The celebration of Pentecost Sunday is only just a few days away…to be precise, 50 days after Easter Sunday, hence its name; from the Greek, pentekostos meaning fiftieth.
Pentecost commemorates the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles (and the Blessed Virgin Mary) in the Upper Room – the birthday of the Catholic Christian Church.
St Peter, the first Pope, was already the leader and spoke for the Apostles on this first Pentecost; he preached with such joy that 3,000 were baptized that very day. From thereon, the Catholic Church has been empowered by the Holy Spirit for over 2,000 years, to live differently in the midst of a chaotic world, to journey as a community of pilgrims, to lead the world lovingly back to God the Father
“…Rome represents the entire world and therefore embodies Luke's idea of catholicity. The universal Church is brought into being, the Catholic Church, which is the extension of the Chosen People and makes its history and mission her own.” – Pope Benedict XVI, St Peter’s Basilica, Pentecost 2008
However, back then, Pentecost might not have been much of a celebration because the disciples of Jesus would probably have been more confused, anxious and unsure of what to do next…perhaps worrying about their own safety and grieving over the brutal crucifixion of their Rabbi and Master.
Like them, we can relate to similar emotions but we often remind ourselves that to lead a good Christian life, we must listen to the Holy Spirit; to be obedient to what the Spirit asks. But then, more often than not, how can we tell if it is really the Spirit who speaks to us? All of us wonder about this voice within us amidst the many other voices that are outside of ourselves.
In today’s world grown weary of God, there are many people who do not trust much in the workings of the Holy Spirit..Not only that, they do not even trust much in their own ability to respond to the Spirit.
These people often have a passion for control, as if they could harness and manage the power of the Spirit to their own judgment; deep down, these people are actually more afraid about the freedom that is a prerequisite for life in the Spirit.
Being obedient to the workings of the Holy Spirit (does not mean speaking in a tongue that one has never learnt) means being able to love in a way that can be learnt only through commitment to the Spirit – a power that can change the face of the earth because it has the ability to transform the hearts of humanity.
So, back to the same question, how can we tell if it is really the Holy Spirit speaking to us in the course of our daily lives? I would like to think that we should be able to measure what we ‘hear’ against the Gospels.
“There is wholeness in the life of a person who lives by the Spirit, an integrity that is not destroyed by the stresses of life… A man (or woman) of faith fits together and his (or her) actions flow from a consistent pattern of Gospel convictions…giving a testimony of faith.” – Fr Eugene C Kennedy, The Pain of Being Human, 1974
The Gospel is the best test and the service of others (servanthood) is still the best sign of those who are truly living in relationship with the Spirit. The Holy Spirit always leads us to spiritual growth and sharing within a community, instead of pride, selfishness and the manipulation of other people.
People living in the Spirit comes to life in relationship with others…willing to die to what keeps him or her from loving others better…gives new life to others…in the process, discovering a richer life.
As pilgrims on a journey, we know that, although life can be challenging and serious, we are not grim…life can be a constant struggle, but we do not mistake it for a battle…faced with death or the culture of death, but we are filled with life.
We always carry a deep and serene sense of peace, if we live by the Holy Spirit; a peace that the world cannot give, a peace that the world may not understand…a peace that fills, renews and transforms the world around us.