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Homily for Pentecost Sunday C

13 May 2016, by Rev. Fr. Joel Okojie OSA in Sermons

jesus__holy_spiritToday we celebrate Pentecost Sunday, the day we commemorate the Holy Spirit’s descent upon the apostles in a unique way. I said especially because the Holy Spirit did not begin to exist on that day. Before Pentecost, the Holy Spirit existed; in fact, he was there from the very beginning with the Father and the Son, and together with the Father and the Son, he is adored and glorified. To deny this fact is to deny the reality of the Holy Trinity.

The Pentecost feast is commonly associated with the Holy Spirit by Christians, which is not wrong, but I call it a new Pentecost. It is a new Pentecost because it is not the same Pentecost the Jews celebrated. Among the Jews, they had three major feasts they celebrated with so much importance. Every male Jew living around Jerusalem was bound to attend these feasts: The Passover, Pentecost, and the feast of Tabernacles. And the one that concerns us today is Pentecost.

Pentecost is a Jewish feast that originally has nothing to do with the Holy Spirit; it was celebrated the fiftieth day after Passover. It was a feast that drew so much attention to Jerusalem, at least during the time of Jesus, which explains why many people were gathered in Jerusalem when the Holy Spirit descended. The bible tells us that people gathered in Jerusalem from every nation under heaven, there were Parthians, Medes, and Elamites; people from Mesopotamia, Judaea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt, and the parts of Libya around Cyrene; as well as visitors from Rome-Jews and proselytes alike- Cretans and Arabs;… These people gathered to show the importance of these feasts, particularly the Pentecost, which commemorates the law’s giving to Moses on Mount SinaiMoses and harvest thanksgiving. While Jerusalem was agog, the apostles were consumed by fear; they locked themselves up in a room. They imprisoned themselves, they were restricted by fear and denied themselves the excitement that comes with celebrating these great feasts. On this day, God decided to show who he is by sending the Holy Spirit.

The apostles were in a room when suddenly they heard what sounded like a mighty wind from heaven, the noise of which filled the entire house in which they were sitting; and something appeared to them that seemed like tongues of fire; these separated and came to rest on the head of each of them. They were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak foreign languages as the Spirit gave them the gift of speech. As the apostles spoke this heavenly language, the different nations gathered in Jerusalem heard and understood everything the apostles said in their own foreign native language and were converted. Our God is awesome! He gathered to fish for the apostles to catch (Jn.21:6), and on Pentecost day, he gathered nations for them to catch. God works in a way we cannot understand; no wonder he said his thoughts are not our thought and his ways, not our ways (Is. 55:8). As we end the season of Easter today, may God, by his Spirit, gather every good gift for us.

The Holy Spirit’s outpouring came with the gift of tongues; many people deny the reality of this gift today, this gift is real, and it is from God. There’s no doubt that our world is filled with counterfeiters of this language, but that does not take away the reality of this gift. The different nations that gathered in Jerusalem understood the apostles’ message because the Holy Spirit enabled it; he is our teacher. As recorded in our gospel reading today, he had said to the apostles that when the Spirit of truth comes, he will lead you to the complete truth; in other words, he will teach you. Therefore, let us open up to the Holy Spirit to lead us to the whole truth, lead us into ourselves to rediscover who we indeed are in Christ Jesus. Unless we know who we are in Christ Jesus, fear will continue to hide us. Fear is a potent weapon in the hands of the devil; we must not give the devil the chance to use this weapon on us. Even if we have allowed the devil to use this weapon in the past, today we are reminded that God did not give us a spirit of timidity but a Spirit of power, love, and self-control (2Tim.1:7). The apostle allowed the Holy Spirit to lead them out of that prison to become bold and powerful men of God; they rediscovered themselves. That is what we must let the Holy Spirit do in our lives today, for you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of Sonship (Rm. 8:15).

The Holy Spirit liberated the apostles, and he will deliver us today from every contrary spirit that operates in our lives. The Holy Spirit is a special gift of God to the Church, and this Spirit is God. St. Paul reminds us that guided by the Spirit, we would be in no danger of yielding to self-indulgence since self-indulgence is the opposite of the Spirit,… So, as we celebrate Pentecost Sunday, let us give the Holy Spirit the chance to act in our lives.