Homily for Pentecost Sunday Year A
Theme: Receive the Holy Spirit
By: Rev. Fr. Callistus Emenyonu, cmf
Homily for Sunday May 31 2020
READINGS: Acts 2: 1-11; Psalm 104: 1-2. 30.31.34 (Resp. 30); 1Cor. 12:3-7, 12-13; John 20:19-23
Holy Spirit as God who is called the third person of the Divine Trinity is a mystery difficult to understand by mere human mind except by its unction. Little wonder St Paul said that no one can say that Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit. This is the type of solemnity that has dogmatic teachings of which someone can easily slip into heresy if he doesn’t go doctrinal.
Pentecost as an ancient agricultural Jewish festival is so important that it draws a lot of people to the celebration both indigenes and friends. Pentecost is not synonymous with the advent of the Holy Spirit. It existed centuries before its connection with the Holy Spirit event on the disciples of Jesus Christ. It is the fiftieth day after the feast of Passover (Exodus 12-15, Lev.23, Num. 9, Deut. 16, Ezek. 45, Joshua 5, 2 Kings 23, 2 Chron. 35, 2 Chron. 30 and Ezra 6) and one of the statutory celebrations mentioned in the Old Testament. The coming of the Holy Spirit on that day is very significant giving it a new meaning and making it a New Testament celebration. It is the beginning and flagging off of the gatherings of the Disciples of Christ-the new Church (inauguration of the Church). It marks the empowerment of the new people of God sending them on mission.
It is historical that God the Father with the power of the Holy Spirit used the Word (made flesh in Jesus Christ) to make the world. The narrator said that the Spirit was hovering on the waters. It makes meaning when water is named as one of the images of the Holy Spirit. Implicitly, the world never existed without the aid and presence of the Holy Spirit. So the Spirit is an inseparable part of creation. The Old Testament saw the predominance of God as the Father-creator who encountered the holy men of old and the people of Israel. The New Testament saw the introduction of Christ and His encounter with the world through His teachings and touch of humanity in so many ways. It is as if the worldly reign of Christ was coming to an end as He told His disciples on the day of Ascension that He is going in order to send the Holy Spirit to them. This is the promise that He fulfilled today. It seems that Christ henceforth has inaugurated the reign of the Holy Spirit who will teach the Disciples everything; be their councillor, their advocate and their consoler, comforter and intercessor.
The first reading from the Acts of the Apostles presents the event of the Pentecost which was presented in the symbolism of the flame (fire); the reason Christians pray by using Holy Ghost fire. Other symbolisms of the Holy Spirit are salt, oil and the bird. It takes the symbolism of Dove which shows the purity of the Holy Spirit and its sanctifying power, the oil which anoints and makes slippery its objects that are smeared making it difficult to be caught, the salt which preserves and gives taste to life, and the fire which consumes and destroys what is not needed.
The second reading highlights the actions and charism of the Holy Spirit showing that they all come from same source and for the good of the Church not for personal use. This teaches us that each and every one of us has been gifted with one or more of His gifts and should produce various fruits in us as we acknowledge and work with it. It is not a sole preserve of anybody nor is it under the control and distribution of human person. It is given freely as God desires not because of our efforts and holiness, it is a gratis. (Grace).
There is something very significant in this very event which is Peace. Jesus came into the place where the Disciples were and gave the first gift and word of Peace. “Peace be with you”. The Holy Spirit is the generator and carrier of Peace. There can be no Holy Spirit where there is no peace. Those who destroy peace, peaceful structures and environment cannot make a claim of possessing the Holy Spirit; it is a sine qua non for the incoming and dwelling of the Holy Spirit. Before Jesus was able to send His disciples to a mission of reconciling humanity with itself and with God, He first bestowed peace upon them. It is peace that is the vehicle that transports forgiveness and reconciliation.
It is the bestowing of peace on the Apostles that made them instruments of forgiveness and reconciliation. After giving them peace, he said: Receive the Holy Spirit, if you forgive the sins of any they remain forgiven and if you retain them, they remain so even in heaven.
There is no Spirit of God operating in many people and in many places and the consequence is that peace cannot be found in the world. Listen to world news and hear of wars and killings simply because the world has no Spirit of Christ. The world is in sin because it lacks the Spirit of the maker of the world. The world can never know peace, families can never know peace, and communities both religious and human can never know peace until they receive the Spirit of Christ.
The Spirit of Christ brings unity. People think that the litmus for knowing who has the Spirit is the speaking of tongues. Tongues mean that reconciliation has come and love is now at work. The incident of the confusion at the tower of Babel where God confused the language of humanity was simply because they lacked peace (one mind) and wanted to rule the world with their own spirit. It is that tendency and act that brought confusion to them. In this celebration of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, each Apostle spoke a different language that every people understood. Love and peace are the language of the Holy Spirit. Love and peace is the only language that all persons understand, act it and all will understand. Do the dumb and the deaf not understand it? So all speak in different tongues who truly belongs to the Church of Christ or who live the life of true love. Speaking in tongues without true love is noise and useless exercise. The Holy Spirit does more to humanity and to the Church
Let us pray that the Spirit of God that pre-existed creation, which God breathed on us, which guides the world of which and in which we are baptized remain alive and active in us. May God help us recognize the gifts he has bestowed on us and the grace to utilize them appropriately. May God assist us to have his Spirit, live with it and work with it. We pray with the Psalmist that God may send forth His Spirit upon us and renew the face of the earth. Amen.
Rev. Fr. Callistus Emenyonu, cmf