Acts 2:1-11; Romans 8:8-17; John 14:15-16,23-26
When big feasts, solemnities and also Sundays come, we recite at every Mass the Creed which says: “We believe in the holy spirit, the Lord and Giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son, who with the Father and the Son is adored and glorified, who has spoken to us through the prophets.” We do believe in Him. The Holy Spirit is good for us. But sad to say that we give less importance to the coming and the dwelling of the Holy Spirit in us. If only we knew! We can do nothing without the Holy Spirit in these troubled times of ours. We really need the Holy Spirit nowadays.
In Acts Chapter 2, we see what is considered to be the beginning of the Church. This was the day the church took its first step forward. As Christians, the day of Pentecost is the day the Holy Spirit came to earth. The Jewish celebration of Pentecost was a time when the people of Israel gathered with the first fruits of their harvest. It was a time for giving thanks for the blessing of God. Over the years it also became a celebration that recalled the giving of the law to Moses.
In Acts Chapter 2, we see the first Pentecost celebration after the resurrection of Jesus. On this day the world saw the first fruits of God’s spiritual harvest as over 3000 people came to believe and trust Jesus as their Saviour. There are at least three important issues in this event.
- THE PROMISE WAS BEING FULFILLED
Throughout the course of the ministry of Jesus he prepared His disciples for his coming death. He told them that they needed to see His death not as a tragedy but as a necessity. His death would bring them life and would make it possible for God to send His Spirit into our very hearts. In the gospel of John, Jesus told his disciples,
I am telling you the truth: it is for your own good that I am going, because unless I go, the Paraclete will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will show the world how wrong it was, about sin, and about who was in the right, and about judgement: about sin: in that they refuse to believe in me; about who was in the right: in that I am going to the Father and you will see me no more; about judgement: in that the prince of this world is already condemned. I still have many things to say to you but they would be too much for you to bear now. However, when the Spirit of truth comes he will lead you to the complete truth, since he will not be speaking of his own accord, but will say only what he has been told; and he will reveal to you the things to come. He will glorify me, since all he reveals to you will be taken from what is mine. Everything the Father has is mine; that is why I said: all he reveals to you will be taken from what is mine. (John 16:7-15)
From the text of today’s gospel, Jesus further tell them/us: “I have told you this while I am with you. The Advocate, the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything and remind you of all that I told you.” (Jn 14:23)
Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit would,
- Testify of Christ
- Open hearts (He will convict the world of their sin)
- Guide believers into the truth and help them understand that truth
- Give them the words to say when they are brought before the courts
- Give them power to fulfill the commission He has entrusted to them.
- Comfort them in the difficult times
- EVIDENCE IS BEING PRESENTED
There is ample evidence that the promise of Jesus was being fulfilled. There were three primary manifestations of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost.
- a) There is the sound of the rushing wind.The Jerusalem Bible translates it a “violent”There was no breeze, just the sound. The people in Jerusalem came to the place the disciples were, not because they heard the tongues, but because they heard the wind. It must have been like the sound of a tornado. Perhaps people came running because they thought something horrible had happened.
The image of wind is very appropriate when dealing with the Spirit. The word for spirit is the same word that is translated, breath. Jesus talked about the wind and the Spirit to Nicodemus (Jn 3:5). It was a very appropriate symbol.
- b) The second symbol was the appearance of something like tongues of fire over the head of all the believers.Fire has always been a powerful symbol. It conveys the idea of power, purity and, at times, judgment. Fire was a symbol often used to portray the presence of God. Consider the burning bush, the fire on the top of Mount Sinai, the pillar of fire in the wilderness wanderings. This tongue of fire over every believer showed that God’s Spirit was being given to all of the followers.
- c) The third piece of evidence of the coming of the Holy Spirit was a miracle.It appears from the text that all 120 of the people in the upper room began to speak in foreign tongues or languages. Verse 4 tells us “they began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.”
The disciples proclaimed the glory of God in languages that they had never learned. The many people who were in Jerusalem for the Feast of Pentecost ran to the place where the sound of violent wind was heard. Though they probably all spoke Greek, Hebrew or Arabic, they were hearing the gospel proclaimed in their home or native dialects. This was a miracle that was obvious to everyone. These disciples were unschooled. These were languages these disciples of Jesus could not have known apart from something supernatural taking place. The point of all three of these manifestations of the coming of the Spirit was for the people to see with their senses that the Holy Spirit had actually come to them as God had promised.
