DO NOT MAKE THE HOLY SPIRIT SAD!
Acts 2:1-11; 1Cor 12:3-7, 12-13; John 20:19-23
Today is Pentecost Sunday, the day we celebrate the fulfillment of the promise of Christ when he said “I will send you the Advocate to be with you and remind you of all that I have taught you” (Jn 14:26). It is a great day because it is the birthday of the Church. It is the coming of the Holy Spirit that gave the Apostles the power and courage to go out and preach the Gospel to all Nations, and baptize them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Today marks 50 days since Easter. It officially ends the season of Easter and begins the ordinary time of the year. Today, we say the final “Alleluia” and take away the Easter Candle, to be lit only during baptisms and funerals. On this day, the Holy Spirit came down on the Apostles.
1. WHO IS THE HOLY SPIRIT?
Today, we are not simply talking about “the spirit” but about the HOLY SPIRIT. There are many spirits, but there is only one Holy Spirit. The Nicene Creed, which we recite at Holy Mass on Sundays and Solemnities, gives us the most concise definition of the Holy Spirit; “We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and the giver of life; who proceeds from the Father and the Son. Together with the Father and the Son, he is worshipped and glorified. It is he who spoke through the prophets”. Today, we are celebrating the coming of God who gives life, and there is no other life that makes meaning if it is not life that is animated by the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit is the Third Person of the Most Holy Trinity. Jesus promised to give this Spirit, the Advocate, to his disciples before his passion. The full outpouring of that gift came on Pentecost day, ten days after his Ascension. That is the feast we celebrate today. Jesus gave the Holy Spirit to his Church. However, he does not only give the Spirit to the Church as a body; he also gives the Holy Spirit to individual believers. That is what St. Paul says in the second reading of today’s liturgy. We believe that the moment when Jesus gives us the Holy Spirit is at our Baptism. Later on when we receive Confirmation, the gift of the Holy Spirit is confirmed in us. That is to say, the gift of the Holy Spirit in us reaches maturity.
The Holy Spirit present in us empowers us to do many things, beginning with saying that “Jesus is Lord.” Without the presence of the Holy Spirit in us, it is really impossible for anyone to say that “Jesus is Lord”, and mean it. The Spirit’s presence also empowers us to do many other things besides. That is, it enables us to exercise a variety of gifts (charisms) and service (ministries), as St. Paul also tells us in today second reading. All of us who have the Holy Spirit living in us are in a position to exercise those gifts and services. These gifts are given to us for the purpose of building up the Church. They are not given to us to show off or to feather our nests. They are given exclusively for the good of the community of believers, the church. We are supposed to use them for just that purpose. Any other use that we may try to put the gifts and services that the Holy Spirit give us to would be fraudulent, an unwarranted abuse of those gifts and service.
2. THE HOLY SPIRIT IS A SPIRIT OF UNITY
Today’s first reading from the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 2:1-11) tells us that the Apostles were all filled with the Holy Spirit and they spoke in tongues. They spoke in their language and people understood in their individual languages. This means that the Holy Spirit is a spirit of unity. We know that since the tower of Babel in Genesis 11:1-9, language is more divisive rather than uniting. But the Holy Spirit unites all with love, regardless of their tribe, tongue, colour, or nation of origin. In the Second Reading of today, we read: “For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, slaves or free persons, and we were all given to drink of one Spirit” (1Cor 12:13). The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of UNITY. Any spirit that divides, preaches hate, and causes confusion, cannot be from God; and therefore, it cannot be the Holy Spirit.
In Galatians 5:22-23, St. Paul tell us that the fruits of the Spirit are very distinct and evident. They are: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, trustfulness, gentleness, and self-control…”. Any spirit, therefore, that divides people cannot be the Holy Spirit, no matter the number of miracles it can work. Any spirit that disobeys and promotes hatred, disorder and fighting among God’s people, cannot be the spirit of God, no matter how HOLY it seems. Christians, therefore, should look for the signs of the spirit in the fruits it produces. Any Spirit that goes against the Church and her doctrines cannot be the spirit of God. The Holy Spirit can never contradict himself. He cannot tell the Church one thing and, then, tell an individual another thing. In this regard, we dare to say that those who sleep in their rooms and receive special messages from the holy spirit, or those who are prone to hear voices and claim to mediate between the spirit and their ‘special clients’, against the instructions of the Magisterium (the living teaching office of the Church,) may need to see a medical doctor for special attention and examination.
