“The Purifying Power of the Spirit”
Feast of Pentecost
May 20, 2018
Acts 2: 1-7, 12-21
Psalm 104: 3-4; 24-31
1 Corinthians 12: 3-7, 13
John 16: 1-15
Bishop Ariel Cornelio P. Santos
Today is the Feast of Pentecost. It is also called the birthday of the Church. Pentecost is 50 days after the crucifixion. It is seven weeks after Easter. The Jewish tradition also commemorated the giving of Law. When Moses was being given the Law on top of the mountain, there was fire and the Israelites were committing adultery. They came up with a golden calf and worshipped it. When Moses came down from the mountain, he was so angry that he smashed the tablets and three thousand people died that day.
On the other hand, Pentecost, as shared in Acts 2, the Spirit came upon the disciples and after that, Peter and the other disciples came out of fear and with boldness preached the Word of God. After he did, three thousand did not die, but came to life. They were saved because the Spirit gives life. St. Paul puts it this way: the letter kills; the Spirit gives life. The legalistic spirit of the Law is the same spirit that the Pharisees had which always condemned. It always pointed fingers and accused. This is the spirit of the enemy – the accuser of the brethren. When Jesus and the disciples wanted to go to Samaria, the Samaritans did not give them access, so James and John, the sons of Thunder, said, “Lord, do You want us to do an Elijah on them? Do You want us to call down fire from heaven and consume these enemies of God?” What Jesus said was, “You do not know what spirit you are of because the spirit of God in you, which you are not walking in right now, gives life. The Son of man did not come to destroy but to give life.”
The Spirit is our Advocate. The Greek word for the Holy Spirit is “Paracletos” - one called alongside to help. The Spirit was not to condemn, to pull us down, but to help us. St. Irenaeus said, “We may have an accuser, but we also have an advocate who helps us. He doesn’t condemn, doesn’t point a finger, doesn’t pull us down, doesn’t exclude, but He strengthens and encourages.” This is the Spirit of God that we want in our lives and in our bodies.
Jesus said that the thief comes to steal, to kill and to destroy. This is the opposite of His spirit. He said, “I came to give life in abundance.” The Holy Spirit is the opposite of the spirit of destruction and killing. Some people think that if bad people are killed, the world will be a better place. This is the spirit of the crusaders ten centuries ago. They went to the land of Israel and they thought that if they just wipe the Muslims off of the face of the earth, they will win the earth for the kingdom of God. This is not correct because killing is not from God.
In the gospel, Jesus said that time will come when people think that killing people will do God a favor, a service to Him. They would do this because they don’t know the Father, the Son, or the Holy Spirit. The Spirit gives life but the enemy comes to steal, to kill and to destroy. God gives life and restores. People kill because they don’t know God.
It is just sad that I saw a video of a preacher who had a great following. He was so on fire that during one of his preaching, he was saying to them, “God hates you! You sinful people! You better shape up because God is so tired of you, and God is just disgusted with your attitudes.” I thought, “This is not God.” How do I know? This is because Jesus did not drive away sinners and Jesus is God. You have seen Him, you have seen God. When the Pharisees condemned and brought the adulterous woman to Jesus, did Jesus say, “I am too holy to look upon you. You cannot be present. I am holy and you’re sinful and I am disgusted,” No, Jesus said, “I do not condemn you. I want you restored.”
God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit are not in the business of condemning, but giving life and restoring it. God’s will is for all to come to repentance. This is why the Holy Spirit is given to us. Jesus said that He will guide us into the truth so that we may know God and to make Him known. To our advantage, the Holy Spirit will disclose to us the truth.
1Corinthians 12 says that no one having the spirit of God will say that Jesus is accursed, and without the spirit of God, we cannot say that Jesus is Lord. In other words, we cannot walk in the Spirit and be cursing. We can only be blessing if we walk in the spirit of God. Cursing is not from God; blessing is from God. Who are we to bless? We are to bless those who persecute us; those who give us a hard time. The Holy Spirit is given to our advantage for the common good –for all- because He wants to pour out His Spirit upon all flesh, upon all mankind.
