PENTECOST HOMILY: THE GREATEST UNUSED POWER IN THE WORLD
Readings: Acts 2:1-11; Ps. 104; 1 Corinthians 12:3-7, 11-13; John 20:19-23
Rev. Fr. John-Mary Ntol Atep
When good and great people die, we usually say prayerfully “REST IN PEACE.” And we engrave such words on their gravestones and other documents. It is prayerfully “said to express the hope that someone’s spirit has found peace after death.” The case was different for Jesus Christ. After His Spirit ascended with Him to heaven an amazing thing happened. On Pentecost, He sent his Spirit back again into His disciples! He still sends His Spirit upon His followers today. Nobody else ever did that. The same Spirit that filled Jesus on earth – that empowered Him to heal the sick and raise the dead – now lives in all who are open to receive Him. On Pentecost, we ponder this amazing truth! So today we rejoice that the Spirit is moving in each of our hearts and making us a spirited people, inspiring us to understand the mystery of our faith, and strengthening us to follow Jesus the Anointed One.
Pentecost reveals our nature before the risen Christ. Pentecost states that in each of us baptized and confirmed is the Holy Spirit locked in us. The Holy Spirit is often represented as a dove. Imagine this dove locked up in a bird-cage. “I have the Holy Spirit” you say. “I received the Holy Spirit at Baptism and Confirmation. How come we have received the Holy Spirit but our lives seem not to demonstrate it?” For instance, we have all kinds of entertainment, we are busier than ever, but people feel bored; our young people are the ones most affected by the tiredness of our society.
Sometime ago, a friend visited me and wanted me to take him out in order to experience the marvels of our country. So, I took him to Gurara waterfalls located in Gurara, a local government area of Niger State. At Gurara waterfalls, I explained about the enormous quantity of water and its great force. Guess what? He had to practically shout into my ear as he concluded, “This is the greatest unused power in the world.” My friend was so impressed; because he had seen nothing like it in his own country.
Friends in Christ, the greatest unused power in the world is the Holy Spirit of the living God. Today we are celebrating the Feast of the Holy Spirit, Pentecost Sunday. It reminds us of a power we have barely tapped into. In the readings we see some of the things which the Holy Spirit makes possible: Communication in a language deeper than words, inner peace, forgiveness of sins, and unity of people who were formerly enemies, every worthwhile gift, and renewal of the earth.
The first reading is an account of the first Christian Pentecost, which is the fulfilment of Jesus’ promise to His apostles that they would receive “power from on high” after His Ascension event. The Psalmist tells us…St. Paul from the second reading, describes the roles of the Holy Spirit in the Church: The Spirit shares various spiritual gifts, charisms, ministries and fruits to enrich the Church.
Today’s Gospel passage narrates how Jesus the risen Lord, gives His Apostles a foretaste of Pentecost on the evening of Easter Sunday. It also tells us how Jesus gave to the Apostles the power and authority to forgive sins. He said, “Receive the Holy Spirit,” and that was immediately followed by, “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they retained.”
My sisters and brothers in Christ, if the power of the Holy Spirit abides in us, we might ask, “why don’t we experience it? Why are we full of fears and anxieties, bitterness and anger, prayerlessness and faithlessness, immorality, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, witchcraft, enmity, jealousy, selfishness, opposition, party spirit, envy, and drunkenness (Gal. 5:19-21)? Why can’t we do the things that Jesus did?” (Matt.17:20). Apart from the fact that lack of faith and trust in the Holy Spirit can block His power being manifested in our lives, the greatest challenge before us as Catholics is the neglect of the presence, power and essence of the Holy Spirit in our lives. We profess in the creed our faith in the Holy Spirit but there is virtually no personal relationship with the Spirit or there is a very shallow personal relationship with Him.
How often do we remember to begin, move through and end all our activities and particularly prayer through, with, in and for the Holy Spirit? We are very conscious of God the Father and God the Son but we effortlessly neglect the place of the Holy Spirit in our spiritual life. The insensitivity between us and the Holy Spirit can be corrected by learning the language of the Holy Spirit. We can start learning the language of the Holy Spirit by saying the prayer of St. Augustine against the tendencies of neglecting the Person of the Holy Spirit: “O Holy Spirit, descend plentifully into my heart. Enlighten the dark corners of this neglected dwelling and scatter there Thy cheerful beams.” Amen.
The first step in learning a new language is to learn the native tongue of the language and the native tongue of the Holy Spirit is LOVE. The second step is learning the words of the language and enriching our vocabulary in other to know the language and speak fluently. The vocabulary of the language of the Holy Spirit is: Gifts (Isaiah 11:2), Charisms and Ministries (1 Corinthians 12:8-10) and Fruits (Galatians 5:22-24). The language of the Holy Spirit is the language of God the Father and God the Son. God the Father at the beginning of creation, spoke the language of the Holy Spirit. Scripture says, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep; and the Spirit of God was moving over the face of the waters” (Gen. 1:1-2).
Finally, today also is the feast of the birthday of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. And so, I say HAPPY BIRTHDAY to every Catholic! The Church was founded on Peter the first Pope but was commissioned and missioned to all nations on Pentecost Day. Hence the miracles of tongues where different languages were spoken.