[Pentecost, Year C, 15 May 2016 / Acts 2:1-11 / Ps 104:1+24, 29-30, 31+34 1 / Cor 12:3b-7, 12-13 / John 20:19-23]
TODAY we celebrate the feast of Pentecost, commemorating when the early Church received the gift of the Holy Spirit. Luke narrates the episode thus: “When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled, they were all in one place together. And suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong, driving wind, and it filled the entire house in which they were. Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim.” (Acts 2:1-11)
Various details in this account help us know the Spirit more. They were all in one place together because the Spirit creates communion in the differences. The Spirit is represented by a strong driving wind and also tongues of fire. The Spirit fills the apostles and fills the entire house because the Spirit does not do things by half measures!
The Spirit did not just come at random but Jesus himself had told the apostles to wait in prayer for the coming of the Helper, the Holy Spirit. He called the Spirit “another Helper” because the first helper is Christ himself. In what way is the Spirit a Helper? In the Philippines, a helper is someone who is employed to help out in the house, cooking and cleaning and generally keeping the house in order. We need a Helper too! A Helper to keep our lives in order, to keep us on the straight and narrow, to stop us from going astray.
How lucky we are to have the help of the Holy Spirit or the Holy Ghost as he is sometimes known. It reminds me of a popular film in the 1980’s called Ghostbusters. The theme song was, “If there’s something strange in your neighborhood, who ya’ gonna call? Ghostbusters!” If there is something strange in your neighborhood or in your interior life, who can we always call on for help? The Holy Ghost! That is why we pray “Come Holy Spirit!” who is also called our Advocate. He will defend us in the battle. Sometimes it seems we are attacked by many ghosts, many voices who accuse, such that the bad spirit is even termed the Accuser. But let us always remember the counsel of St. Irenaeus: “When we hear the Accuser may we never forget we have an Advocate.”
When the apostles received the Spirit what was the effect? Well, the immediate effect was that the apostles began to speak in different tongues. Many bystanders from various lands could hear them speaking in their own language about the things of God. The Spirit helps us understand the things of God and also to understand ourselves. Very fascinating are the insights that St. Paul had regarding the Holy Spirit. He said that the Spirit lives in us and we are temples of the Holy Spirit. We even get an inkling of this in various colloquial expressions, such as saying that someone is “high spirited” or that they are in “good spirits.” St. Paul taught that our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit and that only the Spirit knows who we really are. This is great news as we would like to know ourselves and the Spirit is someone who knows us very well and can help us understand ourselves more.
When St. Paul was writing to the Christians of the Church in Rome, he encouraged them all to walk in the Spirit. The opposite is to walk according to the flesh. You don’t want to do that! To walk according to the flesh is to be ruled by bad feelings, envy, laziness, impurity, anger and the like. The flesh is at war with the Spirit. Jesus even said, “The Spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.”
A life in the Spirit, however, is to enjoy the fruits of the Spirit— namely love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.(Galatians 5:22-23). Living with these fruits in our lives, then, everyone will understand this language of love. These fruits are universally understood in all cultures, in all peoples and across all times.
It is interesting to see the work of the Spirit in the society of today. The Spirit is always working to create unity and harmony amidst the differences. In situations of brokenness and chaos, the Spirit is working to make all things new. In the psalm today we ask, “Lord, send out your Spirit and renew the face of the earth.”
The world of today needs the Holy Spirit. That is why we never cease to pray, “Come Holy Spirit!” How different our lives would be if each day we remember to ask his help and intercession. Imagine before each decision consulting the Spirit, our Helper. He is so humble that he will even wait to be asked for his advice. Every Christian is reminded of the importance to live a life in the Spirit, to be spiritually strong, to learn how to listen to the Spirit and his insinuations. That is why we pray and the regular meditation of Scripture will help us tune in our spiritual ears to the voice of the Spirit.
Let us celebrate this day of Pentecost with joy knowing that in the challenges of modern life Jesus has given us a Helper, the Holy Spirit. Come Holy Spirit and renew the face of the earth!