“Making Known Christ’s Power”
May 15, 2016: Pentecost Sunday High Mass
Acts 2: 1 - 7; 12 – 21/ Psalm 104: 24 – 30/Romans 8: 14 – 17/ John 15: 20 - 27
Fr. Roberto M. Jorvina
This is the day that the Lord has made! We are here gathered again that we can rejoice in Him because Christianity is all about fellowship, relationship, and being together.
This is Pentecost Sunday! Some of you may recall that one of our services for Pentecost was in May 1995. We had it at the Navy Gym in Fort Bonifacio and Fr. Rich Lipka was our guest. The service which began at nine o’clock in the morning did not end until two o’clock in the afternoon. It was really a wonderful time that we had and for five hours, the Body worshipped. The Navy Gym was not air-conditioned, but we were there for five hours and we did not feel the inconvenience of the place.
God is great! Pentecost! The Fiftieth day of Easter! For many Christians, this is the day the Church was formally established, inaugurated, commissioned, and invested with power from on High. This is why it is a feast of the Church. It may not be as popular as Christmas or even Easter, but yet, it is very important in our lives as Christians. Why would we be able to endure five hours of Mass on that Pentecost day in 1995 had it not been for the power from on high?
I would like to begin this teaching today from the very words of the people that were there in Jerusalem city 2000 years ago on Pentecost day. Taken from the portion of Acts 2:12, it says, “They all continued in amazement and great perplexity saying to one another, “WHAT DOES THIS MEAN?” What is the meaning of Pentecost? What is its significance to my life? What is this event’s meaning for my life 2000 years later? What is the relevance of this event to a struggling daily-wage earner? What is it like to a college student or a market vendor?
It is a question we may not verbalize or articulate, but it is a question that our heart cries out an answer for. What is the essence of what we are doing in the Church? Is this only a ritual? Perhaps for many years, it has remained unanswered, just like the many questions about our lives, about the significance and the relevance of the Christian faith in our daily struggles. We slowly detach God and religion from our lives when it comes to our day-to-day walk in life because we don’t want to face the question, “What does this mean?” What is really the meaning of our religion, our beliefs, and reading the Bible in my daily life? We make our relationship with God filled with forms and rituals, but void of the power that it should bring.
We have approached God and Christianity with this attitude saying, “I wish to buy only five pesos worth of God, please. Just enough to appease my conscience and make me go to Church every Sunday to please my parents and my friends. Just enough to make me feel comfortable in life. I don’t want too much of God’s stuff that will make me love my enemies and forgive people who have offended me. Not too much to make me fulfill my commitments even to my own hurt. Not too much that will make me stand out amidst a sea of mediocrity before the crowd and the people. I just want a“tingi” (a part) of God, but I am fearful if it is whole. I don’t like to give a commitment because it might make me quit my job or my college education, only to be sent out to some distant land that I have never heard of before.” This is our attitude because we have we evaded question, “What does it really mean?” Is this to make our lives harder, a burden we have to endure, or do we see it as the plan of God in our lives or something that will bring fulfillment in our lives?
What is the meaning of the Day of Pentecost for us today? Why is the Holy Spirit’s coming significant? Why is it important to our life as a Christian?
Let us begin by trying to put the Gospel in the context of the times it was written. Jesus is aware of the world conditions that were prevailing at that time. He knew what was happening and what His disciples would face when He ascends and sits on the throne at the right hand of God the Father. John 2:25 says that Jesus knew what was in the heart of man. He understood the pressure, the antagonism, and the opposition that Christianity will be facing. This is what John 15 and 16 is all about and the conclusion of this is in John 16:33 where Jesus says, “In the world you will have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” Surrounded by this, when man is pressured, when there is opposition around him, he will always tend to take the path of least resistance – either by conformity or by withdrawal or escape. It is either to be part of the problem and be a victim or to leave and get away from the problem.
God does not want us to conform to the world around us. He does not like us to escape from the world around us. Conformity is so enticing. It is so easy just “to swim with the tide” or “to dance with the rhythm of the beat.” This is where we become victims of the circumstance. If man conforms, then, there is no pressure. If a man does not conform, he takes the second natural tendency of a mere human being. This tendency is just to escape rather than face and conquer the problem.
These two reactions, the conformity and the withdrawal/escape, are very common among us today, but God doesn’t want us to do these. He says, “My people are not people who will conform to unrighteousness or the world. My people are not people who will run away from the problems and difficulties.” Honestly, when we have conflicts at home, in the office or with our friends. When was the last time we ran away? When was the last time we said, “I don’t like to talk to you. I can’t understand you.” It is easy to withdraw and hide. When marriage and family is difficult to handle, many find it more convenient to just run away. When things don’t go our way in our job, it is so easy to resign. We shift careers. Yet, when we conform and run away, the situation, which needs to change for the better, will remain unchanged. Nothing happens because we give up. God created us and He knows that we can face all the crisis in our lives. God wants us to transform not to conform to the situation.
In the gospel, Jesus says, “The world will hate you; the world will not like you.” He adds, “When the Holy Spirit, the Helper comes, Whom I will send from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, He will bear witness of Me.” Understanding this dilemma, Jesus provides for us what God the Father has given – the Helper.
