This Sunday we celebrate the Feast of Pentecost. We usually associate Pentecost with the Holy Spirit, so much so that Pentecost means the Holy Spirit. To begin with, the meaning of the word “Pentecost” has almost nothing to do with the Holy Spirit.
The name Pentecost came from a Greek word “Pente” which means “fiftieth”. It points to the Jewish festival of the “Feast of the Harvest” (Exodus 23:16), which is held on the fiftieth day after the Passover. The purpose of that feast was to commemorate the completion of the grain harvest of the Jews. Thus, the meaning of the word Pentecost originally, did not say anything about the Holy Spirit.
However, the first reading today from Lukan tradition tells us how the word Pentecost became connected with the Holy Spirit. The reading tells us that on the day of Pentecost many Jews went to Jerusalem for the festival. The apostles, however, hid themselves behind locked doors because they were traumatised by their experience of witnessing the death of their master, what happened to Jesus might also happen to them! They were afraid, and confused. Then suddenly, out of nowhere, they heard a loud rush of strong wind, and tongues of fire hovered over the head of each one of them. It was the Holy Spirit that descended on them, just as Jesus had promised.
This suddenly changed everything. The apostles were somehow not afraid anymore. They rushed out of the house and began to proclaim loudly to everybody the message of the Risen Lord. The people who heard them were very amazed that, although they came from different places and diverse languages, they clearly understood what the apostles were saying. This event was such a great phenomenon that Pentecost now became known to us as the Feast of the Holy Spirit.
Thus, the feast of Pentecost is a day on which we are reminded that the Holy Spirit was promised and has been given to the disciples. The Holy Spirit transformed completely their lives! Have you ever been curious about what really happened to disciples on that day? What was it that brought about this great change in them? Of course, we can quickly and rightly say that it was the action of the Holy Spirit in them.
However, this leads me to other questions. Just like the disciples in the upper room, we too received the same Holy Spirit during our Baptism and Confirmation. We believe the Spirit of God resides in each one of us. Then, the questions are, if the Holy Spirit is already given to all, the baptised, why are many of us so uninspired in the practice of the faith? Why does the Spirit not change our lives as the Spirit changed that of the disciples? Why do we behave in many ways like unbelievers as if we have never received the Holy Spirit? Why?
Honestly, I do not know for sure the answer. However, I do believe the Holy Spirit inspires us in the same way as the disciples back then, and it’s still up to us to accept or not. Perhaps so often we are unaware of the fact that the Holy Spirit is right inside of us. Perhaps, we forget the big role of the Holy Spirit in us. Perhaps, we are focused so much on ourselves that we become oblivious of God and insensitive to His Spirit.
Today as we celebrate the feast of the Holy Spirit, let the feast be a reminder for us of how the disciples were transformed by the Holy Spirit. The same spirit was given to and resides in us. Maybe today will be our Pentecost; maybe yours, maybe mine so that our lives can be transformed by his power like the disciples once did.
A very happy feast day to all,