The Feast of Pentecost

Gospel John 15:26-27; 16:12-15

 

God’s saving love is for everyone, everywhere, and for every age. The Spirit of God unifies, and puts life into the community. Where the Spirit is at work, the people understand, accept and love each other, and live in peace and harmony.

In the second reading, Paul tells us in his letter to the church at Corinthea that the Spirit of Christ bestows His gifts on all those who bind themselves together in a community. The gifts of the Spirit are showered on those who believe and live their faith. The greatest of these gifts is that of fellowship and love.

Have you ever heard about a Priest who preached a one line homily for over six Sundays consecutively? His homily was just one line: “Children of God, let us love one another.” The people were fed up with this one line homily over and over again. So they complained to him. The Priest said, “You guys love one another, then I will stop preaching it.”

Ever wonder why Jesus showed up so many times after His resurrection? He wanted to teach His disciples two very important things in life. He spoke to them about it over and over again, and even today at Pentecost. What are those two important things? Peace and forgiveness.

Sometimes we need a third person to reconcile us. There were two brothers living on adjoining farms and they developed a bitter conflict. They stopped speaking to each other and stopped visiting each other, and this went on for years. One day a man came knocking on the door of John, the elder brother. It was a carpenter looking for a job. John said, “Look across the creek at that farm. Once there was a meadow between our farms but my brother bulldozed it and now there is a creek between us. He did it to spite me. Well, I have got a better one for him. I have a pile of wood; can you please build me a 8 foot tall fence, so I don’t have to look at his farm anymore?” “Okay”, said the carpenter. Meanwhile John needed to go to town for supplies. When he got back, he was horrified to see that there was no fence but a bridge. And to his amazement, his younger brother came across the bridge with arms outstretched. The two brothers embraced one another. Sometimes we need a third person to reconcile us. No wonder Jesus sent His Spirit to us to do that job.

The Feast of Pentecost, the Feast of the Holy Spirit is also known as the birthday of the church. Pentecost literally means “ the 50th day,” – a name which the Jews gave to the Feast after the Passover.

Pentecost recalls three major events in the life of the Jews:

  • The establishing of the covenant between Yahweh and his people on mount Sinai (Ex. Ch. 19)
  • The giving of the “books of law” to Moses (Ex. Ch.20)
  • The harvest feast to thank God

We celebrate the 50th day after Easter as the founding of the new covenant established by Jesus by bestowing His Spirit on the church.

So the question we ask is – where is the Holy Spirit and what is His role in our lives? We believe He is active and is the life-giving Spirit, but how do we recognize His presence?

Paul is convinced – No one can say, “Jesus is the Lord, except in the Holy Spirit.” In order to experience the Holy Spirit, Pentecost must become an event in our own life. It bestows divine gifts on the believer. When we say we truly believe in Jesus Christ, it amounts to saying that the Holy Spirit is at work in us. Among His many gifts, the unifying power is mentioned in the reading; we are “baptized in one body, in one spirit.” It is the Spirit of God that unites us with Him and one another. Apart from unifying, He is also a forgiving Spirit. In the Gospel, the Holy Spirit is associated with the forgiving of sins. The moment we forgive and are forgiven, the Holy Spirit is at work in us.

A Hindu wanted to become a Christian. Before receiving baptism, he wanted to see Rome, the center of Christian faith. But instead of being strengthened, he returned losing faith. After a few weeks he decided again to become a Christian. To his friends who teased him, he said calmly – a religion that can stand the test and survive all must be the true one.

Yes, in spite of failures, scandals and calumnies in the church, the Holy Spirit never ceases to work therein. He is active in an invisible way to free it and protect it from evil forces; He brings hope in disappointments, joy in sorrows, and unity in discord.

All unity stems from the Spirit of God, the Spirit of love. Jesus is the center of that unity. That is vividly expressed right from the beginning of the church. Jesus is the Lord. St. Paul says that only the Holy Spirit can enable us to confess that truth. It is the Holy Spirit that brings people together in one faith, one hope and one love, into the one body of Christ. Hence, we live, not for ourselves, but for Christ and the members of His body. St. Paul reminds us also that we are the temples of the Holy Spirit. That means that we have to manifest the presence of the Spirit of God in our life – which is joy, purity, peace and unity.

My brothers and sisters, let us open ourselves and respond to the promptings of the Spirit and confess from our hearts that – “Jesus is the Lord.”

To live according to the Spirit is to think, speak and act according to the virtues that are in the Spirit and not according to the sense and sentiments which are in the flesh. (St. Francis de sales)

Peace and forgiveness are the two signs of a transformed people. Pentecost is the right time to renew our commitment to peace and forgiveness.

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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