Fully Equipped for the Mission! Pentecost Sunday
Sermon by Emmanuel Suntheni OSB – Pentecost Sunday
Sermon And Christian Act In The Word
Theme: Fully Equipped for the Mission! The Tool for the Mission is given: Holy Spirit.
Point of Reflection: Am I ready for the Mission? The coming of the Holy Spirit equipped and empowered Jesus’ disciples for the witness, leading to the birth of the Church. The first and the essential gift of the Spirit was the ability to proclaim Jesus in languages that the various nations of the world could understand. In my Christian life, what am I proclaiming? Have I received the Holy Spirit?
As the Holy Spirit continued to facilitate the growth of the Church by equipping the early Christians with a variety of gifts to make their communities, like the one in Corinth, today too as followers of Christ, we are challenged to wholeheartedly receive the Holy Spirit and proclaim the Good News to the end of the Earth. The Holy Spirit equipped the apostles with the authority to bring salvation or judgment upon the world by their courageous proclamation of Jesus, and we too today, we are being equipped to bring salvation to the entire people as we received the gifts of the Holy Spirit during our baptism and confirmation.
The believers who employ their gifts and continue to proclaim the message of salvation and build up the Church can joyfully exclaim with the Psalmist, “O Lord, how manifold are your works! In wisdom, you have made them all.”
First Reading: Acts 2:1–11
Psalm: Psalm 104:1, 24, 29–31, 34
Second Reading: 1 Corinthians 12:3–7, 12–13
Gospel: John 20:19–23
Sermon (Reflection): Historically, Pentecost was a pilgrim feast during the time of Jesus, and Jerusalem was filled with pilgrims from the Jewish communities scatted throughout the ancient world. Although all Jews, those pilgrims spoke the languages of the countries where they lived. To emphasize this fact, Luke draws up a detailed and well-organised list of those present in Jerusalem at the time. Starting from the far East, Luke lists the Aramaic-speaking Jews coming from Mesopotamia and Judea. Moving West, he names the Greek speakers inhabiting Asia Minor and Egypt. Moving even further West he refers to the Latin speakers from Northern Africa and Rome. He even mentions those who would be speaking rare local languages such as the inhabitants of the island of Crete and the nomadic people of the deserts, the Arabs.
By providing these details Luke emphasises that the Holy Spirit made the disciples capable of communicating their message to the inhabitants of the various parts of the world, stretching from East to West. This gift of using different languages was the first and major way that the Holy Spirit equipped the disciples to become effective apostles and evangelisers.
Today the first reading describes the descent of the Holy Spirit on the disciples and the immediate effect which this had. This event took place on the Jewish feast of Pentecost, celebrated in commemoration of the Sinai covenant and God’s gift of the law to the Israelites, which established Israel as a nation. Similarly, the coming of the Holy Spirit upon Jesus’ disciples was the founding event for the Church.
The second reading contains the opening section of the part of 1 Corinthians where Paul instructs the community on the use of the gifts of the Holy Spirit (Cf. 1 Cor 12 – 14). The Corinthians had numerous charismatic gifts (cf. 1 Cor 12:8-11) but misunderstood and misused some of them, particularly prophecy and tongues (cf. 1 Cor 14:1-37). The amount of attention that Paul accorded to this subject shows how crucial charismatic gifts were in the early Church. Today’s passage contains the introduction to this extensive treatment.
St. Paul emphasises that all the gifts, despite their variety, come from the same source, God. Operating through the Holy Spirit, God gives these gifts to the community members so that they may grow in unity and harmony to become as “one body”. This is the essential understanding that Paul seeks to convey in his extensive presentation. The Holy Spirit is the divine presence and the divine energy that breathes life into the community and equips believers with various gifts and abilities as means to the continuing growth of the Church. This Spirit-filled community provides the environment where its individual members grow in faith and, through their unity, witnesses to God’s presence in the world.
