The Feast of Pentecost

Sunday Readings in brief Pentecost C
Acts 2:1-11; Ps 103 (104); Rm 8:8-17; Jn 20:19-23
Who is the Holy Spirit?

Dear friends, today is the feast of the Pentecost, the day when the Holy Spirit descended upon the disciples of Jesus in the upper room just as he had promised them. Pentecost comes from the Greek word pentēkostē meaning fifty days of the fiftieth day after Easter Sunday. The Jews called it Shavaut and it was celebrated 50 days after the Sabbath following the day of Passover when God delivered them from the hands of the Egyptians. For Christians, this is the day when the community of believers was born through the preaching of Peter and his colleagues. “Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand persons were added that day” (Acts 2:41). This is what we have today as the Church built on the foundation of the apostles.
But who is the Holy Spirit? During the creation of the world, we read that the Holy Spirit who is also translated as “Wind” was hovering over the waters (Gen 1:2).

Throughout the Old Testament texts, we read how God inspired some people among communities by his spirit to do a certain task on his behalf. When Jesus was baptized, the Holy Spirit descended upon him in the image of a dove. Today Jesus send the Holy Spirit upon his disciples and they are filled with courage to preach to the same crowd they were afraid of a few days before. This same Holy Spirit continues to dwell in us through baptism and confirmation.

We know that God exists first because as St. Augustin of Hippo says, he made us for himself and our hearts are restless until they rest in him. God put in everyone a desire for him though many people spend all their life, denying his existence. Second, God has revealed himself to us through his spirit. God chose to reveal himself to us, not as a solitary person living somewhere very far from us and remote-controlling everything, but rather he reveals himself to us as a community that is known as the Holy Trinity. The entire history of salvation can be divided into three major phases. Phase 1 is the creation of the universe, the election of the nation of Israel as the bearers of the salvation of the world, and God’s intervention in the lives of his people through judges, prophets, and kings. It is the phase where God the Father is the major protagonist.

Phase 2 is the phase of God the Son, Jesus the Christ. This comprises the birth, ministry, passion, death, resurrection, and ascension into heaven. Jesus, the Son of God was sent into the world to bring salvation to all who would believe in him. His mission was foretold by the prophets long before (see Is 61:1). God decided to send his own Son to save the world from eternal damnation. Phase 3 is that of the Holy Spirit from the day of Pentecost until the present day. It is the time of the New Testament and the time of the Church. God continues to create, sustain and save his people through the Holy Spirit. During baptism, we receive the Holy Spirit and the Sacrament of confirmation adds to us his gifts that help us to live according to the will of God.

However, not everyone understands who the Holy Spirit is just as many during the time of Jesus did not understand him. While the Scripture present to us the Holy Spirit as the third person of the Triune God, some regard him as a tool for preaching and performing miracles. The Holy Spirit is the owner and the protagonist in the mission of preaching the Good News of salvation brought to us by Jesus Christ. Those who are chosen to be ministers of the God news are only instruments of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit inspires us to preach, teach, heal and perform other signs to save the people. St. Paul reminds us that, it is the Holy Spirit who inspires us to call ‘Abba, father’.

Today, many misunderstand the gift of tongues given to the apostles. We read that when the Holy Spirit descended upon them, they began to speak in tongues such that all the people present could understand them each in their native language. This is very different from making strange noises and uttering words that no one can understand including those who utter them. The day of Pentecost is the opposite of the day of the tower of Babel in Genesis 11:1-9) when God confused the languages of men who tried to build a tower that would reach heaven.

The Holy Spirit works in us only when we keep the commandments that God gave us through his Christ. God the Father and the Son continue to live in us through the power of the Holy Spirit. He is the advocate who defends us against the forces of evil and helps us to be and do what is good.

Dear friends, let us not be confused by the merchants of miracles who think that the Holy Spirit is their tool and at their disposal. Let us adore the Holy Spirit and ask him to continue to renew in us the message of the Gospel and help us to be good.

Have a blessed Sunday.

Fr. Lawrence Muthee, SVD

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