Pentecost (Fr. Vinner)
THE ROLE OF THE HOLY SPIRIT IN OUR LIVES
Today we celebrate the Solemnity of the Pentecost, 50 days after the celebration of Easter- the resurrection of Christ. The Jews celebrated this feast 50 days after the Feast of Passover- thanking God for the gift of harvest as well for His Sinaitic Covenant with Moses which also occurs 50 days after the beginning of the Exodus in Egypt. There have been many harvests in our lives! For us, today marks the end of the Easter Season and commemorates the day that the Holy Spirit came upon the Apostles and on the Church. We are celebrating the role of the Holy Spirit in our lives as Christian men, women and children. We need this gift of the Holy Spirit in our lives today more than ever, in order for us to be able to function as true Christians and agents of evangelization without fear and intimidation, despair, quarrel, discrimination and desire for vengeance, bigotry, division and unhealthy competition.
On the fortieth day he made his last appearance to them and before his ascension, he promised to send them the Holy Spirit. He had also promised them on the eve of his crucifixion that he would not leave them orphans. He told them that the Father would send the Helper, the Holy Spirit, John (14:16), who would be with them forever. Hence, on the fiftieth day after his resurrection, Jesus’ promise was fulfilled. The Holy Spirit came and filled the followers of Jesus. It was absolutely essential for his followers to be filled with the Spirit of God. Once they were filled with the Holy Spirit, they overcame their timidity. They began to preach with great power and boldness. They converted many people and worked many miracles. Without wealth and with no weapons, but empowered by the Holy Spirit, they became dynamic witnesses.
Saint Paul is one of the early believers to be filled with the power of the Holy Spirit. The influence of the Holy Spirit is best reflected in his preaching, writings and life. In all his letters to the early churches he stressed the importance of the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer. Because he believed that it is only by the power of the Holy Spirit whereby the believer can overcome his sinful disposition and live a life of holiness.
Today’s second reading is taken from his letter to the churches in Galatia. Galatia was a small country and a part of the Roman Empire at the time of Paul. Some scholars believe that Galatia was probably the most difficult mission for Paul because many of the members of these churches were Gentiles and they were generally superstitious and worshipped pagan gods. When they became Christians they were expected to leave behind their old customs of idol worship, rituals and astrology, Gal (4:8-10). But the Galatians had absorbed their former pagan worship traditions into their Christian faith as well. So, a small group of Jews within the church, who were unhappy with what was going on, stirred their members against Paul and his teachings by telling them that they must keep certain Jewish laws and practices. They spoke against Paul and began to cause trouble for him. Many turned from Paul and believed the new teachers. As a result, the churches were beginning to split into racial factions. They began to engage in destructive conflict among themselves. They were provoking and challenging one another, Gal (5:26). Paul, who was at Ephesus at the time was deeply grieved to hear about the problems and wrote the letter.
In today’s section of the letter, Paul called on the Galatians to live a Spirit filled life. What does “Spirit filled life” mean? Spirit filled life means a life filled with Christ. It is not something which happens to us only once either at baptism or confirmation or marriage or ordination or at a prayer time. It does not happen automatically but rather occurs when the believer actively, consciously, deliberately, happily and constantly chooses to walk in the spirit of the gospel of Jesus. However, as it is hard to walk in the spirit, Saint Paul enjoins the believers to yield themselves to God and persistently seek Him to empower them with the gifts or virtues of the Spirit. In speaking of the coming Messiah, Prophet Isaiah told us that He will give us seven gifts of the Spirit: wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety and fear of the Lord, Isaiah (11:2).
Based on the teaching of Saint Thomas Aquinas, the Church states (Catechism of the Catholic Church 1830-31) that these gifts “belong in their fullness to Christ. They complete and perfect our virtues. They make us docile in readily obeying divine inspirations”. That being so, Paul says that these seven gifts enable the believers to say “no” to or avoid sins such as, “immorality, impurity, lust, idolatry, sorcery, hatreds, rivalry, jealousy, outburst of fury, acts of selfishness, dissensions, factions, occasions of envy, drinking bout, orgies, and the like“, (v.18), and in contrast, say “yes” and generate “love, joy, peace, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control“. Paul calls these fruits of the Holy Spirit.
This isn’t simply a message intended for the Galatians or believers of his time alone. It’s a message intended for you and me. If the Holy Spirit was essential to Jesus before he began to minister, and if it was essential to the early disciples of Jesus, it is absolutely essential that all of us be filled with the Spirit of God as well. We need the Holy Spirit to live in us, inspire us and anoint the words we speak. We need the Spirit to help us live a holy life and serve and love others effectively. We need the Spirit to help us to be pleasing to both God and man. Therefore, we shall pray today and always that the Lord may fill us with the gifts of the Holy Spirit.
“Come Holy Spirit, renew each of us so that we can work together to renew the face of the earth. Amen”.
FR. S.Vinner HGN