The long awaited promise of God is fulfilled today. Today is the birthday of the Church. It is a special day; the liturgical colour is red. It is not special because we are going to destroy enemies using Holy Ghost fire but because we are joyfully celebrating the faithfulness of God who brought the Church into being and continues to sustain her through the Holy Spirit. The disciples had to wait for fifty days before the promise of the Holy Spirit was fulfilled. Fifth, here, symbolizes length of time. To receive the gift of God, we need to be patient and hopeful. Beloved, whatever is Divine, even if it is delayed, it can never be denied. Pentecost means “the fiftieth day after the Passover. It is one of the most important Jewish feasts. For reason of its importance, numerous Jews living in foreign countries would come to Jerusalem as pilgrims for the celebration. It was on this day that God sent the Holy Spirit upon the disciples and a newly “reconstituted Israel” was born. The Lord chose this day of the gathering of people of different cultures, so that from the onset, the Church is rightly defined as a divine institution that surpasses cultural ties. On the day of Pentecost, the disciples spoke in their own tongues, but their listeners coming from different backgrounds and languages, could hear them in their own tongues. Here is the reversal of the Babel experience. The many peoples are united at the proclamation of the Gospel. What was scattered in Babel is reunited on Pentecost Day.
The Church of Christ is the one Church for all peoples, all places and all tongues. It is an open Church into which all can enter. The Church is made up of people of different races, regions and languages. Enabled by the Spirit, we surpass all distinctions of race and tongue and nation, and come together to listen to the Word of God and to worship Him. The second reading tells us that the varieties of workings and services are inspired by the same God for the common good. This means that selfishness of every kind must be ruled out when we are manifesting the gifts God has given us. Our spiritual gifts must not be tied to our emotions. For example, if I have the gift of teaching, I should teach whenever the need arises and to whomever is in need of enlightenment. I have no right to teach only when I feel like or only to those I’m in good terms with. When we personalize spiritual gifts, we abuse them. We are not the owners of the spiritual gifts we possess, we are only privileged custodians of them. In the gospel reading, Jesus specially and consciously chooses a means of perpetuating the effect of the Paschal mystery through the Holy Spirit. He came to reconcile man to God through the forgiveness of sins. Now, He breathes the Holy Spirit upon the apostles and gave them the authority to forgive sins. Here, Christ instituted the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
The Holy Spirit is God and so, cannot be comfortable in a heart of sin. If we truly belong to the family of the “reconstituted Israel” who is born today through the Holy Spirit, then we must know that it is through the Sacrament of Penance that we can obtain forgiveness of sins. Therefore, to claim to be possessed by the Holy Spirit but find it absurd to go for confession, is a clear contradiction in terms. Ask yourself: when last did I go for confession? Finally dear friends, today’s first reading which contains the Pentecost event is taken from the second chapter of the Acts of the Apostles. From thence to the last (28th) chapter, we discover numerous ACTS the Holy Spirit inspired the apostles to carry out. Now that we have received the Holy Spirit, what will be our “ACTS”? Take it that from today, all that I do will constitute “the Acts of the Holy Spirit through me”. It should be such that should “these acts” be compiled after my earthly life, they should be worthy of emulation by anyone who sincerely wants to follow Christ. God Bless You!
• Rev. Fr. Evaristus Okeke is a priest of the Archdiocese of Benin city.