Today’s celebration of the Feast of Pentecost is one of the most ancient feasts of the Church; celebrated early enough to be mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles that we heard proclaimed in today’s First Reading and can also be found in St. Paul's First Letter to the Corinthians (16:8). Pentecost is the 50th day after Easter (if we count both Easter and Pentecost).
Christ had promised His Apostles that He would send His Holy Spirit, after He Ascends into heaven. In today’s celebration of Pentecost, our Church recalls how the Apostles and Mary were gathered in the Upper Room where they had seen Christ after His Resurrection. Then suddenly, the Holy Spirit came upon them in the forms of tongues of fire and they were each filled with the Holy Spirit and began to preach the Gospel in all of the foreign languages that the Jews who were gathered there spoke . . . and that day alone about 3,000 people were converted and Baptised.
That is why Pentecost is often called "the birthday of the Church." On this day, with the descent of the Holy Spirit, Christ's mission is completed, and the New Covenant is inaugurated . . . beginning with the apostles the Good News of Salvation continue to spread . . . and today more than 2,000 years later we have more than 1 billion Catholics around the world . . .
What particular significance does this great feast of the Church have on us believers today? First, let us remember that before the Apostles received the Holy Spirit, they were fearful about being persecuted for their faith. But, after receiving the Holy Spirit they became fearless. In fact, the reason why we have more than 1 billion Catholic Christians alone not our Christian brothers and sisters, is because thousands upon thousands of believers have witnessed to their faith in Jesus as Saviour and Lord courageously, selflessly and willing suffered martyrdom for their faith.
Thus, the first important significance for all of us gathered here today on this Feast of Pentecost is to reaffirm our faith that the same Holy Spirit that these great saints and martyrs of our Church is also present in our hearts, and we received this Spirit at the Sacrament of Confirmation. Today, all of us need to renew our faith by asking God to give us the courage, zeal and perseverance we need to live our faith amidst the daily secular influences of our lives.
Today’s Feast of Pentecost is a celebration of the “explosion” of the power of the Holy Spirit in our Church and within our hearts . . . in spite of our imperfections and sinfulness God wants each of us; you and I, to be a sign of true hope to the world in which we live in . . . God wants us to live our faith with great courage, selflessness and zeal as the apostles, the saints and martyrs and millions of faithful believers of the past 2,000 years have shown us.
When the Holy Spirit came upon the apostles and the great believers of our Church they were transformed from fearfulness to fearlessness in the witness of their faith; they were transformed from selfishness to selflessness in their service of one another and those in need; they were transformed from being gripped with anxieties of life under persecution to being source of true hope, peace and unity to all peoples . . . all these because they allowed the Holy Spirit to transform them.
Each of us knows of people whose faith is so strong that they would willingly suffer and die rather than give up their faith in Jesus, our Lord and Saviour. We also know of people who are so materialistic and self-absorbed that God is irrelevant and unimportant to them in their daily living. In all probability, most of us are in-between these two categories of believers. That being the case, and important question that you and I need to ask ourselves is, “How are we to live in the Holy Spirit in our daily living?”
To help us remember more easily perhaps, we could remember the 4 P’s of the Holy Spirit: the Holy Spirit’s Presence, Power, Protection and Providence of life.
The first “P” is the “Presence” of the Holy Spirit in our lives. This means that we must begin to be more conscious that the Holy Spirit is constantly present to us at all times; we never live our faith alone; we are constantly embraced by God who love us so deeply and personally. One of the reasons why we so easily lose hope when we face trials is because we do not open our hearts to be more fully connected to the Holy Spirit within us. If we do, we will always and without fail find that God is always there for us.
Second “P” is the “Power” of the Holy Spirit. The sooner we admit and realise that as a human person regardless of who we are in the secular world, regardless of how big our bank account or how expensive our cars are, none of us are going to live for ever in this world . . . as human beings we are each weak, frail and finite; only God is infinite; only God is all powerful; only God can give us the power to live the fulfilling life that we each long to live and the lasting happiness that we desire to have in our homes. What then do we do? We acknowledge that God is Great and nothing else in this world should replace God . . . and every human person, if truthful to himself will realise that the greatest wisdom in life is to worship and serve God . . . the God, in the person of Jesus who offers us eternal life.
The third “P” is the “Protection” of the Holy Spirit. Again, as human person, we are vulnerable and weak . . . and the greatest danger we experience daily is not so much that we may die of illness or be killed in an accident, but to be robbed of the most precious gift of our lives – our faith in God. The greatest joy in life is to have God; the saddest day of our life is to have lost the sense of God. This is because the very basic truth of life that no human person can turn away from is the truth that, “To know how to love God is to have everything we need in life, but to lose God is to have lost the deepest meaning and motive of living our lives.”
The fourth “P” is the “Providence” of God. When we live the first three “Ps” of living in the Holy Spirit’s “Presence, Power and Protection” we are led into the wisdom of knowing that the our real purpose in life is not so much that we need to control our lives, but to allow God’s Providence to unfold in our lives. We all know and believe that God’s Love for us is so unconditional that He willingly suffered and died for us, so that we can each live with Him for all eternity. This being the Truth of how much God loves us, when we face the trials of life we should never think that God had abandoned us. On the contrary, like a mother who attends to her sick and troubled child so devotedly, all the more, God is at the centre of our pains and trials of life. We only need to trust that in God’s time and ways His Providence will unfold in our lives.
My brothers and sisters in Christ, I do not have the luxury of time to give real life examples for each of the 4 “Ps” that I have reflected on. I have no doubt each of us have experienced the Holy Spirit’s Presence, Power, Protection and the Providence of God in our lives and daily living.
I urge each of us on this Feast of Pentecost to ponder this truth and more importantly pray to have the gift of the wisdom to experience the deep “Peace” that the Holy Spirit wants to give you and indeed every person in the world . . . the “Peace” that Jesus proclaimed when He Rose from His Death . . . the Peace that the world cannot give . . . the Peace that Jesus in today’s Gospel tells us that we will surely possess if we keep His Word and Commandments. My sisters and brothers in Christ, in fact if we keep the 4 “Ps” of the Holy Spirit’s Presence, Power, Protection and Providence, we will surely experience the 5th “P” of the Holy Spirit of “Peace”.
Finally and to conclude, let us remind ourselves that we should never worry about how to keep all these 5 Ps of the Spirit, Jesus assures us that the Advocate the Holy Spirit will teach us everything and remind us everything that He has taught us . . . and that Spirit is within our hearts waiting to explode, empower and embrace us in God’s abiding Love . . . Do we want to live in the Holy Spirit?
Msgr Philip Heng,S.J.
visitors since 30 May 2013