24 May 2015: Solemnity of the Pentecost

Reflections for May are by Archbishop Charles Dufour, Archbishop of Kingston, Jamaica

Pentecost – We need a Renewal in the Church!

What a powerful way to conclude the Easter Season! With the outpouring of the Holy Spirit comes the spiritual blessings of joy and peace, courage and wisdom; that is why the joy of Easter should never be over even when our Easter Season comes to an end with the celebration of the Pentecost. Just as the Spirit of Courage and Wisdom overcame the apostles when they were bewildered at the loss of their Master and were hiding in fear, so too the Pentecostal experience must invigorate us with renewed vitality and courage, joy and peace in the Lord.

Do you realize that the Sacred Scripture does not speak about any conversion of heart at the resurrection of Jesus, but speaks of mass conversion of over three thousand people at the outpouring of the Holy Spirit? (Acts 2.41). Jesus, after His Resurrection, ‘appeared to His disciples many times and spoke to them of the Kingdom of God.’ (Acts 1.3). Yet, His reassuring words had not made the disciples courageous to go out and proclaim the miracle of His resurrection; but imagine the change in these men when the Holy Spirit came upon them? As they experienced God the Holy Spirit touch their lives, they were transformed in Him. They went out boldly to proclaim the glory of Jesus, the Son of God.

Let us look at two important changes the Holy Spirit induced in the apostles; we pray that the outpouring of the Holy Spirit will effect similar Pentecostal experience of renewal in us personally, and in our Church.

The Outpouring of the Holy Spirit Affected the Minds of the Apostles:

Prior to Pentecost, these Apostles were driven by self-centered desire to occupy lofty positions of power in the kingdom. We recall their desire to see who would be seated on the right and the left hands of Christ. We recall the quibble among the apostles to know who was the greatest among them! They were motivated by selfish ambition.

After Pentecost, there was a dramatic change in their mind-set. From being self-centered men, they became Christ-centered. They were so fired up with courage by their Pentecostal experience that they rejoiced at being persecuted as they spoke in the name of Jesus. Their only goal now was to exalt the name of Jesus. There was no trace of earlier desire to seek prestige and status, and higher place of honour. They understood what the washing of the feet at the Last Supper was all about: leadership really meant service; witness really meant sacrifice of self. There was no hesitation on their part to be at service and to sacrifice self.

The Outpouring of the Holy Spirit Affected the Hearts of the Apostles:

We do not know where it comes from and where it goes, but we are powerless before a mighty wind. It blows away the smog and polluted air, and purifies the atmosphere. So also the mighty wind accompanying the Pentecost experience drove away the smog and pollution in the hearts of the apostles, and cleared the cloud of unbelief and timidity; it allowed them to breath better in faith and live in the courage of the Holy Spirit.

How desperately we need such refreshing, cleansing wind of the Spirit! We desire purification in our hearts and in our churches: the bondage of bitterness and rebellion, the unholy struggle for power and position, popularity and pride, unbelief and lukewarmness, relativism and promiscuity. How we desire our church to be freed from the unholy alliance with the world! Surely, we need a deeper cleansing. We need to experience the power of the wind blowing away the worldliness from our Church, and the fire of the Holy Spirit to purify our hearts.

While the historic Pentecost is a onetime event in the history of the Church, it nevertheless is an event that ought to happen in the lives of all believers (Acts 2.39). We believe in the Lord continuously pouring the Holy Spirit upon His believers, filling them with the gifts of the Spirit, and creating in them a similar experience of joy and peace, courage and wisdom.

The celebration of Pentecost must challenge us with questions: Do we experience the power of God’s Spirit in our lives? Do we experience Him enable us overcome our human way of living so that the mystery of God living in us is visible to the world?

Let us pray:

Spirit of life,

fill the emptiness of our minds and hearts with your fullness;

Spirit of power,

stir our hearts afresh and soften it with sweet renewal;

Spirit of love,

touch us, and through us, reach out to our neighbor with your grace.

Amen.