.