We have entered the season of Pentecost, the time of the Holy Spirit that comes alive in us and awakens us to our deeper sense of being in the world and to our ongoing relationship with God.
In our Maronite Church Pentecost spans 16 weeks. It is the longest season in the calendar and rightfully so, as Pentecost bursts onto the scene 50 days after Jesus’ resurrection.
Pentecost is the birth of the church, the beginning of ministry, the calling to go forth, equipped with the Holy Spirit, to be messengers of the good news throughout the world and ages.
In the Maronite Pentecost Sunday Liturgy, the celebrant prays, “In your grace fill us with strength, wisdom, and holiness.” The gifts of God’s Spirit are to enable and empower. We are people set with a task and enflamed with purpose.
The Old Testament Reading on Pentecost Sunday is taken from Genesis 11:1-9, the story of the Tower of Babel where “the Lord confused the language of all the Earth” because the people strove to “make a name for ourselves.” Yet in the reading from the Acts of the Apostles 2:1-21, we read in verses 4-6:
“All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.
“Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each.”
In contrast to the Tower of Babel, where people strove to speak of themselves, at Pentecost, God’s word is spoken and heard. God’s language of love and hope is universally understood.
So, what do we say as people of the Spirit? As Peter declares in Acts, those filled with the Holy Spirit, shall prophecy, see visions, and dream dreams (Acts 2:4).
It is a wonderful task we are commissioned for. The Holy Spirit sets us aflame with love, urges us to be alive in the world and fills us with energy, hope and renewal.
From the beginning of time the Holy Spirit has been active, when “a wind from God swept over the face of the waters” (Gen 1:2) and “the Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life” (Gen 2:7).
This birthing of creation and giving of life takes place again on the day of Pentecost, when there was “the rush of a violent wind,” tongues of fire appeared and all were filled with the Holy Spirit.
This Spirit of God has been since the beginning of time, it is in us now, and continues to be for all time. It is a liberating force that sweeps us along.
The Pentecost Sunday Gospel passage is taken from Jn 14:15-20, and further deepens our understanding. Jesus calls the Holy Spirit the “advocate” and describes the Spirit as truth which abides in us.
It is a Spirit that directs our thoughts and actions. It is an advocate for truth. If we were really attuned to the Spirit of God, we would be amazed by our insights and deeper understanding of ourselves and the world.
Today more than ever, we need to be filled with the Holy Spirit and engaged in a world whose love for God has stalled and, in some cases, has turned into hostility.
Pentecost is about tongues of fire and gushing wind. It is passion and warmth, enlightenment and stirring things up.
It is making God present in unpredictable ways to one and all. Pentecost is to give voice to the truth, and to speak it boldly for all to understand.
It is to move towards deeper understanding, and to encompass all people with hope of the good news. God is with us in Spirit, so we can renew the face of the earth.