Sunday, May 24, 2015

Feast of Pentecost- Year B
                                                Acts 2:1-11; Gal 5:16-25;Jn 20:19-23
Different Gifts, the same Spirit.
Today the universal Church celebrates with great joy the feast of Pentecost. This feast is traditionally known as the birthday of the Church. As we have it in the first reading, when the Holy Spirit descended upon people of different races and nations, they were able to understand each other, though they spoke in their various languages. What an amazing experience! That the people Pamphylia, Phrygia, Asia, Mesopotamia, Edumea could understand each other. This is the special Charisma of the Church. The church speaks the language of all peoples under heaven. The miracle is in the fact that the foreigners all heard the proclamation of God’s wonderful deeds in their own language. God wants us to worship him without losing our cultural identity. That is why inculturation is an integral part of the liturgy. The binding force of believers is the love of Christ.   The common Hymn by Reinale says it all: “In Christ, there is no East or West, In him no South or North; but one great fellowship of love throughout the whole wide earth; join hands then, members of the faith; whatever your race maybe!”

The church as a family of God is open to all peoples without racial prejudice. No one is required to purchase a ticket or code to have access into the church as the case may be, for instance, with the baseball match. There are no reserved places in church on account of longevity of service. This is because at Baptism and Confirmation we all receive the same Spirit and it is by the power of the Spirit that we are able to call God Father, and Jesus, Lord.  There is one body, one sprit, and we are called to one hope (Eph 4:4).  

After having received the Holy Spirit, the people began to praise God for His marvelous deeds. This is usually the natural response whenever and wherever the Spirit is at work among a people; there is life and joy, songs of praise and thanksgiving. When Mary conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit, she started to sing a song of joy, the “Magnificat”.  Similarly, about midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns of praise to God, and the prisoners were listening to them; and suddenly there came a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison house were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone's chains were unfastened(Acts 16:25-26).

Unfortunately, as the Christians continued to praise God after having received the Holy Spirit, those who didn’t  understand the powerful effect of the spirit began to laugh and said, they were drunk. But Peter vehemently declared that the Christians were not drunk, for it was only 9 O’clock in the morning. Then he went on to tell them about the fulfilment of the prophecy of Joel. “On the last days, God says I will pour out my Spirit on mortals. Your sons and daughters will speak through the Holy Spirit; your young men will see visions and your old men will have dreams(Jl 3:1)
Whenever we gather together as the Body of Christ, the Holy Spirit can work wonders, that is  if we invoke him with the disposition to let him melt and mold us like the apostles did together with Mary, the mother of Jesus. The Holy Spirit blows wherever it pleases, He is not limited to a particular moment at Mass. It blows! It blows!

It is therefore an anomaly for Christians to complain about this or that liturgical activity as being boring. Someone once said if Christians fall asleep in church, it means the preacher needs to wake up. This is not necessarily true. What kind of spirit do we bring with us to Church?  What were you doing just before coming for mass? Are you coming as a spectator or with an expectation? Here is a hymn in Music Issue 657, worth meditating upon in preparation for Mass:
O breathe on me, O breath of God,
fill me with life anew that I may love
the things You love, and do what you would do.

O breathe on me, O breath of God,
until my heart is pure;
until my will is one with Yours,
to do and to endure.  
O breathe on me O breath of God, My will to yours incline, until this selfish part of me, glows with your fire divine. 

If we deeply love him who is present in our celebration; if we attune our wills to his, we would always come to church with great expectation. If we invoke the Holy Spirit prayerfully in this song he will purify our lips and take away the lustful passions of impurity, immorality, idolatry, sexual orgies, rivalry (Cf Gal 5).  Indeed we are imbued with the Holy Spirit at baptism and at confirmation, but what is that if we don’t let the spirit guide our lives from day to day.  The priest or the choir cannot just infuse the Spirit in you if you are not ready for it. A little boy was asked by his mom after mass, ‘how did you like the mass?’ He said the music was good, but the commercial was too long. We can’t afford to always make it short with things of the Spirit. Our liturgical celebration is not a concert where the audience depends on the actors for animation. No, it is time when we want the Holy Spirit to fill us, so that the fruits may shine forth in our lives:  love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control (Gal 5).  

We rejoice today for the manifold gifts that the members of our community have received from the Holy Spirit. The talents of our children in school, their success in examination, special prices, our singers, supporters from the background, those who just smile and encourage us and so on. All these gifts come a long way to build our community. Once at the end of the academic year, I asked a young boy: “How was your result?” He said “my conduct was good.” All is not lost even when we don’t do well in exams.  Some may be brilliant, but may lack a good conduct.  

The different gifts we have received are meant to complement each other’s, and not to compete with each other. And every gift is given for the benefit of the community, the school, the family, the society or the church. All gifts are equally important just as all the parts of the body are. The eye can’t say I am more important than the ear. There are different kinds of spiritual gifts but the same Spirit; there are different forms of service but the same Lord(1Cor 12:3). Without the choristers, the choir directors can’t do it with the benches, and without us, even with our crooked voices, the cantor can’t do it alone.

Let no one boast of his or her talents; neither should we expect the world to revolve around us because we have been blessed with a much needed talent. Because it was given to you without charge, do well to be generous with it, lest it be taken away. No matter how gifted we may be, always give others the chance to do their own part. We should never overestimate ourselves, desiring to do everything so as to receive all credits. God alone is all-knowing.
As we celebrate this feast,  I pray that the outpouring of the Holy Spirit may have an effect in our lives  this day; that the same Holy Spirit, the advocate should come to the aid of all who are in any kind of physical or spiritual need. Come Holy Spirit, fall afresh on us and enkindle in us the fire of your love.

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