Homily Pentecost Sunday Year C (Mass during the Day): Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo· Acts 2:1-11;
· Psalm 104:1, 24,29-30,31,34;
· I Cor 12:2-3b-7, or Rom 8:8-17
· John 20:19-23 or John 14:15-16,23b-26
The Fire of the Holy Spirit in Our Lives!
We celebrate Pentecost Sunday, today, 50 days after Easter. And I really love the readings, the songs and the spiritual themes reflected in our celebration, particularly the responsorial Psalm “Send forth your Spirit Lord, and renew the face of the earth” (Ps 104:30). I also love the Alleluia verse of today, “Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of the faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love.” This traditional antiphon begins every session of our Rosaries. I love saying this too in my native language-- Di O Edisana Spirit, Duk Yoho ke me esit nti ikot mfo, nyung nam ikan ima fo oyoho ke esist mmo!( Veni Sancte Spiritus) . These passages are full of the Holy Spirit and what the Holy Spirits can do for us.
They specifically point to a number things that we must take note: One, the Holy Spirit is alive in the Church, in our midst. Two, the Holy is like a “Fire” in us, burning with love. Three, with the Holy Spirit we can do a lot. We can move mountains. We can love. We can forgive. We can build. We can listen to the message of Pope Francis. We can transform the face of the earth with love, kindness, forbearance, unity and gentleness.
To the first point, you may ask, how do we know that the Spirit is alive in the Church? The Gospel does not lie. Christ does no tell lies! Believe him! You would recall soon after his Baptism in Luke’s Gospel chapter 4, the first thing Christ himself acknowledged was a sense of divine mission and the presence of the Holy Spirit with him. As God’s incarnate spoken of by the prophets (Isa 61), the Spirit enables him bring the Good news to the poor, and freedom to the captives, liberation to the oppressed and the marginalized. This came to be true throughout Jesus' mission!
We continue to see this assurance of the Spirit in today’s Gospel (John 14). Christ, before his mission to the Cross, promises his disciples– “if you love me you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you always.” You better believe it. Christ’s promises are never in vain! The Holy Spirit, the Advocate, the “Divine Attorney” is with us. The Holy Spirit is in the midst of our daily challenges. The Spirit fights for us. The Spirit keeps us in the state of grace. The Holy Spirit brings us wisdom, fortitude, knowledge, piety, counsel, understanding and fear of the Lord. The Holy Spirit enables us love God and our neighbors joyfully and keep God's his commandments.
Speaking of this ever presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives Paul says:
“Those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons (daughters) of God. For you did not receive a spirit of adoption, through whom we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if only we suffer with, so that we may also be glorified with him,’ (Rom 8:8-17). To the Corinthian Church Paul very directly says, “Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the spirit of God dwells in you...” (1 Cor 3:16-17). Pentecost Sunday reminds us today that the Spirit of God dwells within us.
To the Second point, the Holy Spirit dwells metaphorically like a fire, spoken of in today’s 1st reading ( Acts 2:11). On that first Pentecost, the Disciples of Christ were in one room “suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong wind, and it filled the entire house in which there were. Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each of them and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim.”
In this text, “fire” is an image of God’s loving, illuminating, encouraging, enabling and inspiring presence with the Apostles and the Church. The beauty of this fire of God’s love dispels the fears of persecution and of the unknown, experienced by the early Church. It enables Peter and the Apostles to preach the Risen Lord fearlessly to all Israel. It enables devout Jews who lived in Jerusalem, and people of different cultural background and languages to reconcile their differences, to understand themselves, to appreciate one another.
Today, we live in a divided world, broken nations, economics, politics, religions, cultures, languages and differences, starting even from our families, churches, worship centers, to places of work, to the United Nations and to the play grounds. In Nigeria, for instance, it is Islam vs Christianity, Boko Haram vs the Chibok Schoolgirls, corrupt officials vs the poor electorates, justice vs injustices and other patties’ interests. In the United States the differences span from the platform of the Democrats to that of the Republicans, Obama-Clintonism vs Trumpism; the traditional teachings of the Church on family, marriage, love, the common good, justice, peace (stress by Pope Francis in his Amoris Laetitia- the joy of love and in other various teachings of the Church) vs modern re-definition of these institutions. Globally, we have peace in one hand, and war, or terrorism on the other. What do we do? How do we use the spirit that God has given us? What role does the event of Pentecost play in our lives today?
This takes us to the final point. The fire of the Holy Spirit given us today comes in different ways, given us in different ways- to advocate for us, to protect us, to strengthen us, sanctify us as individual, to make us holy, forgiving to our neighbors, imitate Christ, but that we may also share this different gifts with the world (1 Cor 12:4-7). Whatever our gifts are: prophecy, legislating, dancing, advising, preaching, speaking, teaching, entertaining, singing, governing, we want to use it for the common good, to kindle the face of the earth.
We live in such a divided society. We want to let this fire of love, through the conduit of our wisdom, fortitude, knowledge, piety, counsel, understanding and fear of the Lord, burn away the darkness of hatred, racism, division, bigotry, violence, terrorism, war, injustices and inhumane activities in our homes, in our work places, in government offices, and in our play grown. All that we are saying today is that, send forth your Spirit, O Lord, that the face of the earth be renewed!