Feast of Pentecost

Feast of Pentecost

Acts 2: 1-11                            Gal. 5: 16-25                           Jn. 15: 26-27; 16: 12-15



But for the Holy Spirit, Christian life is dead and powerless.



Regarding the action of the Holy Spirit in the Church, the former Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch, Ignatius IV (Hazim), said at Uppsala in Sweden, in 1998: “Without the Holy Spirit, God is distant, Christ is in the past, the Gospel is a dead letter, the Church is a simple organization, authority is domination, mission is propaganda, worship is the summoning of spirits, and Christian action  is the morality of slaves…. But in him…. The Risen Christ is here, the Gospel is the power of life, the Church means Trinitarian communion, authority is a liberating service, mission is a Pentecost, liturgy is memorial and anticipation, human behavior is deified.”


In the Bible, there are various symbols, used for the Holy spirit: water, dove, breeze, fire etc.. In this reflection, let us try to understand the role of the Holy Spirit in our lives through the symbolism of fire.


a). Fire strengthens things that are weak and vulnerable. For example clay articles (pot, brick etc.) are easily breakable. However when they are processed under the heat of fire, they become strong. Holy spirit offers strength to those who are weak and vulnerable. The book of the Acts of the Apostles bears ample evidences to show how the previously weak and vulnerable disciples were emboldened by the outpouring of the Spirit. Today’s first reading is just an example of it. We know that the disciples, prior to receiving the Spirit, were full of fear and shut themselves off in a room. But after receiving the Spirit,  we  see them openly coming out and publicly proclaiming the message of/about Jesus, very boldly.


b). Fire can soften that which is very hard and stiff. For example, if we put a piece of iron into fire, the iron become reddish and gradually it becomes flexible and malleable. Holy Spirit has the power to melt and soften that which is hard and stubborn. We do know that plenty of people who carried hardened hearts have been softened  under the power of the Holy Spirit. St. Paul was one such person. He had such a hardened heart that he was ready to kill anybody for the sake of his religion. However after his conversion and after receiving the Holy Spirit, he became a soft, yet firm person.


c). Fire completely changes the elements of that which it burns. Holy Spirit completely changes the person, he possesses.


d). Fire can cleanse and purify. The well-known example is that of gold being purified in fire. We, human beings, carry a lot of filth and dirt in our hearts and it is the Holy Spirit who can purify our heart.


e). Among the five elements, it is the fire which moves upward. While the matter moves downward, fire moves upward. In the second reading, St. Paul invites us to elevate our life-style to a higher level. It is possible only with the help of the Holy Spirit. There he explains how, when a person is moved by the Spirit, he overcomes the ‘works of the flesh’ and carries the ‘fruits of the Holy Spirit.’


f). Fire can light candles and lamps. So too the Holy Spirit can illuminate our hearts and minds. Illumination of our hearts and minds helps us to discover the truth. In today’s gospel, Jesus points out that the Holy Spirit will lead people to the fullness of truth. While falsehood clouds our consciousness, truth helps us to look at the reality as it is. While falsehood makes us get entangled in the works of flesh, truth sets us free (Jn. 8: 32) from all that enslaves us. It is the truth that is the light of our beings. J. Krishnamurthy says, “it is the perception of truth that liberates.” He further says, “Only the discovery of truth will bring happiness.” This truth which offers light to our lives, can be possessed by being filled with the Spirit.


g). When things of different nature are thrown in fire, they are all consumed in fire and become one. They are no more separate from each other. Holy Spirit is the unifying factor of human life. This is the message that is forcibly brought out in the first reading. The event of Pentecost, in order to be understood rightly, has to be read against the background  of the incident of Babel (Gen. 11). In Babel, human pride ruled. So language divided them. On Pentecost, the Spirit ruled. So language united them.


Prayer to the Holy Spirit (a traditional prayer)

Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful. And kindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created. And you will renew the face of the earth.
Lord,  by the light of the Holy Spirit  you have taught the hearts of your faithful. In the same Spirit
help us to relish what is right  and always rejoice in your consolation. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.


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