Acts 2, 1-11; Psalm 104; 1 Cor 12, 3-7. 12-13; John 20, 19-23
Today we celebrate the Feast of Pentecost, the commemoration of the day when the Holy Spirit descended upon the Apostles. This happened in the upper room where the apostles were hiding for fear of the Jews.
Pentecost literally means "fifty days," and for Jews it was a harvest festival. For Catholics it comes fifty days after Christ's resurrection.
The Risen Lord tells the apostles, "Receive the Holy Spirit" and then the Lord gives them the power to forgive sins (John 20:23), and later He commands them to teach and baptize "in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit (Matt. 28:19).
The Holy Spirit's action in the Church begins with the day of Pentecost. The Church, which had just been born in this way on the day of Pentecost by the work of the Holy Spirit, was immediately revealed to the world. It is not a closed community, but an open one--it could be called a community thrown wide open--to all the nations "even to the ends of the earth" (Acts 1:8). Those who enter this community through Baptism become, by virtue of the Holy Spirit of truth, witnesses of the Good News and are ready to pass it on to others. It is therefore a dynamic, apostolic community, the Church "in a state of mission."
The Holy Spirit first "bears witness" to Christ and this witness pervades the heart and soul of those who participate in Pentecost. They in turn become witnesses and proclaimers. The "tongues of fire" (Acts 2:3) which appeared over the head of each one present are the external sign of the enthusiasm enkindled in them by the Holy Spirit. The apostles extended this enthusiasm to their listeners, as already happened after Peter's discourse on the first day: "Some three thousand were added" (Acts 2:41). In this way the community gave evidence of its own awareness of being moved by the action of the Holy Spirit.
How far are we from this inspiring experience of the power of the Holy Spirit? (JPII)
(inspired by http://www.homilies.net/index.asp)
The story is told of Napoleon Bonaparte boasting to a Vatican cardinal that he would destroy the Church. The cardinal insouciantly replied to the perplexed emperor, "Good luck, Your Majesty. We, priests have been attempting to do just that for centuries."
In effect, the bishop was doffing his scarlet biretta in salute to the Holy Spirit. That Spirit dwells comfortably and sometimes, I suspect, very uncomfortably within the Church. Try what anyone might; the Church will not go away precisely because the Third Person of the Holy Trinity is on the job around the clock. Napoleon thought the prelate was pulling his imperial leg. He took on the Church. He was rudely dethroned. The Church survived. The former emperor wound up beating off mosquitoes as a full-time occupation on the damp island of Saint Helena somewhere in the Atlantic Ocean.
The same happened to Stalin, Hitler, Mussolini, Franco, and all those who in the XX century tried to destroy the Church ….
Don't you think that all those who try to destroy the Church from inside as well as from outside have to recognize that the Church of Jesus Christ is indestructible precisely because Christ equipped Her (His Bride, His Mystical Body) with the Power of the Holy Spirit?
Without the Holy Spirit, the Church would be at best a third rate operation or, perhaps better, a non-operation. But with the Spirit the Church is today able to survive its many difficulties. With the Holy Spirit the Church survived the centuries of persecution, the attempts of Napoleon and French Revolution, the efforts of the Mexican and Spain’s revolutions, the communistic domination in Russia and East European countries. With the Holy Spirit at work the Church survived the diabolic attempts during the II World War, and is still surviving the most atrocious persecutions in Communistic China. The Holy Spirit is at work in the Lord’s Church, but He is also, or at least should be in work in us.
A brilliant man, a man of education, with Doctorate Degrees and honors from most major universities, took a sabbatical. He decided to devote as much time as it would take, one year, two years or more, and learn all he could about Jesus. He studied ancient Greek and ancient Hebrew and Aramaic so he could read the earliest texts about Jesus. He studied Ignatius, Justin, Augustine, Aquinas, and all the famous theologians of centuries, always focusing on learning about Jesus. He read the works of modern theologians. He took courses in various foreign languages so he could understand theologians in their original language.
After studying and studying he wrote his own book about Jesus. It was an instant success not just in the academic circles, but in every Christian and even non-Christian Church. The man, the esteemed professor, was called upon to give talks about Jesus to all sorts of different groups, from seminarians to atheists. His lectures always ended with a question and answer period. Usually, there was no one in audience who could ask a question that the brilliant man had not been asked before or for which he did not have an answer at the tip of his tongue.
No one, until an elderly man raised his hand after one lecture. The old man asked: “How is it that someone who has studied as much as you, has learned so little?”
What? What type of an arrogant simpleton would dare question the great scholar, the great professor? After the commotion settled down, the scholar responded, “I am sure that I have much more to learn about Jesus, but why do you feel that I have learned so little?” He had the old man. At least until the man said, “You have Jesus in your head, but you do not have him in your life.”
Knowledge of Christ come from the head, but knowing Christ comes from the heart. His Spirit must be within us. We have to give Him a permission to work in us, to operate in our hearts. Otherwise we will not know our Lord and Redeemer.
And this is the great gift of Pentecost, the solemnity we celebrate today. The Spirit of the Lord has been given to us so that we don’t just know about the Lord, but that we know the Lord.
But, there is something more: After the coming of the Holy Spirit, as we have seen, the disciples did not stay in that room luxuriating in what they had been given. They burst out to tell the world, to announce the Good News.
May the Holy Spirit work in us and through us … May we never oppose the Holy spirit in our lives.