HOMILY FOR THE SOLEMNITY OF PENTECOST, YEAR A
HOMILY THEME: ENKINDLED BY THE FIRE OF LOVE
By: Fr. Johnbosco Obika
For some days now we have been in the Upper Room waiting on God in prayer like the disciples of Jesus. The Upper Room has upper meaning. It means a place of higher spiritual elevation, a kind of spiritual tower where we prepare for the most phenomenal spiritual experience of all times–the Pentecost.
Shortly before the end of his earthly ministry Jesus said to his disciples: “It is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you” (Jn 16:7). Today, we celebrate the fulfillment of Christ’s promise, “I will not leave you orphans” (Jn 14:18); of the Holy Spirit who is called the Paraclete The word Paraclete is from the Greek parakletos, meaning the advocate, intercessor, counselor, comforter (Isaiah 11:2; John 14:16; 15:26; 16:7); Author of the Scriptures (2 Peter 1:21; 2 Timothy 3:16); Convicter of Sin (John 16:7-11); the Intercessor (Romans 8:26); the Revealer (John 14:17; 16:13; 1 Corinthians 2:12-16); Spirit of Life (Romans 8:2); etc.
The extraordinary event that marked the descent of the Holy Spirit on the disciples of Jesus is popularly called the Pentecost. The Pentecost is a Jewish feast that did not originate from Christians. So why do we refer the day of descent of the Holy Spirit as Pentecost Sunday? The name Pentecost is derived from the Greek “pentecoste” which means “fiftieth (day)”. It corresponds to the Jewish feast called Shabuoth or the Feast of Weeks. This Jewish feast was a thanksgiving for the wheat harvest and took place seven weeks after the Feast of Unleavened Bread . Christian link to the feast of Pentecost started in Acts 2:1-45. Fifty days after the resurrection of Christ (after the Passover) the Holy Spirit descended on the Apostles while they were praying in the Upper Room. This happened on the same day when all Jews gathered to celebrate the “Shabuoth” or the “pentecoste”. Little wonder today is exactly fifty days after Easter Sunday.
So we can rightly say that the feast of the Pentecost is truly the harvest of the seeds sown by Jesus Christ by the Holy Spirit. At Pentecost, God overturned the Babel pride, disorder and cacophony with the Upper Room humility, prayer, order and unity. In Genesis 11:1-9, the whole earth has one language and one speech. When the people of the earth arrived the plain of Shinar they nursed the ambition of raising a tower that will touch the sky out of bricks to make name for themselves. This project was started out of pride of men, overlooking the their dependence on God. But their design was halted by God who confounded their language, they spoke in different languages and scattered all over the earth. Hence, the name Babel, means “confusion.” Today in our world, we have people who embark on intellectual, scientific and spiritual Babel projects either to debunk the mystery of the existence of God or to compete with God in ordering the cause of the universe. Such people bring back to the world the fruits of Babel—confusion.
On the contrary, the disciples of Jesus built a spiritual tower that touched the heaven whose very bricks where humility and total dependence on God. The Pentecost was accompanied by great signs among which was the speaking in various tongues by the occupants of the Upper Room. The apostles began to speak in other languages as the Spirit enabled them (Acts 2:4). God did a marvel. The people of Shinar spoke in different tongues and did not hear each other. But the disciples of Jesus spoke also in different tongues and heard one another, all were able to understand them in their different local tongues (Acts 2:8). Thus, God unified humanity by the gift of the Spirit. Today, the one language that everyone speaks and hears is the language of love which is one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit. Today, the fire of love is enkindled in us to speak in the tongues of love.
Before the Pentecost, the disciples were locked up in the Upper Room in an atmosphere of fear and anxiety as those without parents. As they were inside the room, they were unable to confront the injustice, prejudice, hatred, violence, idolatry, pride, immorality that were being perpetuated outside the Upper Room because the Spirit (of courage) had not come. When the Holy Spirit came upon them He endowed them with his different gifts. They are: wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord (Is. 11:2-3). The doors and windows of the Upper Room were thrown wide open. There was a radical transformation that pushed the apostles out of the Upper Room with the zeal to love; to change the world. They healed, prophesied and made converts. The whole community noticed something exceptional. My dear friends, what do we do when we live our various churches today with the gifts of the Spirit we received? May we allow the Holy Spirit to use us as the messengers of peace and love in our communities. The fire which rested upon the heads of apostles is a symbol of transformation, renewal and power. Let us allow this Fire to burn down the Tower of Babel in us (pride) which is a stumbling block to our spiritual growth. Our church buildings represent the Upper Room. When we leave this Upper Room and having been set on FIRE, can we be able to see the level of immorality, hatred, injustice and abject poverty in our neighborhood? Can we be able to do something about them with the gifts and fruits of the Spirit we received?
Finally, in as much as we thrive with the variety of gifts as St. Paul mentioned in 1Cor. 12:3-13, let us be also familiar with his admonition: “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing” (ICor. 13:1-3). Let us speak the language of love, it is the language of the Holy Spirit.