2022-06-05 - THE ERA OF THE HOLY SPIRIT. A reflection for Pentecost Sunday, 2022 Author: Fr. Donatus Okafor
Readings: Acts 2:1-11; Romans 8:8-17; John 14:15-16.23b-26
Before Pentecost Sunday, the Church observes 9days Novena to the Holy Spirit. Within these days Christians (as groups or individuals) organize prayers and prepare themselves for the coming of the Holy Spirit. This is commendable. But, for some, it is a time to receive the Holy Spirit, extraordinary gifts and powers. We ask: What of the gifts they received the previous years? What of the Holy Spirit they received at Baptism? Is He on recession? Is the power of the Holy Spirit made manifest only during the Pentecost Week?
Pentecost is from the Greek ' _Πεντηκοστή' (Pentēkostē)_ meaning fiftieth (50th). Originally, Pentecost was an agricultural Jewish festival of Weeks. They offered to God their first fruits in thanksgiving, in anticipation of good harvest. It was also a commemoration of the fifty days after their great Passover from Egypt. It was actually on the day of Jewish Pentecost (10days after ascension, 50days after resurrection) that the events of Acts 2:1ff occurred. Therefore, for Christians Pentecost is a commemoration of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the disciples as Jesus promised (Acts 1:8). According to the Liturgical calendar, the solemnity of Pentecost ends the Easter season. From tomorrow, we launch into the Ordinary Time of the Year.
A Glance at the Readings of Today
The First Reading gives the account of the descent of the Holy Spirit on the apostles. St. Luke reports that it occurred on the Jewish Pentecost day. On the Pentecost day; a sound like a rush of mighty wind came from heaven, the appearance of tongues of fire resting on each of the apostles and filled with the Holy Spirit, they began to speak in tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.
In the Second Reading, St. Paul enjoins us to live according to the Spirit, since the Spirit of God dwells in us. We are not to live according to the flesh. The Holy Spirit confirms us as God's children.
In the Gospel, Jesus promises to send his disciples another Counsellor (advocate) - the Holy Spirit. The function of the Holy Spirit is defined here as an advocate and a teacher. A criteria for receiving this Counsellor is: loving God and keeping his commandments.
Significance / Lessons / Effects of the Pentecost Event
The Holy Spirit is the agent of Transformation: A fundamental effect of the Pentecost event on the apostles was Transformation. They became new persons. Their fear was transformed into courage and timidity into boldness. They were transformed from students to teachers. The Holy Spirit should make us better persons. The Spirit is supposed to remove that unrefined behavior in us. We ask Him to *bend that which is stubborn in us.
Diversities of Gifts of the Holy Spirit: We all constitute different parts of the body of the Church. Its implication is that we all have our different gifts (parts) as the body of the Church. Speaking in tongues or prophecy are not the only gifts of the Holy Spirit. The Church gives us seven traditional gifts of the Holy Spirit and St. Paul mentions other gifts (read 1 Cor. 12:1-11; Rom. 12:6-13). Thus, no one can claim to have no gift; no one can equally claim to have more important gift. Christians must refrain from intimidating or making others feel less favoured.
The Holy Spirit is the agent of Evangelization: Pentecost is said to be the official birthday of the Church (although few Church Fathers do not accept this). After his resurrection, Jesus imparted the Holy Spirit on the apostles and commissioned them for mission. It was the Holy Spirit that prompted the apostles to make their first public evangelization, in the First Reading. The Church has survived many tribulations because of the Holy Spirit. Church leaders and her faithful should endeavour to operate under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit is our Advocate
When his Passover was imminent, Jesus promised his disciples to send them another Advocate. The Holy Spirit is the advocate whom the Father sent through Jesus Christ (CCC 243). He is rendered as _‘παράκλητος'_ paracletos’ in the original language of the passage (Greek). Paraclete means “one called alongside to help out” – Ad-vocatus. By using ‘another’, the Holy Spirit is thus revealed as another person with Jesus and the Father (CCC 243, 729). Paraclete is also translated as ‘Counsellor.’
The Holy Spirit is the Teacher par excellence In today's Gospel Jesus defines the function of the Holy Spirit as: teaching us everything, reminding us of all that He taught and bearing witness to Him. The Holy Spirit also leads us to all truth. "He will prove the world wrong about sin, righteousness and judgment" (CCC 729).
The Holy Spirit is the source of Unity: The apostles in the First Reading, spoke in different languages but, gave the same message. Their teachings made people come together. The Holy Spirit pulls down every barrier. Thus, Christians who have received the Holy Spirit must bear fruit of unity. The person who hates his brother/sister cannot claim to be under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
Beloved in Christ, we celebrate the descent of the Holy Spirit on the apostles. We celebrate the love of God for us. We are to make the Pentecost event anew in our lives. Let us allow the Holy Spirit to reformat us back to the original plan of the creator. We are to use our gifts to aid the Holy Spirit renew the face of the earth.