Today we celebrate the Christian Pentecost, which marks the end and the goal of the Easter season. For us Christians, Pentecost is a memorial of the day the Holy Spirit descended on the apostles and the Virgin Mary. This event took place fifty days after the Resurrection of Jesus and in fulfilment to his promise to send the “Counselor” and “Spirit of Truth” (John 16:5-15.
The first Reading from the Acts of the Apostles recalls the marvels worked on the day of Pentecost. The Holy Spirit descended on the apostles and on the first community of believers in Christ as a real gift, with extraordinary power and enabled them to proclaim the Good News of Christ Jesus. In the second reading, St Paul teaches that the Holy Spirit, being a gift is also the donor who raises various charisms for the common benefit of all, and invites the faithful to proclaim Jesus as the Lord. Today’s gospel is the same as the one we read on the second Sunday of Easter. It is repeated today because on that first appearance, the risen Lord conferred the Holy spirit on the Apostles.
These readings teach us that the Holy Spirit who had preceded and accompanied the ministry of Jesus and promised to the Apostles now continues to work in the Church and in the world. The Church exists to evangelize and the Holy Spirit is the protagonist of the whole mission of the Church. The Holy Spirit makes the Apostles and the community of the baptized missionary. The Missionary Decree Ad gentes, indicates that “Christ has sent the Holy Spirit from the part of the Father, so that he would accomplish his work of salvation from within and so as to stimulate the Church to develop.” (Ad gentes 4). The very reason of the existence and identity of the Church is to proclaim the love of God to all people in the world in all languages, cultures, and places. As clearly expressed by the Second Vatican Council Fathers, the Church is “missionary by its very nature” (AG, no. 9).
Paul VI calls the Holy Spirit the soul of the Church and the principal agent of evangelisation and John Paul II calls the Holy Spirit the main actor of the mission. The Church cannot fulfil her mission without the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit’s specific character of mission becomes more evident when we relate it to the life of the Church and of each baptized member. The Spirit renders the apostles and all the faithful capable of also being witnesses to Christ in the entire world. The Holy Spirit makes us missionary disciples which means sharing actively in the mission of Christ. Jesus himself described that mission in the synagogue of Nazareth in these words: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour” (Lk 4:18-19). This is also our mission, to be anointed by the Spirit, and to go out and proclaim the Good News of salvation to our brothers and sisters. We receive a dual gift and task; being anointed and going out to others. This is what defines us as Christians. This is what defines the Church as a whole, being anointed and going out to others, receiving and transmitting the faith.
Are all the baptized fervent disciples who are set on fire by the Holy Spirit? If not, why? Did we receive the Holy Spirit when we were baptized and confirmed? Do we allow the Holy Spirit who dwells in us to use us? Are we not afraid of letting the power of the Holy Spirit take charge of our lives? When we look at Africa and the world today we see and appreciate some signs of the presence of the Holy Spirit. Unfortunately, we also witness the signs of the spirit of Babel, the spirit of division, hatred, racism, tribalism and a culture of death. The answer to our challenges and problems today in the Church and in the world is the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit grants us the grace to live embrace unity in our diversity and to build a civilization of love. “God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (Romans 5:5). Love is the first fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22). A life of holiness is a life of love in a world marked by hatred, war and revenge. The Holy Spirit is also the power of our moral life, “… life in Christ, according to the Spirit” (CCC 740). Let us allow the Holy Spirit to work in us and through us and so participate in renewing the face of the earth.