Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, this Sunday is the Solemnity of Pentecost Sunday marking the fiftieth and the last day of the entire glorious and joyous season of Easter. The celebration of the Pentecost had its roots in the Jewish custom, in which fifty days after the celebration of the Jewish Passover, the Festival of the Pentecost is celebrated, and hence, a lot of people were assembled in Jerusalem for that occasion, coming from different countries, likely both the Jewish people and diaspora who lived in those places as well as some others who were attracted to the celebrations that were happening in Jerusalem.
In our first reading today from the Acts of the Apostles we heard the account of how on the Festival of the Pentecost, fifty days after Our Lord’s glorious Resurrection, the Holy Spirit came down upon all the disciples who were assembled and in hiding from the Jewish authorities, Mary, the Twelve Apostles and the other disciples who were there in the same room and place. The Holy Spirit came down like tongues of fire, resting on each of the disciples and gave them all the strength, courage and power to proclaim the Lord and His truth to all the people they encountered, beginning with those who came to Jerusalem for the festival of Pentecost.
This is a fulfilment of what the Lord has always promised His followers, that He would send them the Holy Spirit, the Helper and Advocate Who would strengthen them and give them the courage and power to do the will of God and to carry on what He had entrusted to them to do in this world. When He ascended into Heaven, the Lord promised that the Holy Spirit would come and help His disciples, and that they ought to wait in Jerusalem and pray. True enough then, that about ten days after the Lord ascended into Heaven, on the Pentecost celebrations, the Holy Spirit came down on the disciples.
Pentecost Sunday does not only mark the fiftieth day of Easter and the final day of that joyous season. It is also according to tradition, the ‘birthday of the Church’ as it was on that day that the Church became tangible, visible and apparent to the world. Before that moment, the disciples were all hiding in fear but afterwards, they courageously went forth and proclaimed the Word of God to the masses without fear anymore. That was the moment when the Church began its mission of evangelisation, reaching out to the world, to more and more people so that more may come to know the Lord and be saved through finding out the truth.
Pentecost is the day when the Church of God began its ministry to the world, when the Body of Christ, that is the Church, became visible to all and began calling on all to turn towards the Lord and to believe in Him as their Lord and Saviour. This is all possible because of the wisdom and strength bestowed on the Apostles through the Holy Spirit. Before that, the disciples were all lacking confidence and the drive to do the mission they have been entrusted with, and many among them were also illiterate and uneducated, hence explaining even more why they were hesitant to make themselves shown prior to the Pentecost.
The Holy Spirit gave them all the gifts of wisdom and knowledge, of faith and hope, of strength and courage, allowing them to do everything that we now know as the amazing things that the Apostles and the saints had done, only some of which were recorded in the Acts of the Apostles and the rest of the New Testament. Through the Holy Spirit, the Lord guided His faithful disciples who embarked on the journey of faith to proclaim His truth to the nations, to the many people they visited and lived with, and they spoke of the Lord and His love openly and without fear, guided by the strength, wisdom and passion that came from the Holy Spirit inflaming their hearts and minds.
They all went to proclaim the truth of the Lord, revealing the generous love which God has shown us, and they lived according to the Lord’s commandments of love, as mentioned in our Gospel passage today. They loved the Lord most wholeheartedly and at the same time, they also showed the same love towards their fellow brothers and sisters, to all man equally and without discrimination, be it Jews, Greeks, Romans, Persians or any other people. They loved them all as fellow children of God, and it was this love, together with the wisdom that God has shown them through the Holy Spirit, which made the Christian faith so popular among the people, and many decided to believe in God.
Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, we must realise that the works of the Church and the Lord have not yet been completed but instead are still ongoing this very moment. There are still a lot of areas and opportunities for the Church and the faithful to reach out to those who have not yet known the Lord and to all those who have lapsed in their faith. There are still many parts of the world and many communities who have lived in ignorance of the Lord’s truth, and it is we as Christians who have the responsibility and calling to bear the truth of God, His love and hope, His compassion and mercy, His path and light to those who have not yet known Him.