The Gospel reading returns to the resurrection appearance of Jesus to his disciples, as narrated by John. In John’s account, Jesus gave the Holy Spirit to the disciples on the evening of the day of his resurrection. Having “breathed” the Holy Spirit into the disciples, Jesus gave them the authority to forgive or to retain sins. These two terms should be understood in terms of salvation and judgment. In the Gospel of John, sin is primarily associated with unbelief. The disciples’ primary task is to bring people to believe in Jesus, and thus remove the sin of unbelief. Belief leads to forgiveness and salvation. Conversely, those who reject the apostolic proclamation and refuse to accept Jesus fall under judgment, their sin of unbelief is “retained”.
The Holy Spirit guides the disciples and equips them with the capacity to bring salvation to those who believe and to declare judgment upon those who reject faith. This understanding of Jesus’ words is supported by his own actions in forgiving or retaining sins (cf. John 3:18-19; 5:22-30) and by the explicit link between the presence of the Holy Spirit and judgment upon those who committed the sin of unbelief (cf. John 16:8-11). The disciples filled with the Holy Spirit proclaim Jesus to the world, and their proclamation sets up the possibility for either salvation or judgment. Depending on the person’s response to their proclamation, the Holy Spirit empowers the disciples to act as the agents of salvation or the agents of judgment.
Today too as Christians, we are invited to take the role of evangelisation and go out to the ends of the earth and proclaim the Gospel.
Christian Act in Word of God “Receive the Spirit”
The mission today on the feast of Pentecost, which many consider the “birthday of the Church”, is to be reminded that we were not left alone in the world after Jesus’ Ascension. Jesus is present with us through his Spirit, through whom his mission also continues.
We are also reminded that God does not send his servants on a mission to continue Jesus’ salvific work, unprepared, or ill-equipped. This was true in apostolic times and is just as true today.
Today we are given three important tools for us Christians to be fully-equipped for the Mission:
First, as Christians, we have been given the gift of tongues to speak diverse languages so as to use them as tools for evangelisation. A single word about Christ is a primary tool of evangelisation. Proclamation of Jesus, his teaching, and, above all, his death and resurrection, became the nourishment for the growth of the faith of many. The power of words cannot be underestimated. If used properly, words inform and inspire, console, and enlighten. Guided by the Holy Spirit, each one of us can use this powerful tool to build our communities, strengthening their unity and developing other people’s potential.
Words are precious when spoken to build up, words are dangerous when used to disrupt and destroy others. as Christians let us refrain from destroying others with our words and the gift of tongues.
Second, we have been given a tool to act in freedom as we choose and use our gifts as we decide. Today we have much freedom to decide on our life path and to choose to what we commit ourselves. With this freedom, we can choose careers and commitments that reflect our Christian faith. This could be a full-time commitment, such as becoming a priest or a sister, or a social worker. But this choice could well mean placing our gifts at the service of the community in some other ways, such as being an active member of the parish or other groups that seek to better the community or humanity.
The Corinthians in Paul’s time were making a major error in using the gifts of the Spirit for their own self-promotion and glory. As Christians, let us not make the same mistake, for all that we have been given is meant for the service of God and others.
Third and last tool we have been given today is forgiveness. Jesus always appealed to forgiveness as the most effective tool of transforming the world and of evangelization. Forgiveness does not overlook the wrongs committed against us but chooses not to respond with vengeance. The touch of hatred brings hatred, and conflict breeds more conflict. The disciples were given the authority to forgive sins.
We are given the same authority because we can forgive sins committed against us by choosing not to pursue revenge but justice. If you don’t forgive, my dear friend Christian, you are doomed to hell. Learn to forgive and live in forgiveness.
Action: Today I open my heart to receive the Holy Spirit and live by the Holy Spirit.
Prayer: We thank you our Heavenly Father for your continuing presence with us through your Holy Spirit. As you have given us the Holy Spirit and Peace today, we ask you to give us attentive hearts and understanding minds to be open to the Spirit’s movements in our daily Christian living. May our lives be lived entirely under the Spirit’s guidance and proclaim the Gospel with peace and love. Through Jesus Christ, we pray, Amen.
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