May. 19, 2018

Pentecost Sunday, 2018


Readings: 1st- Acts 2:1-11; 2nd- 1 Cor. 12:3b-7, 12-13; Gospel- John 20:19-23

Can the Spirit lead us to bad things? Or better still, how does the Spirit lead us? This is similar to the question asked by Pope Francis in his recent Apostolic Exhortation, Rejoice and Be Glad, “Could the Holy Spirit urge us to carry out a mission and then ask us to abandon it, or not fully engage in it, so as to preserve our inner peace?” The pope continues, “We can forget that life does not have a mission, but is a mission” (no. 27). Life is a mission inspired by the Holy Spirit.

Today we celebrate Pentecost which is the descent of the Holy Spirit on the Apostles. It is a special feast which marks the birth of the Church. Originally, Pentecost was a Jewish holiday held 50 days after Passover. One of three major feasts during the Jewish year, it celebrated Thanksgiving for harvested crops. We witness this harvest of souls in the Acts of the Apostles in the first reading as the large crowd gathered to listen to the disciples of Jesus. “They were astounded, and in amazement they asked, ‘Are not all these people who are speaking Galileans? Then how does each of us hear them in his native language? We are Parthians, Medes, and Elamites, inhabitants of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the districts of Libya near Cyrene, as well as travelers from Rome, both Jews and converts to Judaism, Cretans and Arabs, yet we hear them speaking in our own tongues of the mighty acts of God” (Acts 2:7-12). Everyone hears everyone because all are filled with the Holy Spirit.

Surely, the Holy Spirit cannot lead us to do bad things. No one can kill and say that the Spirit led her/him to do it. Or to steal, lie, cheat, etc. No one can treat another badly and claim it is by the Holy Spirit. One easy way to know someone who is not guided by the Holy Spirit is through acts of unrighteousness and impurity. Saint Paul calls them works of the flesh: “immorality, impurity, lust, idolatry, sorcery, hatreds, rivalry, jealousy, outbursts of fury, and acts of selfishness, dissensions, factions, occasions of envy, drinking bouts, orgies, and the like” (Gal. 5:18-21). Clearly, fleshy desires are different from the spirit. “Could the Spirit ask us to carry out a mission and then ask us to abandon it, or not fully engage in it, so as to preserve our inner peace?”  That was the question Pope Francis posited. The negative spirit sustains only halfway. 

The Holy Spirit fulfills its mission of guiding, leading, directing, and comforting. It leads us to complete good actions.  Saint Paul writes, “No one can say, “Jesus is Lord”, except by the Holy Spirit” (1 Cor. 12:3). The presence of the Holy spirit is very clear, “Suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house in which they were” (Acts 2:1). As soon as the disciples received the Holy Spirit, “they began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim”. The disciples bore the fruit of the Spirit because the Spirit inspired them to action. The fruits of the Holy Spirit are evident: “love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, generosity, kindness, faithfulness, and self-control”. The "fruit" is the product of the Holy Spirit's cultivation of character in a heart; a sign that the Spirit dwells in a person’s heart.

One major fruit of the Spirit is peace. Jesus gives his disciples this special gift in the gospel of today. Peace is the hallmark of his post- resurrection visit. Jesus reveals his presence to the disciples through the gift of peace. He says to them, “Peace be with you”. This gift is followed by his breath upon the disciples. He breathes life, renewal and revival into them as in creation (Cf. Gen. 2:7); “And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained”. The great relationship between the peace of Christ and the gift of the Holy Spirit is that the Holy Spirit inspires us to receive the peace of Christ- “inner peace”.

Often times, we hear the saying, “As led by the Holy Spirit”. Who is led by the Holy Spirit? My answer is simple; it is the person who has peace of mind and heart, inner peace. I had a conversation with one of my friends who is a nun recently, and I asked her a question, “Are you really happy?” She answered me yes. I went further to ask her, “How can you describe your source of happiness?” She said, “If I go to bed I sleep well. I wake up, do my work. I eat good food when I am hungry. I have good friends. I derive joy in what I am called to do. I am happy to serve God because God loves me and also provides for my needs. I have peace of mind.” That last sentence stood out for me, “I have peace of mind”. That is what the Holy Spirit gives us. If you have peace of mind, you live a life devoid of worries, hatred, anxiety. You live a life devoid of selfishness, dissensions, fury, envy, rivalry, hatred, immorality, jealousy. If you have peace of mind, you forgive. If you have peace of mind, you shun rancor and acrimony. If you have peace of mind, you’ll be generous, kind, faithful, patient, and self-control.

This is what Christ said when he promised us the Holy Spirit, “But the Paraclete, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything and remind you of all I have said to you. Peace I bequeath to you, my own peace I give you, a peace which the world cannot give, this is my gift to you” (John 14:26-27). 

Honestly, anyone who does not have peace of mind is in trouble. Let us use as an example, the 17 years old boy who shot and killed the students in Santa Fe, Texas on Friday, May 18. That guy has no peace of mind. He knows no rest. He lacks inner joy. He is deeply troubled. He is tortured, tormented from within, so also anyone who could commit such atrocity. No matter how you look at him- call it paranoia, pathology. Call such people sociopath, psychotic, or anything that psychology may manufacture, he lacks the peace of Christ, peace of mind. It is the same in our homes and at work. A lot of crises manifest where there is lack of inner peace. So many people lack peace of mind and so they do evil things to others. A husband who lacks peace of mind is always mean to the wife and children. A wife who lacks peace of mind is mean to the husband and children. A boss who lacks peace of mind is mean to his employees. Anyone who lacks peace of mind is in big time trouble, and puts others into trouble. Peace of mind and heart is the peace that Christ gives; it is the fruit of the Holy Spirit. Unfortunately, as Saint James says, “Anyone who chooses the world for a friend is constituted an enemy of God” (4:5). 

Let us ask the Holy Spirit to bear his fruit in our hearts, to give us the peace which the world cannot give, as we pray, “Come Holy Spirit and fill the hearts of the faithful…”