Today we celebrate the solemnity of the descent of the Holy Spirit on the Apostles. Today marks the birth of the Church. Everything that happens today portrays one thing “We can never do without the Holy Spirit”.
The feast of today is an event that happened in a festival as a sign that God uses some significant Jewish feasts to make known His mighty works and presence among them.
The Holy Spirit plays significant roles from creation to this day. As Christians, we can never do without Him.
The event of today began with preparation, then to the manifestation and indwelling and finally the effects of His indwelling. Let us have a moment of reflection on this.
When Pentecost Day came round
The first reading started with “When the day of Pentecost came, they had all assembled”, thus indicating that the celebration of today is an event during a particular Jewish event.
Pentecost as a term comes from two Greek words Pente and koste meaning ” after fiftieth”. From here, we derive the word Pentecost which means fiftieth. The feast of the Pentecost comes fifty days after the Passover feast.
This refers to a particular feast celebrated by the Jews, fifty days after the Passover. It would be recalled that the Israelites celebrate the Passover as a commemoration of their deliverance from slavery in Egypt.
The Israelites were instructed to mark their doorposts with the blood of a lamb. When the Angel of the Lord sees it, He will pass over the firstborn in these homes.
So, at Pentecost, the Israelites celebrate the fiftieth day of this great festival. It is a festival of thanksgiving where they gather their harvests in appreciation to God (Numbers 28:26, Exodus 34:22, Deuteronomy 16:9-10) significantly known in Hebrew as the Jewish Shavuot.
It was in the midst of this celebration, that the Holy Spirit descended on the Apostles. This event also was exactly fifty days after the resurrection, recalling how the crucifixion, death and resurrection of Jesus, which all happened within the Passover feast. Because of this, today’s Pentecost Sunday is then celebrated 50 days after Easter.
1.After the death of Jesus, before the Pentecost event, The apostles of Jesus locked themselves inside a closed room. They closed the doors for fear of the Jews.
2. Secondly, the descent of the Holy Spirit did not happen by chance, there was a preparation for it.
Luke reports in Acts of the Apostles that before Jesus ascends into heaven, He instructed His apostles “Do not leave Jerusalem but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 1:4-5).
After this, they returned to Jerusalem and went straight to the upper room and remained in prayer (Acts 1:12-14).
The disciples shut themselves out of the world, in obedience to the instruction of the master, and remained in prayer, awaiting that the promise of their master must come to fulfilment.
In what the apostles did, here you see faith, obedience, commitment to prayer and total concentration.
The Holy Spirit is not a force, nor power, nor anything we might think Him to be. The Holy Spirit is a person. Other things are just manifestations of His presence.
As a Person we await His coming, we have to prepare for Him. We do this by shutting ourselves out of the world like the disciples did and remain prayer and expectation. Hence, we have to shut the door from sin, from distractions, from earthly gain and prepare for His presence.
We do this by remaining totally in prayer, faith, hope, expectation and confidence of His coming, this is the essence of the novena we do before this day. The Holy Spirit is real. We have to prepare for Him like someone whose coming is real and not imagined.
At the Pentecost
The first reading of today reported significant things that happened on the day the Holy Spirit descended on the apostles. These events that happened on this day also have some significance in the lives of the apostles, the church and all of us. Let us take them bit by bit.
(i)The Mighty Wind
Luke reported that on this day there came from heaven a sound as of a violent wind which filled the entire house in which they were sitting.
While talking about the Spirit in John 3, Jesus says “The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit” (John 3:8).
This is a manifestation of His presence. The wind is a sign that something may happen and something is happening, we can see this before rainfalls.
The Wind indicates that something highly significant is happening in the lives of the apostles.
2. Secondly, In John 20:22, before giving out His spirit. Jesus breathed upon them saying “Receive the Holy Spirit. Which indicates an indwelling and recreation.
After the creation of man, Man was lifeless and nothing until God breathed into Him (Genesis 2:7) and man was filled with life. Something that was not there before is now made present, something that has not happened is now happening. So the wind at Pentecost recreates the apostles into another form better than they were before.
We need the Holy Spirit. His presence makes significant things happen in us. He will surely fill us with spiritual life again.
(ii) Tongues of Fire
Luke reported today, that there appeared to them tongues as of fire; these separated and came to rest on the head of each of them. The fire was on them but not burning them.
This is a replica of the burning bush in Exodus 3:1-17. The burning bush experience signifies a time of change, a time of salvation for the Israelites. Fire as a substance brings change. Fire changes anything brought to it from one form to another.
The tongues of fire on the apostles is a sign of total transformation, they are now sanctified, they are no longer how they were before. Change becomes the Keyword.
We can imagine how they were filled with fear before this experience and the transformation after this experience. Old things have passed away, they are now filled with the Holy Spirit.
If we need a change in our lives, we need the Holy Spirit. He can change your condition, He can change your past, He can change your bitterness, He can heal you, He can make you whole again.
