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SOLEMNITY OF PENTECOST: "Receive the Holy Spirit"

The solemnity of Pentecost is a great feast for several reasons, particularly based on the encounter of Christ’s disciples and of Jesus’ appearance in the gospel:

· Pentecost marks the birthday of the church.

· Pentecost celebrates universality, the reunification of peoples under one language. It is a pilgrimage feast whereby Jews from all parts of the world gather in Jerusalem.

· Pentecost reverses the experience of Babel (cf. Gen. 11: 1-9), hence nullifies selfishness and pride that attempt to isolate humanity from submitting to the divine will.

· Pentecost dispels fears and anxiety. It marks the presence of God’s power in the lives of believers. That strong wind and tongue of fire still revitalizes believers and restrengthens them as ministers of the gospel.

So, on this feast, we gather, like the disciples, despite ethnic and racial affiliations... Parthians, Medes and Elamites; from Mesopotamia, Judaea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya round Cyrene; residents of Rome -Jews and proselytes alike- Cretans and Arabs -and I will add -Whites, Blacks, Hispanics, etc. It does not matter where each person is arriving from, rather, that we preach and hear one single language which proclaims the marvels of God (Acts 2: 9-13).

On May 30, 1982, Pope John Paul 11 addressed the congregation at the Mass at Coventry in these words, "On the first Pentecost the Holy Spirit came upon the apostles and upon Mary and filled them with power. Today, we remember that moment and we open ourselves again to the gift of that same Holy Spirit. In that Spirit we are baptized. In that Spirit we are confirmed. In that Spirit we are called to share in the mission of Christ. In that Spirit we shall indeed become the people of Pentecost, the apostles of our time." Our goal is to understand that God has sent His Spirit upon us. Like the first apostles, ours is to open ourselves up to this powerful force for the good purpose of receiving His gifts.

What does it mean to say that Pentecost is the birthday of the Church? It is because of the remarkable thing that Jesus does with his disciples on this day, breathing upon them, and declaring, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” This action replicates the second creation account of man when God breathes into Adam the breath of life. Just as at that moment Adam “became a living being,” (Gen. 2:7), so also the Church becomes a living body through the Holy Spirit. The church’s mission comes into life by the breath of Christ. The Church is made of members. We’re the ones regenerated by this spiritual presence. We are the ones who truly come alive on this day. We are brought back from our fears, anxieties, and selfishness. We’re renewed by the breath of life through Christ Jesus who mandates the disciples, "As the Father sent me, so I am sending you." Christ sends us as members of the community of the baptized.

One striking point today is that we need to recognize the power of spoken words -the power of language. Those who witness the tongue of fire on the apostles and hear them speak exclaim in amazement, “Are not all these people who are speaking Galileans? Then how does each of us hear them in his native language?” In human relationships, it is baffling to see someone from a different ethnic background attempt to speak your dialect. It does not matter how good or bad the person does, rather it makes you feel appreciated and loved. It makes you feel connected in a different way. For instance, speaking Spanish to a person of Spanish origin would always beam a smile on her face. There is power in spoken language.

As Christians, what language do we speak today? What language do we write? How much does our language unite others? How much does our language inspire our listeners? How much does our Christian language trump our political, ethnic, and cultural dialects? Do our ideologies and interests show up the most when we speak? Do we speak more as Christians motivated by Christ’s love or as individuals motivated by political affiliations and selfish interests? What has happened to this excitement and amazement seen in those who gathered at the first Pentecost? Pentecost invites us to recapture our common language as believers. That love language is Jesus who transcends dialect and tribe, but has come to give meaning and value to our existence. That language is the passion for service that reminds us of our common patrimony in God. Those who hear this language feel appreciated, valued, and inspired. It produces a joyful amazement in the listener.

St. Paul reminds us today that the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit. Maybe we can reflect on this great feast whether this Spirit is producing real benefit in us. One great benefit of the Holy Spirit is that the parts become united by the peace of Christ. Pope John Paul 11 had to questioned the authenticity of this peace, "What is this peace for which we long? Peace is not just the absence of war. It involves mutual respect, and confidence between peoples and nations. It involves collaboration and binding agreements. Like a cathedral, peace has to be constructed, patiently and with unshakeable faith. Wherever the strong exploit the weak; wherever the rich take advantage of the poor; wherever great powers seek to dominate and to impose ideologies, there the work of making peace is undone; there the cathedral of peace is again destroyed" (Pope John Paul 11, Homily on Solemnity of Pentecost, Coventry, 30 May, 1982).

Seeking the benefit of Pentecost implies an honest assessment of the manifestation of the Spirit in our lives. Just review your involvement in community building, in educating the young, in politics, in parenting, and in overall engagement with each other. Can you say truly that the Holy Spirit manifests in you? Christ commands, "as the Father sent me, so I am sending you." Christ is sending you to work for Him. Is your mission inspired by the Holy Spirit? If Christ sends you out, then your actions should produce “love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” So, what’s happening? Where is the Spirit that you received at baptism? Where’s the Spirit by which you’re confirmed? Why aren’t your actions spirit-driven?

Clearly, we can be better if we operate by the Spirit which builds up the various parts of the body into one. It is not late, so, let us ask the Holy Spirit to take control of our lives once again. This great gift today can recreate you once more to hear Christ blow that fresh breath into you saying, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” Amen.

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