What does Pentecost mean? The Helper comes! What does it mean? The Holy Spirit comes to bring peace, to bring healing and restoration. He will open our hearts and minds for us to understand the ways and the truth of God. How many of us read our Bibles and many of us go to Church every Sunday, but we do not hear the Word of God? Perhaps, there is a hindrance, but if it is the Word of God, we should understand it because the Holy Spirit will come and He will guide us and teach us into all truth. The power of the Holy Spirit is this which will make us understand the ways of God. He gives us the ability to make the right choices in our daily choices in life that we have to make in life.
The Holy Spirit comes to bring strength for us to face the daily challenges of life. We heard the words of Jesus saying, “The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” We say that we may be weak because we are human beings, but this is why we have the Holy Spirit to strengthen us. As humans, mere human beings, we will easily conform. It is easy to escape as mere human beings, but we are not any more mere human beings. We are children of God! This is what our second reading is all about; we cry to Him, “Abba, Father!”
We encounter times of exhaustion; we encounter times of weakness; and we snap back at the people around us. When these times come, God, being rich in mercy, provides a wonderful resource through the Holy Spirit Who will be our Unlimited Source of strength and power.
What do you do when temptation knocks on the door of your life? Are you able to identify Satan’s attempt to rob you of your salvation? Here is where the Holy Spirit not only helps us to identify the enemy, but also to strengthen us in our battle against uneven odds, if we let Him. The devil is like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour. He will tempt us of bitterness and unforgiveness. We think that the fight is not even, for us, being human beings, and the enemy, a spirit being that we cannot see. This is why we have the Holy Spirit to strengthen us and help us overcome the enemy.
How do we handle the times and the intrusion of doubts that enter our thoughts? We ask,“Is there really a God? Does God really care?“ The resounding answer is,“Yes!Yes!“ God cares because the Holy Spirit is with us. He brings to our remembrance things we have experienced when God was with us in the past. He enlightens our minds to recall times when we would have drowned in our despair, but found His hand reaching down to pull us out of distress. It makes us say no to ungodly passion. The Holy Spirit has this name and identity. He is The Helper! He is the One who will be coming with us, alongside.
In the Bible, Jesus said,“I will help you, but as I go, I will send another Helper. There are two words in the gospel for Helper in the Greek. One is: another of a different kind. Second: helper of the same kind; and this is what the Holy Spirit is. He is the same kind as Jesus. God will send the help and the help of the same kind as Jesus. He is the Helper of the same kind that give us strength in all that we need.
The Holy Spirit comes to restore a Fathering Spirit in the world. He comes to restore our sonship so that we can cry out again, “Father, Father.” Many of us don’t understand that because today, the image of the father is already slowly being erased in man’s thoughts. Today, three to four out of ten will wake up or sleep tonight without a father beside them to say goodnight to them. Thirty to forty percent have homes that are fatherless. We have tried to eliminate the image of the father. The world we live in wants to eliminate this “fatherhood” image. This may have been because of the abuses many have gone through because of cruel, sadistic fathers or by fathers missing from action. Yet the abuse of something does not constitute its wrongness.
God’s plan from the beginning was to establish a Fathering Spirit and place him in a world of lack, of chaos, and darkness. This was the act of creation of man in the Garden. There was deep darkness over the world and the spirit of God moved upon the waters and God said, “Let there be light.” This is a Fathering Spirit because a father is a light to the family. He shows the way and say, “This is the way to eternal life.”
A father is a light, a security, a stronghold, a teacher, a counselor and gives advice and wisdom. God has given fathers and elders a deposit of wisdom in their lives so that through a loving and caring application of authority, the family is built up in the ways of God. God has blessed the fathers to give wisdom in life. Don’t take for granted the work of God and the Holy Spirit is there to restore the Fathering Spirit.
Perhaps, you grew up with a wrong idea of a father; or maybe not even with a father. The Holy Spirit is there to guide you and to teach you in the Church. We live in a very cruel, hostile world. I grieve for the young children who loiter in the streets begging, stealing, selling their bodies, crying out for love and compassion and sometimes, this is done in a way that we might interpret as rude, harsh, and even disrespectful. It is cry that they need a father, a fathering spirit who will watch over them.
I grieve for single mothers whose husbands have left them and who would single-handedly raise their children in their most meager means. We live in this cruel world. But the question to ask is not, “Why do these happen?” Rather, the question to us is, “What can I do as a Spirit-filled believer? The question is not “Why” but “What?” If we are seeking the relevance of the Spirit’s presence today, what does Pentecost mean to us? The many needs that surround us in our homes, our schools, in our offices that confront us each day are already drawing out the answer we have in our hearts. It is the presence of the Holy Spirit in us that will empower and energize to be the answer to the dilemma we face every day.
We have been empowered. We have the Holy Spirit energizing us. Let us not take for granted this day of Pentecost. It may not be as glamorous as Christmas. It may not be as glorious as Easter, but let us be challenged to see, “What does this mean?” What is the meaning of this glorious day not only for our individual lives, but for the many lives we encounter that is crying out for an answer to their needs each day? We have the Holy Spirit in us. How can we stir these gifts in our lives?
Perhaps, you are here today and you have never experienced the power of the Holy Spirit. It is easy for you to conform and to withdraw when the pressure is so great or when the argument is intense. It is easy for you to ask, “Why are they suffering?” rather than asking the question, “What can I do?” When we ask the question, “What?” it means that we will have to do something. We will have to be responsible, but we are afraid. We only want five pesos of God, not the whole deal of life. God wants us all and He has given us the Holy Spirit today, 2000 years later. His power is today. Jesus said, “I will not leave you as orphans. I will be with you forever!”
This is God’s promise and He will do this by the power of the Holy Spirit!