First Reading: Acts 2:1-11; Psalm: 104. R. v. 30; Second Reading: Rom 8:8-17: Gospel: Jn 14:15-16.23b-26
THE INVIGORATING POWER OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
BY FR VALENTINE NNAMDI EGBUONU, MSP
“Spirit of God in the clear running water, blowing to greatness the trees on the hill. Spirit of God in the finger of morning, fill the earth, bring it to birth, and blow, where you will.” (Sr Miriam Therese Winter).
Today is Pentecost Sunday. “Pentecost” is derived from the Greek word “pentecostes” meaning “fiftieth”. It takes this name because it is a feast celebrated fifty days after the feast of Passover. But for Christians, the Pentecost is the day the Holy Spirit descended on the apostles and the Virgin Mary fifty days after the resurrection of Christ. This celebration marks the end of the Easter season.
There is this common unfounded belief that ordained ministers has the monopoly of the Holy Spirit. This self-imposed belief has affected and constricted us from recognising the power of the Spirit that blows where it wills. The truth is that we have countless times responded to the invigorating power of the Spirit without even knowing it.
Let me take us back to what happened in Nigeria in October, 2020. On this very month, Nigeria experienced a strong but peaceable revolution that will go down to history as one of the most unrelenting protest ever recorded. The immediate trigger of this protest was a video that showed a SARS (Special Anti-Robbery Squad) officer shooting a young motorist in Ughelli, in Delta State, Nigeria, then pushing his body out of the car and driving off with the dead man’s SUV. In a split second, the video went viral and crowds of Nigerian youth took to the major streets of the country protesting peaceably for the abolition of SARS, a security force that has been associated with crimes for about a decade ago.
These young protesters made their beds on the streets, fended for themselves and remained on the streets for weeks crying to the government for the abolition of SARS with placards and the Nigerian national flag. Even when security forces opened fire on them to disperse them, killing at least forty eight well meaning Nigerians at Lekki toll gate, they never relented nor made any reprisal attack. Instead, they became even more vocal and united as the Lekki massacre video started trending on social media with the hash tag #EndSARS, #EndPoliceBrutality. This continued until the government announced the immediate dissolution of SARS.
Recollecting this memorable incident, we can be tempted to tag it a mere response to the immediate necessity of time. But this would be a very demeaning way to interpreting this life changing event. One of the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit is fortitude. It is that empowerment to persistently stand for what is right and just even to the point of death without bending to counter forces. So what better way to describe the Nigerian EndSARS protests of the year 2020 than to acknowledge it as a response of the gift of fortitude? The Holy Spirit is the animator of life changing events such as this. The Spirit blows wherever he wills.
WHO OR WHAT IS THE HOLY SPIRIT?
If we are asked who the Holy Spirit is, our answer would be quite easy and simple: The Holy Spirit is the third person of the Blessed Trinity. But what if we are asked what the Holy Spirit looks like. What would be our reply? In the beginning of creation, the Spirit hovered over the waters in the form of a wind (Gen 1:2). On the baptism of Jesus, the Holy Spirit descended from heaven in the form of a dove (Matt 3:16, Mk 1:10). And on Pentecost day, the Holy Spirit rested on the apostles in the form of a tongue of fire (Acts 2:3). Can we then say that the Holy Spirit is a wind, a dove or a fire? This would be wrong because these are just representations that speak of the features of the Holy Spirit.
The Spirit blows wherever he wills like a wind that cannot be stopped. The Spirit is gentle like a dove yet fires us up to fearlessly advocate and promote all that is good. What happened to the apostles on this day of Pentecost as narrated in the first reading of today re-echoes the features of the Holy Spirit. Recall that prior to the Pentecost experience the apostles were often puzzled each time Jesus spoke to them about the kingdom of God. They were also selfish, scared, divided, and overly ambitious. But when they received the Holy Spirit, these men suddenly exuded wisdom as they fearlessly preached the gospel with an in-depth knowledge and understanding. Persecution and imprisonment could not stop them. Even their expulsion from the temple made them to bond more strongly for the common good. This is how the Holy Spirit turns things around for the common good through the human instrument.
We shouldn’t wait to see a tongue of fire on our heads to believe that the Spirit is at work in us. We leave in a society where unjust structures are enthroned and followed. Our social structure is marred by injustice and corruption; ranging from the family, religion, law, politics, economy, and class. Occasionally, we are troubled by this that we feel a strong drive and desire to effect a positive change. But then we think of this as unfeasible, we ignore it, and follow the status quo. You know what? We just ignored the promptings of the Spirit. Any drive to fight unjust structures and promote the common good is the Spirit of God at work in us. Imagine how our world would be like if we all responded to this drive to positive change.
What practical or concrete steps have we taken to confront the unjust social structures in our society today? Some countries have experienced a government that showed sheer ineptitude in running the affairs of the country ranging from mismanagement of economy, low gross domestic products, insecurity, poor health care system, and dysfunctional institutes of learning. Using the Nigerian EndSARS protest of 2020 as a point of reference, we can as a society rise up in union to challenge these unjust structures in our politics, government, laws, institutions, and class stratifications through active participation in electoral processes. If individually we respond to this drive for positive change in our society, we will form a strong force that the world cannot resist. But when we give fear and doubt a chance, change becomes impossible.
The Holy Spirit works through the human instrument. So the Spirit of God needs our co-operation to bring about the needed revolution in any human society. A peaceful and passionate unrelenting revolution that will bring about the reign of God on earth. A place where the good of all is considered. Christianity, one of the largest religions in our world today was started by the courageous witnessing of few men and women. If they had relented, there would probably be nothing such as the Christian faith today. Great things can happen when a single step is taken towards actualising a good goal. We can initiate the change that our world needs today. Don’t sit and look. Get up and act. God’s spirit lives in you.
PRAYER FOR THE DAY
O Holy Spirit, enlighten us to see, understand, and respond adequately to your promptings in doing what is right and just. Amen.
Nice reflection… Kudos Fr.
Happy Pentecost Sunday.
Uche Edah Philip