Pentecost Sunday, Year A
Acts 2:1-11; 1Cr 12:3b-7, 12-13; Jn 20:19-23
Introduction: This is a homily/Scripture reflection in a book, titled: ‘Every Week God Speaks We Respond’, Cycle A, intended to be published in the future by Reverend John Tran Binh Trong.
It was published in Vietnamese in the US 2007 and republished in Viet Nam 2010. To keep the author’s writing style, this homily has not been edited and may not be by a hired hand. However, if readers would like to point out mistake(s) in spelling and grammar and/or to suggest English phrases and expressions, 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 as 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).
Pentecost Sunday is considered the birthday of the Church. It is the day, when the apostles officially assumed their mission to proclaim the good news of salvation. Before Pentecost, we had a situation when one apostle betrayed Jesus. Those who remained faithfully were timid like chicken. When Jesus was arrested, one apostle denied him three times, and the rest fled in disorder. On the Pentecost, the apostles receive the Holy Spirit (Jan 20:22) and they experienced radical changes in their lives. They enthusiastically testified to the risen Lord, and preached the good news of salvation without fear.
They began to speak God's word with confidence (Acts 4:31), and with power the apostles bore witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus (Acts 4:33), and they performed many signs and wonders occurred among the people (Acts 5:12). Not only the Holy Spirit transformed the lives of the apostles, but also transformed the lives of those who would hear their preaching.
According to the Acts, those who believed shared all things in common; they would sell their property and goods, dividing everything on the basis of each one's need (Acts 2:44-45). Day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved (Acts 4:47). In one particular day the number of the men came to about five thousand (Acts 4:4). To compare the activity of the Holy Spirit in the early Church with that of the Church of today, we wonder why the Holy Spirit does not work wonders in their times their lives. Then they conclude: Then our era is not the era of the Holy Spirit. Today we must eliminate this notion, thinking that our era is not the era of the Holy Spirit. First, there is no such thing as saying that a certain era is not the era of the Holy Spirit. An era that we think is not the era of the Holy Spirit is due to our failure, it is not due to the Holy Spirit’s absence. The Holy Spirit always remains with the Church and its members.
If the grace of the Holy Spirit is not active and increased in our lives, it is because we have stifled his activity. We stifle the activity of the Holy Spirit when we do acts of worship and prayer in a mechanical way and in a routine fashion. We stifle the activity of the Holy Spirit when we keep the minimum requirements to be a Christian, when we are stingy with God concerning our time of worship.
We stifle the activity of the Holy Spirit, when we bargain with God for a cheap price of being his disciples, like saying to God: Oh God if I do this for you, what can I have for return. It is like when we say to our parents: Mom, Dad, if I do this or that for you, what can I get back. If parents do not like that kind of bargain from children, then God will not like that that kind of bargain from us either. So if we just go ahead and do things for God generously without condition, without strings attached, God will return to us abundantly. We stifle the activity of the Holy Spirit when we divide our heart into different compartments: one compartment is for work, one for recreation, one for eating and drinking, and one for sleeping. Those compartments, we do not allow God to enter.
The last and small compartment, we reserve for God, for worship and prayer. Another obstacle to the activity of the Holy Spirit is sin and all kinds of vices such as laziness, greed, selfishness, sensuality, jealousy, pride and anger... A soul full of such obstacles is a soul, lacking of peace, preventive to the activity of the Holy Spirit.
In order to drink the good stuff from the bottom of a cup of coffee or a milkshake, we have to stir it up. In order to increase the activity of the Holy Spirit in our lives, we have to remove obstacles from our lives so that his grace may permeate every aspect of our lives and his activity may be stirred up. The grace of the Holy Spirit can transform anyone who opens himself/herself to him and to cooperate with his will and his grace. That is the time when we experience the era of the Holy Spirit in our own lives. Thus, if members of the church do the same, we will have the era of the Holy Spirit in the Church.
A prayer for the activity of the Holy Spirit:
O Holy Spirit, the Advocate of Christians
Come, kindle in us the fire of your love
Help me remove obstacles from my life
such as sin and all kinds of vices
so that your grace may permeate my heart
that my life may be reflected
by your love and your strength
and that I may become your instrument. Amen.
John Tran Binh Trong