3. NOT EVERY SPIRIT CAN BE TRUSTED!
St. John tells us that it is not every spirit that we can trust. We must test every spirit to see if it comes from God. ‘It is not every spirit, my dear people that you can trust; test them to see if they come from God, there are many false prophets, now, in the world. You can tell the spirits that come from God by this: every spirit which acknowledges that Jesus the Christ has come in the flesh is from God and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God” (1John 4:1-3). There are many spirits, some of which are “NOT HOLY” and which are not from God. The presence of miracles is never to be equated with the manifestations of the Spirit of God. For, not only does the devil take upon himself the working of miracles in order to fool God’s children, Christ himself say that he does not know some of those who call him “Lord, Lord” and work Miracles in his name. “On that day, many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ and then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me you evil doers” (Mt 7:22-23).
There are many spirits; and some are EVIL SPIRITS. Therefore, a Christian is not supposed to invoke any other spirit that is not the HOLY Spirit. This means that
– those who invoke the spirits of the dead,
– those who associate with the spirits of witchcraft,
– those who have surrendered themselves to the spirits of secret societies in order to look for earthly pleasures and power,
– those who are involved in occult practices,
– those who seek assistance in the spirits of the soothsayer (Ngambi man),
– those who conjure the ‘spirits of the sea’ and the ‘spirits of the night’, are not children of God, but servants of the devil himself. Dealing with the Spirit needs a lot of care and discernment on the part of every Christian. (We cannot treat the topic of discernment here!)
4. CERTAIN ABUSES OF THE HOLY SPIRIT IN THE CHURCH
a) The presence of the Holy Spirit does not equal the PERFORMANCE OF SOMETHING DRAMATIC. It does not necessarily call for loud screaming, tumbling and falling over, and “speaking in strange tongues”, as Christians of some new-found churches would want us believe.
b) The Holy Spirit is not a SOOTHSAYER (Ngambi Man). Any spirit that preaches or which acts as a soothsayer must be suspected. Some people have been known to cause untold confusion and hatred in families because they specialize in telling people who have problems that the Holy Spirit has revealed to them which of their friends or family members are responsible for their misfortunes. Such information breeds hatred and the desire for revenge. No! The Holy Spirit never says things like that. If any priest or prayer-warrior tells you who is responsible for your problems, rebuke the evil spirit that is speaking in him or her immediately!
c) The Holy Spirit is a spirit of HUMILITY. Leaders of the Church and prayer groups should avoid PRIDE because they seem to be “filled with the spirit”. Some claim the power of working miracles, and they attribute such powers to themselves. This makes some of them think that the Holy Spirit is their private property and that they are holier than everyone else. They forget that they are simple instruments of God’s work. Such a mentality accounts for fights for leadership positions in such groups and in the Church.
d) The Holy Spirit gives room for a VARIETY in the Church. He is not a spirit to be MONOPOLIZED by anyone. He can never be taken hostage by any individual or group of individual. He blows where he wills.
5. DO NOT MAKE THE HOLY SPIRIT SAD!
As powerful as God’s Spirit is, the we learn from St. Paul that we can restrict his power. In his letter to the Ephesians, he tells us NOT TO GRIEVE THE HOLY SPIRIT (Eph 4:30). Paul tells us that we can make the Spirit sad when we engage in nasty talk and allow bitterness, anger, and resentment to build within us. If we want the Spirit to work freely in us we must keep these things from our lives. We must be diligent in pursuing godly living.
In 1Thessalonians 5:19 we are told to make sure we do not “put out the Spirit’s fire (quench the spirit).” We hinder the work of God’s Spirit when we sin. The power of the Spirit is within us, but every time we drift from the Lord, every time we accommodate sin, we put obstacles in the way of God’s Spirit. To the Galatians, St. Paul further says that the absence of the Spirit in our lives gives rise to what he calls “self-indulgence”. And ‘when self-indulgence is at work the results are obvious: fornication, gross indecency and sexual irresponsibility; idolatry and sorcery; feuds and wrangling, jealousy, bad temper and quarrels; disagreements, factions, envy; drunkenness, orgies and similar things. I warn you now, as I warned you before: those who behave like this will not inherit the kingdom of God” (Gal. 5:19-21). We can therefore not enjoy the gifts of the Holy Spirit and bear fruit when we live in perpetual sin.
Dear brothers and sisters, let us ask God, on this day of Pentecost, not only to FILL US with the Holy Spirit but also to GIVE US THE GIFT OF DISCERNMENT, so that we may be able to distinguish the Holy Spirit from the evil spirits.