Gospel reflections – Pentecost Sunday
31 May 2020
Today we celebrate the great feast of the gift of the Holy Spirit given by the risen Lord Jesus. This day concludes the Easter season which began on Easter Sunday, the day of the Lord’s Resurrection. Fifty days have passed. Some have prepared for this day with a Novena to the Holy Spirit. They have joined our local or overseas churches or priests in this Novena, uniting themselves with our brothers and sisters all over the world through the social media. In the inability to gather as a community physically, we are able to unite through the social media. We are able to pray together, listen to the Scriptures together, and ask for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit for renewal of oneself, the church and the world. It is a new way of being church.
The gift of the Holy Spirit on the apostles two thousand years ago marked the beginning of something new for the disciples of Christ. It is the beginning of a new life, being a new person, and being a Spirit-filled community. It is a new way of being a person and a new way of being a community. The Holy Spirit creates it. It is the Holy Spirit that creates a “new normal”. This gift of the Holy Spirit is narrated to us by St Luke in the Acts of the Apostles and in the Gospel of St John which we hear today. We see here that there are two narratives of the coming of the Holy Spirit.
In John’s Gospel, the gift of the Holy Spirit occurred on the “first day of the week” meaning the day of the resurrection. The risen Jesus appeared to the disciples who were hiding in the room with all doors closed for fear of the Jews. Jesus came with peace and he breathed on them the Holy Spirit. It is only in this gift of the Holy Spirit that their fear is changed into freedom. They were empowered to understand the past and to see the future with hope and to become brave witnesses to the world.
St Luke’s version of the giving of the Holy Spirit occurred fifty days after the resurrection on the day of Pentecost. Pentecost is a Jewish feast to celebrate God’s giving of the Torah to the people through Moses on Mt Sinai. This celebration was held fifty days after the Exodus event, the celebration of the Passover. What Luke did was to change this feast into a Christian feast. For St Luke, the Jews who came from different places to Jerusalem to celebrate Pentecost is now to celebrate the new feast of the Holy Spirit. In this new feast of the Holy Spirit, the people are offered a new covenant in Jesus Christ. This new covenant is manifested in the one language of all peoples. It is the language of the Holy Spirit. In this one language of the Holy Spirit, everyone will be able to understand each other and come to faith in Jesus, the Lord and Messiah. This will also be an opportunity to renew their relationship with God for a new beginning, a new creation.
The Lord Jesus has given us the Holy Spirit. Yes, we have all received the Holy Spirit. We believe that the Holy Spirit is at work in us and in our church today. That is why St Paul tells us that “the Holy Spirit is given to each person for a good purpose” (1 Cor. 12:7) and the Holy Spirit brings with it many gifts and talents.
How do we see the Holy Spirit in our lives today? How am I to use the gifts the Holy Spirit has given me? In recent weeks, the Malaysian government has eased the MCO restrictions. 31 May marks the 75th day of the MCO. There are now great movements of people and opening of businesses. The SOPs laid down are the “new normal” of any premises. The SOPs are felt within church also as the church slowly opens to the public.
In the last ten weeks, we have also found a “new normal” in the greater use of technology and social media. These cannot be denied or foregone now. We discover that we can pray together online in the small group Prayer Meetings, do the Novenas of the Divine Mercy, the Holy Spirit, etc. We have also discovered that we can do online church meetings, sing and do music together, make financial contributions, request for Masses for own intentions, and so forth. The Covid-19 pandemic has, in a way, forced us to make better use of the social media than before. This will be our “new normal” of interacting as a church.
Looking at where we are through the eyes of faith, we can say that the Holy Spirit is moving us to a new way of being a Church. We believe that God is in control of life and world’s events. God does not leave us even in the face of this pandemic. We therefore believe that it is only through the strength, the wisdom and power of the Holy Spirit that have helped us to learn, use and benefit from the use of the social media. So, while the communal and physical presence are required for the celebrations of the sacraments, we are nevertheless grateful that our spiritual needs are now met in this new form.
On this great day of the Holy Spirit –
We pray, ask, and seek the Holy Spirit to inspire us and shine forth our paths.
We invoke the Holy Spirit to awaken us to the gifts he has graced us with.
We thank him for the variety of gifts that he has bestowed on us and the Church.
We pray that we may use these gifts well for our good, good of our neighbor and for the glory of God.
Today, wherever we may be, we are all gathered in the same one room of the Church, and we pray together: “Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit, O Lord, and renew the face of the earth.”
Fr Patrick Heng
Blessed Sacrament Church, BDC, Kuching