By Rev. Fr. Anacletus Ogbunkwu
Today we have come to celebrate the birthday of the church in the third Person of the Blessed Trinity! Today we have come to celebrate the feast of feasts that is, the perfection of all feasts already celebrated in the Eastertide! Today we have come to celebrate the feasts of harvest and of Sinai. Pentecost is the English translation of the Greek word pentecostes which means fiftieth. It has its origin from the feast of Sinai which doubled the feast of harvest and the receiving of the commandment. The images of wind and fire mentioned in the first reading (Acts 2:2-3), evoke the events at Sinai, where God revealed himself to the People of Israel and gave them His Commandment after 50days from the Passover when they left the land of Egypt. Hence Mount Sinai was wrapped in smoke when the Lord descended upon it in fire (Ex.19:18). This celebration received a divine character because 50 days after the Passover/flight from Egypt, Pharaoh, from the Angel of Death, slavery, sin and misery and gathered at Mount Sinai God descended on the mountain and gave them the Decalogue by which they are to order their lives and structure their society.
Hence 50 days after the events of the Passover, death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus; we are celebrating this feast commemorating the descent of the Holy Ghost upon the Apostles, and it takes its name from the fact that it comes nearly fifty days after Easter. In the past few days the Church has prepared us for Pentecost with her prayer, with her repeated and intense invocation to God to obtain a fresh outpouring upon us of the Holy Spirit. The Church has thus relived all that happened at her origins, when the Apostles gathered in the Upper Room of Jerusalem “with one accord devoted themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the Mother of Jesus, and with his brethren” (Acts 1:14). They were gathered in humble and trusting expectation that the Father’s promise, announced to them by Jesus, would be fulfilled: “Before many days you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit… you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you” (Acts 1:5,8). I suppose Jesus must have been a wonderful psychologist, who knows that the best form of sustaining relationship/friendship is by companionship. Having called us friends; he desires not to let us alone like orphans but to remain with us always till the end of time.
The Holy Spirit is first and foremost a Creator Spirit; hence Pentecost is also a feast of creation. For us Christians, the world is the fruit of an act of love by God who has made all things by the word of His mouth but created and enlivened man by the breath of the Holy Spirit (Gen.2;7). Today the Evangelist John takes up this image of the creation narrative, where God breathed into the nostrils of man the breath of life (cf. Gen 2:7) offering us a good connection of the Trinity such that the Holy Spirit is portrayed as the breath of the Risen Jesus Christ to enliven the Church(cf. Jn 20:22). The breath of God is life. Now, the Lord breathes into our soul the new breath of life, the Holy Spirit, his most intimate essence, and in this way welcomes us into God’s family. With Baptism and Confirmation this gift was given to us specifically, and with the sacraments of the Eucharist and Penance it is continuously repeated: the Lord breathes a breath of life into our soul. All the sacraments, each in its own way, communicate divine life to human beings, thanks to the Holy Spirit who works within them through the authority of church and instrumentality of his ministers as he orders them in today’s Gospel reading.
According to our Holy Father Benedict XVI; ‘in reciting the Creed we enter into the mystery of the first Pentecost: a radical transformation results from the tumult of Babel, from those voices yelling at each other: multiplicity becomes a multi-faceted unity, understanding grows from the unifying power of the Truth’. The Creed unites us from all the corners of the earth and which, through the Holy Spirit, ensures that we understand each other even in the diversity of languages — the new community of God’s Church is formed through faith, hope and love. Hence with the very long list of peoples mentioned today (cf. Acts 2:9-11); we can understand that the Church was catholic from the very outset, that her universality is not the result of the successive inclusion of various communities. Indeed, from the first moment the Holy Spirit created her as the Church of all peoples; she embraces the whole world, surmounts all distinctions of race, class and nation; tears down all barriers and brings people together in the profession of the triune God. Since the beginning the Church has been one, catholic and apostolic: this is her true nature and must be recognized as such. She is not holy because of her members’ ability but because God himself, with his Spirit, never ceases to create her, purify her and sanctify her with one common understanding anchored in faith, hope and love.
Ours therefore as members of this great church is the mission of speaking God’s language of love where we work, among our colleagues and associates, friends and neighbors. Ours is the ministry of healing, of inspiring those who have become bored and jaded, of animating those who have lost hope, and of telling all who have missed chances of being better persons that there is a Second Coming of Christ. Remember the language of love, faith and charity is universal wherever and whenever spoken; it is fully heard/seen/understood both by the blind, deaf and dumb.
My dear brothers and sisters, essentially Pentecost is the final movement of God’s searching journey towards sinful men and women. The initial movement began in Genesis with God in the Garden of Eden. Note that it is God who makes the move. It is God who initiates; God who offers; God who loves us first. He chooses us, we do not choose Him. He chooses us first because He is the superior¸ the Almighty God. If it was otherwise, and indeed when people think they first choose God, then men and women would think that they are in control. The Tower of Babel account is a recapitulation of the story of Adam and Eve. In thinking that we can build our way to heaven, man is filled with pride. Once again man tries to be God. And once again reality is fractured, relations are shattered such that destruction, disunion, misunderstanding, along with a total breakdown in communications occur. As a result mankind speaks in different languages and people no longer understand each other. Disorders, misunderstandings, and conflicts beset sinful mankind. But God continues to move towards us.
To lift us from this fallenness; Jesus today gives His Holy Spirit to the Church for the forgiveness of sins. Always remember that Sin is the name of all that has caused us to waste our chances to be better persons, to hurt, divide, and separate us from each other and from God. The gift of the Spirit ushers in a new era in the ‘dispensation of the mystery’ the age of the Church when Christ now lives and acts in and with his Church, in a new way appropriate to this new age. He acts through the sacraments of the church and in a special way reconciling us to ourselves and God through the sacrament of Confessions. However, the BIG question today is; to what extent do we value this great gift Christ confers on his church today: the gift of sacrament of Reconciliation/confession?
Come Holy Spirit and fill the heart of your faithful and enkindle in them the fire of your love. Impart in us your seven gifts and make us bear fruits of love, joy, peace, patience/longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness and temperance (Gal. 5:22-23).
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