(iii) They spoke In Different Languages
Luke reports that during this experience they began to speak in different languages as the Spirit gave them the power to express themselves.
This is not a form of abracadabra nor making any form of sound. They were speaking in different languages. This is antithetical to the event of the tower of Babel in Genesis 11:1-9, where the inmates were speaking and no one was hearing.
Here as they speak, they understand each other. First, a sign that the Spirit of God is not an author of confusion, wherever He is, there is order.
Second, He makes the impossible happen just like the angel Gabriel told Mother Mary In Luke 1:34-35. What happened that day ordinarily is a case of impossibility.
Thirdly, just as the tower of babel led to many languages, the apostles spoke in different languages which everyone understands.
Therefore, first, the Pentecost event is a pointer that salvation belongs not only to the Jews but others. Thus indicating the major work Jesus assigned to His disciples to be witnesses to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8).
There, the church is born, which is now the mother of all different nations, different languages but one body in Christ.
As they understand each other despite speaking in different languages, we also have to understand each other as brothers despite having different languages and origins.
Second, it indicates that the spirit of God gives us gifts differently and individually. And all are not for our enrichment or aggrandizement as many do today but for the building of the body of Christ.
Therefore, The Church of God unites us under one head. Paul refers to this in Ephesians 3: 4-5 when he says ” Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.
There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God”
Also, In 1 Corinthians 12:3-7, Paul says “We were baptized into one body in a single Spirit, Jews as well as Greeks, slaves as well as free men, and we were all given the same Spirit to drink.
These point to the fact that though we are many, with different gifts, languages etc we are under one head and hence we work for the same Lord Jesus.
The particular manifestation of the Spirit, God grants to each one is for the general good. Thus on this day, the Church is born.
In John 20, According to John’s account, after Jesus has breathed on the apostles, with that powerful statement of the moment “Receive the Holy Spirit” He gave them the power to forgive and retain sins.
This power is handed to the apostles which are then handed down from generation to generation until today.
In today’s gospel, Jesus tells them them “When the Advocate comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who issues from the Father, he will be my witness. And you too will be witnesses”
Also, Luke reports in Acts of the Apostles that before Jesus ascends into heaven, He commanded His apostles “Do not leave Jerusalem but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me tell you about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”
“And when the Holy Spirit comes, you will receive power and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
So, After the Pentecost event, they were filled with power. They became courageous. Hence, healing, miracles, conversion etc accompanied their works.
They are full of faith and become so hungry and thirsty to defend God with their lives. The disciples rejoice even while suffering, not blaming God nor complaining.
They become staunch defenders of the faith. The fearful apostles become the most courageous, ever ready to die even for Jesus etc.
They become living witnesses of the gospel and touch souls wherever they went.
These are what happen in any life filled with the Holy Spirit, Your life will transform and reflect the image of Christ wherever we go. You will become living witnesses of the gospel.
Like what the second reading says, when people encounter you, they will encounter change. Hence, the fruits of living in the spirit will radiate to everyone around you.
Everything about your life will be filled with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, trustfulness, gentleness and self-control.
This is why St. Paul says in the second reading that if you walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the longings and desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh.
Any life under the power of the Holy Spirit yearns to make God happy and not to make the flesh happy. Just like there was a big change in the life of the apostles, Everything about you will surely change.
1. We need the Holy Spirit, without the Holy Spirit we are nothing. This is not a matter of belonging to any organization, going to church, becoming a member of CMO or CWO or whatever positions we may think we have. It goes beyond these to full sincere and deep relationship with God.Therefore, to fully see a change in our lives we need the Holy Spirit of God.
2. One thing specific in the life of the apostles after the Pentecost experience is change. There is a total transformation.
After this experience, Peter who could not defend Jesus in the presence of a maid was able to defend Him in the presence of the crowd and got up to three thousand converts (Acts 2:41). Is that not wonderful? If we need true repentance, transformation and effectiveness as a Christian, we need the Holy Spirit.
3. We can never do without the Spirit. God created with His Spirit (Genesis 1:3), Virgin Mary conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:34-35) Jesus worked with the Holy Spirit (Luke 4:1, and 18).
The Apostles needed Him to function effectively (Acts 1:4-8, Luke 24:49). David pleaded with God not to remove His Spirit from Him (Psalms 51:11). All the great prophets of old were led by the power of the Holy Spirit. The Church does not do without Him either.
In all the sacraments there is always an invocation of the Spirit. Holy orders will become invalid without prayer to the Holy Spirit and impositio manuum (laying of hands).
During Consecration at Mass, we invoke Him to transform the sacred species. Beloved pray for the Holy Spirit, We can never do without him.
4. Our problem is that we don’t take most of these things seriously. Many see the Holy Spirit as a figment of the imagination and unreal, please think again. The Holy Spirit is the secret of every great man of God, every great achievement and every successful ministry. He is the secret of holiness. Let us embrace Him today.
May God bless you dearest and give you the grace to continually go close to Him. Be blessed. You can reply to me in the comment section. Peace be with you. HAPPY BIRTHDAY