Homily (Reflection) for Pentecost Sunday (B) (20th May, 2018) on the GospelActs 2:1-11;
Ps 103:1.24.29-31.34 (R. cf. V. 30);
The solemnity of Pentecost concludes the fifty days of the sacred season of Easter. The “Church recalls the gift of the Holy Spirit to the Apostles, the beginnings of the Church, and the start of her mission to all tongues and peoples and nations” (2018 Liturgical Calendar (Ordo) for the celebrations of Mass and the Liturgy of Hours for the church in Nigeria, Iperu-Remo: Ambassador Publications, p. 92).
Topic: Gifts of the Holy Spirit.
Customarily, people seek varied gifts during the solemnity of Pentecost. This for many is in line with Saint Paul’s counsel “... earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy” (1Cor 14:1). However, “The unspiritual man does not receive the gifts of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him...” (1Cor 2:14).
As we seek for the gifts of the Holy Spirit, it is important to remember that they are for the common good, cf. 1Cor 12:7. However, many who seek them are doing so for their personal gains. We tend to forget the injunction of Christ, “Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons. You received without paying, give without pay” (Matt 10:8). What many desire today under the pretext of spiritual gifts are in no way spiritual because their intentions are evil, cf. Gal 5:17; Rom 8:5. In his letter, Saint Jude describes these people in this way: “It is these worldly people, devoid of the Spirit, who are causing divisions” (Jude 19). Holy Spirit is God’s gift to those who love (obey) him and should be desired accordingly and not as do or die affair, cf. Acts 5:32. It is no body’s right.
To further understand why the clamour for these ‘extraordinary’ gifts, let us read the words of our Lord Jesus Christ quoting Isaiah 61:1ff:
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, and let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour (Lk 4:18-19).
Although there are many men and women who say today that they have been anointed by God, how many of these were anointed "to bring good news to the poor”, and/or sent “to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, and let the oppressed go free”? Just imagine these classes of people; can they give tithe offerings among so many others the people of God are expected to offer today?
With no intention to undermine the words of Saint Paul already cited, the gift we ought to desire most today before any other if there is need for any other is the one that will enable us “... understand the gifts bestowed on us by God” (1Cor 2:12). Saint Paul rightly wrote, we “are not lacking in any spiritual gift” (1Cor 1:7). He went further, “I wish that all were as I myself am. But each has his own special gift from God, one of one kind and one of another” (1Cor 7:7). And to Timothy, “Do not neglect the gift you have ...” (1Tim 4:14). We all ought “... to rekindle the gift of God that is within” us (2Tim 1:6).
Ordinarily one who should be seeking for promotion to another class must have done creditably well in the class he or she is. But many who today desire other gifts have not even understood the gifts given to them by God. Just imagine how wonderful someone who is not even aware of what he/she has must have utilized them. Hence, I maintain that the problem is in the ability to discern the gift/s one has been blessed with and the readiness to put it/them into good use for the common good.
When the people who gathered on the Pentecost day enquired of what they would do, “Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit’” (Acts 2:38). And the Church in line with the scripture still believes and also teaches that we receive the Holy Spirit at our Baptism and Confirmation.
We read from the prophet Isaiah “And the Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD” (Is 11:2). And in the book of Exodus, we also read:
See, I have called by name Bezalel son of Uri son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah: and I have filled him with divine spirit [spirit of God], with ability, intelligence, and knowledge in every kind of craft, to device artistic designs, to work in gold, silver, and bronze, in cutting stones for setting, and in carving wood, in every kind of craft (Ex 31:2-5).
The gifts of the Holy Spirit as we can see are much more than what some run helter-skelter for today. It involves every gift that one has. Hence, Saint Paul rightly wrote “... there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit” (1Cor 12:4). He went further “All these are inspired by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills” (1Cor 12:11).
Let us conclude with the story of a certain guide who “lived in the deserts of Arabia who never lost his way. He carried with him a homing pigeon with a very fine cord attached to one of its legs. When in doubts to which path to take, he threw the bird into the air. The pigeon quickly strained at the cord to fly in the direction of home, and thus led the guide accurately to his goal.
“So, too the Holy Spirit, the heavenly Dove, is willing and able to direct us in the narrow way that leads to the more abundant life if in humble self-denial we submit to his unerring supervision”. (Culled from Sagayanathan, A. (2009). Launching pad: Stories for Sunday Homilies year – A, B & C. Bangalore: Asian Trading Corporation, p. 176).
We have been sealed for the day of redemption in the Holy Spirit of God, cf. Eph 4:30. Like the dove man, every Christian who does not want to miss his/her way to God must be humble enough and allow the Holy Spirit to lead him/her even when the route is contrary to what one expects. Hence, Jesus tells us that the Holy Spirit is the one to guide us into all the truth, cf. Jn 16:13. His foolishness is better than the wisdom of the wisest of all creatures, cf. 1Cor 1:25; Is 40:13.
Bible Reading: Hos 9:1-17; Jer 14:13-22; Jn 14: 15-31; Rom 8: 1-30; Acts 8:4-25; 1Cor 12:1-31; Col 3:1-17.
Thought for today: Why do you desire that gift of the Holy Spirit?
Let us pray: Let us therefore ask the Holy Spirit to come with His fire, the fire of love:
Come Holy Spirit and fill the hearts of the faithful.
And enkindle in them the fire of your love.
Send forth your Spirit and they shall be recreated.
And you shall renew the face of the earth – Amen.
Wishing you and your entire family full realization of the gifts of the Holy Spirit you have and their utmost use for the common good – Amen.
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