- POWER WAS IMPARTED
The purpose of Pentecost was not to produce a side show that would leave everyone stunned and impressed. The focus of the Day of Pentecost was the power given to the people to proclaim the good news of salvation. This is exactly what Jesus had said in chapter one verse 8. The Spirit would come upon them and they would be witnesses. We too received the Holy Spirit during our Baptism and Confirmation.
When God’s Spirit works through a person, things happen. People can move a crowd with their persuasive speeches. But only God’s Spirit can change a heart and life. As we rely on the Spirit’s power and not our own, we see God work in a mighty way. This is why we must pray for each other. We must pray that God’s Spirit be given free reign in our lives. We must pray for our church. We must ask that God’s power be set free in our society and in our Christian community. We need to pray for the leaders of the church. We need the spirit of God to work in our us all. Pray that God would use them in the Spirit’s power. Our preaching and our testimonies may draw a crowd, but only God can change the hearts of people.
God has not given us His Spirit solely to comfort and entertain people. He has given us His Spirit to equip us to faithfully proclaim the good news to others. God can take your talents and your gifts and use them in ways you never imagined. But to do this, you have to trust Him. You need to rely on His strength rather than your own. You need to open yourself up to the work of God’s Spirit in you.
- A NEW BEGINNING
The day of Pentecost was a significant day because it was a new beginning. It was the time when God empowered His people with the Spirit of Christ. God equipped these common men and women to do uncommon things. This feast reminds us of several things:
- a) First, we are reminded that the Lord did not leave us to stand and fight in this world by our own strength. 2 Corinthians 10: 3,4 tell us: “For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does.The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.”If you are feeling overwhelmed by the battle before you, it time to realize that we do not fight alone. Our battle may be against an addiction that makes us feel powerless. We may be battling a hostile work, school or home environment. We may be battling powerful people. Nonetheless, we must remember that, with the descent of the Holy Spirit, we do not fight alone. God has equipped us with his power. His strength is at our disposal.
- b) Second, we must remember that God’s Spirit is not given to everyone. He is given only to those who believe. The true believer is one who knows that he/she are a sinner. Such a person knows he/she needs Christ, and actively seeks God.
- c) Third, as powerful as God’s Spirit is, we learn from scripture that we can restrict His power. We learnt from today’s second reading: “if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.” (Rom 8:13). By our lives, we can actually restrict the work of the Spirit in us. In Ephesians 4:30 we are told not to grieve the Holy Spirit.Paul tells us that we grieve the Spirit when we engage in unwholesome 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 1 Thessalonians 5:19, we are told to make sure we do not “put out the Spirit’s fire.” We hinder the work of God’s Spirit when we sin. The power is within us but every time we sin, we put obstacles in the way of God’s Spirit.
However, we must note that the presence of the 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. We have the evidence of Pentecost to know that God is true to His promise. And that is enough for any true believer. To be sure that the spirit is in us,
- First, we must take God at His Word. We must actually and really believe that the power of Pentecost is the same power that lives in you and me.
- Second, we must ask for the help of God’s Spirit. We need to ask for the Spirit to make us sensitive to the opportunities God gives us. We must ask for the Spirit to give us the words and boldness we will need. We must ask God to show us the barriers that hinder the Spirit’s work in our lives and then seek His forgiveness when He does.
- Third, we must step out in faith. As long as we do only what we are comfortable doing, we will continue to trust our strength rather than God’s. If we want to know the power of Pentecost in our lives we must be willing to live boldly for the Lord. Dare to bring up the subject of faith in a conversation; take advantage of an opportunity you have to witness to your faith in public even though it seems bigger than you can handle. Dare to reach out to someone who is hurting even though you do not know what to say. Offer to pray with someone going through a rough time even if you are in a public place. We need to learn how to say “yes” instead of making excuses. We can’t see God work through us until we give Him the opportunity to do so.
Bishop Fulton J. Sheen, one of the founding father of the Catholic Charismatic Movement, once said about the Church that even though we are God’s CHOSEN PEOPLE, we often behave more like God’s FROZEN PEOPLE. God’s frozen people indeed: frozen in our prayer life, frozen in the way we relate with one another, frozen in the way we celebrate our faith. We do not seem to be happy to be in God’s house; we are always in a hurry to get it over and done with as soon as possible. On this great feast of Pentecost, let us ask the Holy Spirit to rekindle in us the spirit of new life and enthusiasm, the fire of God’s love.