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Receive the gift of the Spirit

Today we celebrate the great feast of Pentecost. The name “Pentecost” comes from the Greek word “Pentēkostē” meaning “fiftieth.” Like Easter, it is tied to a Jewish feast. 49 days (7 weeks, or “a week of weeks”) after the second day of Passover, the Jews celebrated the Feast of Weeks (Shavuot). Passover celebrates the freeing of the Jews from slavery; Shavuot celebrates their becoming God’s holy people by the gift and acceptance of the Law; and the counting of the days to Shavuot symbolises their yearning for the Law. From a strictly practical point of view, Shavuot was a very good time for the Holy Spirit to come down and inspire the Apostles to preach to all nations because, being a pilgrimage festival, it was an occasion when Jerusalem was filled with pilgrims from many countries. Symbolically, the parallel with the Jews is exact. We are freed from the slavery of death and sin by Easter; with the Apostles, we spend some time as toddlers under the tutelage of the risen Jesus; and when he has left, the Spirit comes down on us and we become a Church.

After his death and resurrection Jesus promised to give his disciples the gift of the Holy Spirit. He said to them, Receive the Holy Spirit! (John 20:22) Jesus knew that his disciples would need the power of the Holy Spirit to carry out the mission entrusted to them. The gift of the Holy Spirit was conditional upon the ascension of Jesus to the right hand of the Father. That is why Jesus instructed the apostles to wait in Jerusalem until they are clothed with power from on high (Luke 24:49).

Just as Jesus was anointed with the Spirit at the beginning of his ministry (John 1:32, 33; Mark 1:8; Matthew 3:11), so the disciples needed the anointing of the Holy Spirit to carry out the mission entrusted to them by Jesus. The Holy Spirit is given to all who are baptised into Jesus Christ to enable us to live a new way of life – a life of love, peace, joy, and righteousness (Romans 14:17). The gift of Pentecost – the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, and the spiritual gifts and blessings of God – are made possible through the death, resurrection, and ascension of the Lord Jesus. After his resurrection Jesus “breathed” on his disciples and gave them the Holy Spirit. Just as God breathed life into Adam, so the gift of the Holy Spirit is an impartation of “new life” for his people. With the gift of the Holy Spirit a new creation begins. So in the language of St. Paul, “…there is no necessity for us to obey our unspiritual selves or live unspiritual lives…” God recreates us for his glory.

Jesus’ gift of peace to his disciples was more than an absence of trouble. His peace included the forgiveness of sins and the fullness of everything good. The breath of the Holy Spirit brings every good thing (Jas 1:17). First the Spirit breathes on us, then He breathes through us. God’s words are given to us and spoken through us in the spiritual gifts such as teaching, evangelization, tongues, and prophecy. Etc. His breath brings life, peace, forgiveness, boldness, miraculous unity, and worldwide renewal (Ps. 104:30). The Spirit is breathing out. We just have to breathe in. It’s Pentecost! Take a deep breath and “receive the Holy Spirit” (Jn. 20:22).

Fr Odinaka Nwadike

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