Catholic homily for Pentecost Sunday
Theme: HOLY SPIRIT FIRE
By: Fr. Gerald M. Musa
Homily for Sunday May 23 2021
A famous Christian writer Corrie Ten Boom explains the role of the Holy Spirit in our lives. She says:
“I have a glove here in my hand. The glove cannot do anything by itself, but when my hand is in it, it can do many things. True, it is not the glove, but my hands in the glove that acts. We are gloves. It is the Holy Spirit in us who is the hand, who does the job.”
The Holy Spirit plays a special role in the lives of all believers. Pentecost is a special day set aside by the Church to remember the descent of the Holy Spirit on the disciples of Jesus. Pentecost is normally celebrated on the 50th day after Easter. Pentecost is also considered as the day in which the Church was born – birthday of the Church. On the feast of Pentecost the Church celebrates the power and presence of the Holy Spirit. Every language has a name for the Holy Spirit: Mmuo Nso (Igbo), Ruhu mai Tsarki (Hausa), Emi Mimo (Yoruba), Chia Jijingi (Tiv), Roho Takatifu (Swahili), Santo Spirito (Italian), Esprit Saint (French), Heiliger Geist (German).
The Holy Spirit is the third person of the Holy Trinity, but not many believers have a deep knowledge of the Holy Spirit and how he operates in our lives. Ignorance about the Holy Spirit has led some authors to write on the Holy Spirit. Francis Chan wrote a book titled, “The Forgotten God” and Luis Martinez wrote on True Devotion to the Holy Spirit. It appears today, that many people have left the Holy Spirit for Holy Ghost Priests and the Charismatics. Most often we exclaim, “Holy Ghost Fire” without a proper understanding of who the Holy Spirit is. One of the problems in the Church today is that people are less committed to their prayers and relationship with the Holy Spirit.
Ignorance about the Holy Spirit began even in the early church. Jesus met Nichodemus, a scholar who knew so much about God, but knew next to nothing about new birth in the Holy Spirit. Jesus instructed him, “Unless one is born of water and the Holy Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God” (John 3:3,5). Another incident of ignorance about the Holy Spirit occurred during the Third Missionary Journey of Paul. He travelled to Ephesus and there he met some disciples. He said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you became believers?” They answered him, “We have never even heard that there is a Holy Spirit?” When Paul laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them and they spoke in tongues and prophesied” (Acts of the Apostles 19:2,6). The people of Ephesus grew in the knowledge of their faith as Paul remained with them and taught them for two years.
Symbols of the Holy Spirit
Knowledge of the Scriptures helps us to understand the roles of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Scriptures present the Holy Spirit in different ways:
➢ Holy Spirit as Wind: “…There came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind, and it filled the house in which they were” (Acts 2:2).
➢ Holy Spirit as Fire: “Then, there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each of them” (Acts 2:3).
➢ Holy Spirit as Breath: “…He breathed on them and said to them, receive the Holy Spirit” (John 20:22). This Holy Spirit is translated as breathe – the source of power and energy.
➢ Holy Spirit as Water: “…And we were all given to drink of one spirit” (1 Corinthians 12:13).
Fire of the Holy Spirit
The Holy Spirit descended on the Apostles as tongues of fire. Therefore, it is right to say that a spiritual person is someone who is filled with the fire of the Holy Spirit and with a burning zeal for spiritual works. Not many people are able to sustain the fire of the Holy Spirit because of the many distractions in the journey of life. Jesus predicted that in the last days the love of many would grow cold (Matthew 24:12). When the spirit dies in us our love for God and neighbour grows cold. There are many other ways in which the Spirit grows cold in us. The Spirit grows cold when:
➢ The fire of the Holy Spirit grows cold in anyone whose prayer life is completely dry.
➢ The fire of the Holy Spirit grows weak in anyone whose conscience is lax and permissive.
➢ The fire of the Holy Spirit grows dim in anyone whose heart is dominated by envy, jealousy, hatred and lust.
➢ The fire gradually fizzles out in anyone whose zeal for the work of God and service to the community is getting cold.
➢ The fire becomes so low in the heart that is constantly in sorrows and has little or no joy.
➢ The flame of the Holy Spirit is under threat in people who are weighed down by worries, rather than having a stronger faith in God.
Paul admonishes the Thessalonians not to quench the Spirit of God (I Thessalonians 5:19). This is the reason why we pray constantly to God to enkindle in our hearts the fire of his divine love. God warns in the Book of Revelations: “If you are neither hot or cold, I will spit you out” (3:16)
How to Ignite, Rekindle and Sustain the Fire
➢ Embrace cleanliness: The Holy Spirit dwells in places, people and things that are clean. He fills only clean vessels. Therefore, those who wish to be close to the Holy Spirit must purge themselves of every filth, anger, bitterness and lust and be dead to sin (Romans 6:11). St. Paul says to Timothy, “If anyone cleanses himself, he will be a vessel to be used by God (2 Timothy 2:21).
➢ Read the Word of God: Daily study of the Word of God enables us to fill our minds with spiritual things. “Is not my word like fire,” declares the LORD, “and like a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces? (Jeremiah 23:29).
➢ Daily communion with God through prayer and the Holy Eucharist: The fire of prayer propels a healthy spiritual life. According to St. Ephraem, “Virtues are formed by prayer. Prayer preserves temperance. Prayer suppresses anger. Prayer prevents emotions of pride and envy. Prayer draws into the soul the Holy Spirit, and raises man to Heaven. The prayer of the Holy Eucharist does even more good to the spiritual life. St. John Chrysostom admonishes all those who return from the table of the Eucharist: Let us return from that Table like lions breathing out fire, terrifying to the devil!
➢ Beware of the constant struggle between the flesh and the spirit: St. Paul draws our attention to the constant battle between the spirit and the flesh/ world (Galatians 5:17-18); the struggle between the ‘new man’ (old nature) and ‘new man’ (new nature) (Romans 7:14-25; Colossians 3:9-10; Ephesians 4:17-24). The best way to conquer the flesh is to think and live in the Spirit.
Cardinal Basil Hume reminds us, “There is a gentle breeze if we can but catch it, which blows all the time to help us on our journey through life to our final destination. That breeze is the Holy Spirit.” Let us celebrate the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives as we celebrate Pentecost. Let us pray that through the Holy Spirit, God will enkindle in our hearts the fire of his love.
Pentecost Sunday, Year B; Acts of the Apostles 2:1-11; 1 Corinthians 12:3b-7, 12-13; John 20:19-23.