The Collect of the Day says, “Almighty God, on this day You opened the way of eternal life to every race and nation by the promised gift of Your Holy Spirit.” God the Father’s will is to pour His spirit upon mankind. In the story of the dried bones in Ezekiel 37, the bones was prophesied by the spirit of God through Ezekiel and the bones came together, the flesh and the sinews, and then the Spirit of God was breathed into them, and they became an exceeding army. This is not just about Israel, but the whole world. God wants the whole world to come to life.
In Luke 24, Jesus said, “The forgiveness of sins will be proclaimed to ALL nations beginning from Jerusalem.” Jerusalem or the Church is the starting point because God is in the business of restoring all things, and all the families of the earth will be blessed beginning with Israel as it is written in Acts 3:25-26. In Revelations 21:3-5, it says that the tabernacle of God is among men and He is making all things new. 1 Corinthians 15:22 says, “As in Adam all die, even so in Christ all will be made alive.” God wants to reconcile the whole world to Himself so this is why He sent Jesus. He loves the cosmos, the whole of creation. I am not talking about doctrine, but the heart of the spirit of God whom we want, whom we desire to be in us. This begins with Israel; it begins in the Church. We participate in the plan of salvation and evangelizing the whole world.
In the Annunciation, Mary asked the angel who told her that she will be a co-redemptrix, a participant in the plan of salvation for the whole world. Mary said, “How can this be? I am a virgin, and I don’t have the ability to do so?” The angel said, “The Holy Spirit of God will come upon you and overshadow you, possess you and fill you.” It is the Spirit’s seed that made it possible. Mary just yielded herself to the Spirit.
A theologian said, “No one can have an ordinary child of flesh and blood without the union first of flesh and blood, and no one can generate spiritual life without first having a union with the Spirit.” Mary was impregnated by the Holy Spirit, and as a result, she brought forth Christ the Savior into the world.” The marriage of the Spirit of God to humanity birthed Christ into the world.
At Pentecost, Mary’s experience was extended to the Church. Now, we are all participants in the evangelization of the world. This is just the beginning of the eventual, “I will pour out My Spirit upon all flesh.” The result is us, the Church, the disciples, birthing Christ for others through our proclamation. The Spirit of God is the fire of God; it is the very source of evangelization.
Pope Francis said, “Evangelization is impossible unless the fire of Holy Spirit burns in our hearts.” We need to be overshadowed, filled, and possessed by the Holy Spirit. We need to decrease and He needs to increase in us and fill us. In the song “Spirit of God Within Me”, it is a prayer saying, “Possess my human frame, possess my heart and mind, possess this life of mine.” Possession is good if it is the Spirit of God that possesses us and we display the spirit, the character and the nature of God. The song also says, “The Spirit of God possess this heart of mine; break through the bonds of self-concern that seeks to stand apart.” One that seeks to exclude others and to think that others are not included in the plan of God except ourselves needs a breakthrough. It continues, “Grant me the love that suffers long, that hopes, that believes and bears.” We need to bear sinners because God is their Master and they will be able to stand because their Master is able to make them stand.
This is the Spirit of God. It is not by might or power, but all by the Spirit of God. Four Sundays ago was the Good Shepherd Sunday, and I shared this story. Two men were asked to recite Psalm 23 in an auditorium filled with people. One was younger and he was very skilled in public speaking. He went first and recited Psalm 23 with such eloquence that when he finished, the people stood up to their feet, cheered him, and shouted “Anchor! Anchor!” It seemed that they were cast under a spell. He sat and the other man stood up to recite the Psalm. When he finished, the people did not stand up and instead of the shouting and cheering, there was a hush because the people bowed down their heads, prayed and meditated. The first man stood up and said, “The difference between me and my friend here is: I know Psalm 23 but he knows the Shepherd. This was the big difference.
We can all try by our might and by our ability, but unless the Spirit of God moves in us and through us, there is not going to be any power. There will be praises of men which are fleeting, but the Spirit of God in us will have an effect like the story that I told you. Scriptures says, “You shall receive power after the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you shall be witnesses.” Not celebrities nor people who boast of the gifts of the Spirit. The reason that the Spirit comes upon us is so that we can be witnesses of God’s nature, of God’s love, of God’s power, of His character and divine nature. The power is not magic, but it is given to us so that we can be witnesses for this is the way it is in the kingdom of our God.