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Pentecost, The birth of The Church

May 23, 2012, 2:56 PM | Article By: [Rev. Fr. Anthony C. Mbanefo, MSP][Missionary Society of St. Paul]

On this day, the Christian people celebrate the great event of Pentecost which is the out-pouring of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of the Father and the Son on the apostles, and on Christian believers and on the whole creation. All of us who believe that Christ has sent the Holy Spirit and that we have received it could call ourselves the Pentecost people. All of us who believe that the Spirit of the Father and the Son is alive, present and active in our world could call the whole of creation a spirit-filled creation. Those of us who believe that this age of humanity has been influenced and shaped by the event or Pentecost could call our age the age of Pentecost. The following sections of the word of God give us a deep insight into this reality and help us to celebrate it with joy.  Acts of the Apostles 2: 1 – 11; 1st Corinthians 12: 3 – 7, 12 – 13 and the Gospel of St. John 20: 19 – 23. 

The historical Jesus Christ of Nazareth and his contemporaries, the twelve apostles, lived in the ancient world of the defunct Roman empire about two thousand years ago.  In his own days, the world was not used to international and regional conferences, seminars, workshops and summits as it is today.  The kind of gatherings that we saw taking place in the account of the Acts of the Apostles was therefore quite indicative of the new era towards which the Spirit of God was leading mankind. We were told that there were in Jerusalem, people who had gathered from all nations under the earth for the sake of seeking the truth of God. Those people weren’t forced to gather. They gathered voluntarily. As they gathered, they listened and because they listened they were able to understand. As they understood, they realized that the truth of God and of life is one and could be shared by everybody irrespective of nationality, language or occupation.  So they exclaimed in joy and amazement concerning the Apostles’ words of truth:  “Surely all these men speaking are Galileans.  How does it happen that each of us hears them in his own native language? Parthians, Elamites, people from Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Libya and Cyrene as well as visitors from Rome – Jews and Proselytes alike – Cretans and Arabs, we hear them preaching in our own language about the marvels of God.” (Acts 2: 8 – 11).

Today, the world is like a village and we easily hear what is happening at the other end of the globe instantly and even see it as it happens. Like the Pentecost gathering at Jerusalem, language is no more a barrier to us, neither is our colour or nationality a hindrance.  Many are willing to listen today and are easy to understand. All these are the works of the Spirit that God has poured on our age.  But everything is not yet right. Yes, after many conferences and seminars and negotiations, there is still much of wars and violence, there is still much injustice and oppression, there is still much poverty and hunger.  Where is the Spirit of God, the Father’s generous gift to mankind?

This is basic among the things that are lacking. The people of our time have to a great extent refused to acknowledge and to invoke the presence of the Spirit that God has sent to us. When people are inspired by the Spirit of God and they mistake it to be their human wisdom and as such fail to invoke the presence and power of the Spirit and to seek his direction, what happens? Their vision gets dim and clouded and eventually comes to nothing. Many of the scholars, diplomats and professionals of our time have no place for religion in their lives. They don’t believe in the power of prayers. They see themselves as having passed the stage of religious faith. With this, their respective joint global and international enterprises already inspired by the Spirit of God is bound to be denied the successful ending that is only guaranteed by living faith and the invocation of the active power and Spirit of God. Those men who gathered in Jerusalem were “devout men” and at the end, they recognized in what was happening, “the marvels of God” (Acts 2: 11). We of this age as we gather for any enterprise of whatever nature it could be, have to do that with devout religious spirit. In whatever good initiative, we take ourselves and in whatever success that becomes imminent or evident, we must see “the marvels of God”.

In this age of the Pentecost, many people have been inspired to embark on noble enterprises that gear towards the betterment of humanity and advancement of the kingdom of God.  Some are advocating for peace and seeking it at all cost, some are protecting the lives of innocent children and the unborn, some are feeding the hungry, whilst some are carrying out one form of crusade or another against social evils like prostitution, theft, bribery, corruption and injustice.  Many of these people are being frustrated either because of opposition, criticism and persecution or because of lack of funds and of encouragement.  All these people are under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit who according to St. Paul, is “working in all sorts of different ways in different people” (1 Corinthians 12: 4).  All these people should be supported and encouraged. They themselves should realize that their task is not just a humanitarian or social enterprise as they prefer to call it, but a divine mission, a mission of the Spirit of Pentecost, the Spirit of our age. Being under such a spirit, they shouldn’t be shy to proclaim daily that Jesus is the Lord so as to be provided with the strength that they need.

The Spirit that has been given to our age is the Spirit of peace and forgiveness. There is much division, war, hatred and violence amongst us because we have failed to be agents of peace and reconciliation by not forgiving. As Christ commissioned us to establish peace among men and to show them his forgiveness he said: “Peace be with you. Receive the Holy Spirit. Those whose sin you forgive, they are forgiven, those whose sin you retain, they are retained” (John 20: 21a & 23).