We are all called as Christians to continue the great and wonderful works that our predecessors, the Apostles, the innumerable saints and martyrs, and many others who had faithfully obeyed the Lord’s commandments and laws, following, His will and doing His good works in this world. Through baptism all of us have become part of the Church and received the Holy Spirit, the same Spirit that the Apostles and disciples of the Lord had received. And many of us have also received the Sacrament of Confirmation, in which after period of preparation and prayer, we have been affirmed in faith and received a more complete gift of the Holy Spirit.
What are these gifts of the Holy Spirit, brothers and sisters in Christ? The Church teaches us that there are seven gifts of the Holy Spirits. Those gifts are the gifts of Wisdom, Understanding, Counsel, Fortitude, Knowledge, Piety and Fear of the Lord. Each of these gifts are related to the seven Virtues of our Christian faith, namely Charity or Love, Faith, Prudence, Courage, Hope, Justice and Temperance. All these gifts have been given to us, to strengthen us and to help us in how we live our lives, so that each and every one of us can become great role models and inspirations for one another, to encourage and help each other on our way to the Lord and His salvation.
Through Wisdom and Understanding we have all been given the clarity and ability to appreciate the depth of the truth of God, the knowledge of God’s love and His laws, His commandments and ways, understanding the ways of the Church and its practices, and how to explain it to others, and to discern carefully the path that we are to choose in life. While through Counsel and Fortitude, we are brought to the ability to resist the temptations to sin, the ability to consider carefully what each of our actions will lead us to, and how to stand up for things that are right, in defending our faith and the actions that are just against the wickedness of this world, against the temptations to sin.
The gift of Knowledge, Piety and Fear of the Lord then allows us to know more about God and to get ourselves closer to Him, allowing us to love Him ever deeper and more, desiring to be ever closer to Him, and by knowing more of the great infinity and boundlessness of God’s Almighty power and majesty, we may grow to fear Him more, not because we are afraid of Him, but because we know well what it means for us to reject and abandon Him and His path, falling into the depth of sin and eventually hell, out of which there is no escape and no hope of salvation. Hence, we will strive to get ever closer to God and avoid doing things that are against God and His will.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, we have received those wonderful gifts from God through the Holy Spirit, as well as other abilities, talents and opportunities that are distinct for each and every one of us. However, if we do not open our hearts and minds, and embracing those gifts and talents, opportunities and all presented to us by the Lord, then all those gifts would have been naught and useless for us. We have to embrace the Lord and His gifts for us, the Holy Spirit and all of His blessings and do our best to make use of them for the purpose that He has revealed to us. Otherwise, we are not doing what the Lord has commanded us to do, to be the disciples that go forth to the world, to proclaim His truth before all mankind and calling them all to His presence.
Today, this Pentecost Sunday, as we celebrate this joyous celebration of the Descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Church of God, and the birthday and beginning of the Church, let us all discern carefully our respective calling in life. Are we all doing what we can in answering God’s call, His call for us to make good use of the talents, gifts, abilities and opportunities that He had provided to us? Each one of us as Christians have been given different sets of skills, talents, gifts and blessings, and have various vocations and calling in life. Are we willing to do what we can, within our means and within the capacity that God has provided us, to do His will and to live our lives virtuously and faithfully as good and devoted Christians?
Let us all hence commit ourselves anew to the Lord this day, and remind ourselves that Pentecost is not there to mark the end of the season of Easter. On the contrary, on this day we celebrate the Descent of the Holy Spirit, we remind ourselves that the Church’s primary mission is to evangelise and spread the Word of God, His truth and love to the whole world, and the best way for us to do this, is by living our lives virtuously as exemplary and good Christians, as otherwise how can we expect others to believe in us if we ourselves do not act and live our lives in the manner that we tell others to live theirs?
May the Lord continue to bless us and guide us, and may each and every one of us continue to walk faithfully in God’s path at all times. May the Holy Spirit continue to guide us and strengthen us, now and always. Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of all Christians who are faithful and committed to God, and enkindle in the fire of Your love. Come Holy Spirit, and renew the face of this Earth, purge hatred and evil from this world, and allow us Christians to strive to love one another and advance the cause of peace and harmony between all the children of God. Come Holy Spirit, and be with us always, now and forevermore. Amen.