PENTACOST SUNDAY, C
Acts 2:1-11; Rom 8:8-17); Jn 14:15-16, 23b-26
Introduction: This is a homily/Scripture reflection in a book, titled: ‘Every Week God Speaks We Respond’ Cycle C, intended to be published in the future by Reverend John Tran Binh Trong. It was published in Vietnamese in the US 2009 and republished in Viet Nam 2012. To keep the author’s writing style, this homily has not been edited and may not be by a hired hand.
However, if readers like to point out mistake(s) in spelling and grammar, it would be greatly appreciated by the author whose English is not his mother tongue and who did not live in the US until his adulthood. Passive sentences are used intentionally in this context to avoid using the first personal pronoun ‘I’ when applicable, that might be associated with any idea of egotism, in accord with the French saying, known as: ‘Le moi est haissable’ (The ego is detestable).
At the last supper, Jesus said to his disciples: It is much better for you if I go. If I fail to go, the Paraclete will never come to you; whereas if I go, I will send him to you (Jn 6:7). We can imagine the state of mind and heart of the apostles after Jesus’ Ascension. They must have felt alone and frightened. That is why they gathered in the upper room in Jerusalem with the doors closed, for fear of the Jews. And Mary was with them, praying with them for the coming down of the Holy Spirit.
Reading the Acts of the Apostles, we can see a big difference in the lives of the apostles before and after Pentecost. Before Pentecost, one apostle had betrayed his master; another had publicly denied him; and the rest had run in hiding. On Pentecost Sunday, the apostles changed completely. They preached the good news of salvation enthusiastically and they bore witness to Jesus’ resurrection without fear. We may wonder what the motive behind this transformation was.
The Acts of the Apostles tells us: All were filled with the Holy Spirit. They began to express themselves in foreign tongues, and make bold proclamation as the Spirit prompted them (Acts 2:4). Not only the Holy Spirit transformed the lives of the apostles but also transformed the lives of those who had heard their preaching.
Who is the Holy Spirit? Most of us could identify him as the third person of the Blessed Trinity in the form of a dove or a flame of fire. We Catholics often neglect devotion to the Holy Spirit. We tend to forget the third person of the Blessed Trinity because we are ignorant of his power and activities. The Apostles already received the Holy Spirit when Jesus appeared to them after he had risen from the dead. However, on Pentecost Sunday, they received the Holy Spirit in a way that is more special. In a similar way we ourselves, received the gift of the Holy Spirit when we were baptized but at confirmation, we received the gift of the Holy Spirit in a more special way.
After confirmation, if we do not know how to stir up the activities of the Holy Spirit, we will not have experience of his power and activities. There are many ways for the grace of the Holy Spirit to act in our lives. One way for the grace of the Holy Spirit to act in our lives is repentance. Repentance is a prerequisite condition for the Holy Spirit to act into our lives.
Observing briefly, we can see in a cup of coffee or a glass of orange juice, a good stuff is often sinking at the bottom. In order to be able to drink that good stuff, we have to stir it up. It is the same in our spiritual lives. To use a simple, popular phrase, we can say the presence of Holy Spirit is inactive or dormant in our lives. Therefore, we have to wake up the Holy Spirit. That means we have to stir up the activities of the Holy Spirit in our lives by repentance. Repentance is a turning away from sin and turning toward God. That is what the apostles tell us in the Acts of the Apostles. On Pentecost Sunday, people asked the apostles: What are we to do, brothers? (Acts 2:37). Peter responded: You must repent and be baptized, each one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ, that your sins may be forgiven; then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38).
Some people came to see a certain priest, asking for counseling. At first, they did not consider what they did in the past, was sin. When they were told that it was sin and they themselves admitted that it was sin, they repented and they cried. Their tears were tears of joy. After they had received the gift of repentance, nobody had to tell them to go to church, nobody had to encourage them to pray, and nobody had to tell them to do a work of charity. They just did it themselves. Their desire now is to live a new life in the spirit, with their new sense of values, with their hunger for spiritual needs, with their personal conviction about their faith, with their willingness to serve God in his people. Their scale of values is now changed. They put their spiritual values first, then the human values, and then the temporal values.
Some years ago, there was a report on a personal conversion of a catholic priest. The priest made a silent retreat in a mountain area. He spent the first evening with the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. Kneeling just a few feet before the Blessed Sacrament, he was by himself with the Lord. Before he could say anything, he wept. His tears flowed out abundantly: tears of both sorrow and joy, the joy of finding his way back to the Lord. His life changed since then.
All of us must come to realize that when we do not admit their weakness and sinfulness, we do not seek help. It is beyond healing. The more we come to know the Lord in a deep way, and a more personal way, the more we become aware of our shortcomings, our weakness and sinfulness. When we confess our sins sincerely and humbly and with repentance, and our sins are forgiven. Then they are forgiven. However, it is good to stir up a spirit of repentance, a spirit of sorrow. This spirit of sorrow should help us stay closer to the Lord in mind and and heart.
A prayer to the Holy Spirit :
Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of Your faithful
and kindle in them the fire of Your love.
Send forth Your Spirit, and they shall be created;
And you shall renew the face of the earth.
Let us pray:
O God Who teaches the hearts of you faithful
by the light of the Holy Spirit.
Grant us by the same Spirit to have a right judgment
in all things and forever to rejoice in His comfort.
Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
John Tran Binh Trong
. DiOrio, R.A., Prayers to the Holy Spirit. Office of the Apostolate of Healing. Diocese of Worcester, Massachusetts