Pentecost: An Epiclesis Over Human Mind

Sunday Reflection for the Pentecost Day

Readings: Act 2:1-11; 1 Cor 12:3-7, 12-13 and Jn 20:19-23

It is Pentecost Sunday today. Pentecost means the fiftieth day- after the Passover. It is the second of the three great Jewish feasts celebrated at Jerusalem yearly. It is celebrated in grateful recognition of completed harvest. In other words, it is the harvest feast.

For the Christians Pentecost is the advent of the Holy Spirit. It is with the coming of the Holy Spirit, the Church was born. It is the birthday of the Church. On the Passover Triduum, we remembered three important Christ-Events, viz., the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Jesus. After the death of Jesus on the cross, Jesus appeared to his disciples for forty days to convince them of his resurrection. This is what we commemorated during the Eastertide. Then Jesus ascended into Heaven. Last Sunday we celebrated the feast of ascension. This Sunday is Pentecost, the day when the Holy Spirit descended on the disciples.

Luke, in Acts 2:1-11, describes the great event of Pentecost, which we heard in the first reading. On the occasion of Jewish feast of Pentecost, the disciples of Jesus had gathered in one place. And suddenly, we are told, how there came from heaven a sound like the rush of a violent wind, filled the entire house, and a divided tongues of fire appeared to them, a tongue of fire rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different languages.  All the spectators were amazed and perplexed while others sneered at them, “They are filled with new wine.”

The Johannine Gospel, Jn 20:19-23, which we heard in today’s gospel reading, gives us a different episode of the coming of the Holy Spirit. The disciples were gathered and locked up in a room for fear of Jews. Jesus came and stood among them and said twice, “Peace be with you.” And then He breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” Then he gives them the power of forgiveness. In the second reading from 1 Cor 12:3-7, 12-13 we are told of the fruits of the Holy Spirit, the different spiritual gifts that we receive in the Holy Spirit. St. Paul mentions clearly that there are varieties of gifts from one source, viz. the Holy Spirit. Gift of wisdom, gift of knowledge, gift of faith, gift of healing, gift of working miracles, gifts of prophecy, gift of discernment of spirits, gift of speaking in different tongues and of interpreting them. However, the greatest of all of these gifts is the gift of love. Paul emphasizes that in 1 Cor 13:1-13. Also, among the seven fold fruits of the Holy Spirit, viz., Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Generosity and self-control, love is the first in the list.

So, with the coming of the Holy Spirit, Christian faith assures that, God is Emmanuel; that Jesus is with us as he said, “I will be with you till the ends of time.” Pentecost assures that the Reign of God that Jesus Christ ushered during in his life time continues to grow and expand with the power of the Holy Spirit. And that Kingdom of God is the kingdom of Love, Joy and Peace. We all are given with the gifts of the Holy Spirit. We have been given Holy Spirit. Holy Spirit dwells within us. Remember, what St. Paul says, “Do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 6:19).” What is the sure sign that the Holy Spirit dwells in us? When we bear in our lives the fruits of the Holy Spirit, viz. Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Generosity and Self-control, we exhibit that Holy Spirit dwells in us.

Have you ever experienced the presence of the Holy Spirit in and around you? We are aware how the Holy Spirit has been given different titles. Holy Spirit is the Advocate, the comforter, the Healer, the consoler, the sanctifier and the counselor, etc. When the Holy Spirit descended into the disciples, Luke mentions, He came in the form of tongues of fires. Holy Spirit was present in the violent wind that filled the house where the disciples were gathered. While John tells us how Jesus breathed into them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” Well, today, the presence of the Holy Spirit could be felt in different ways.

The other day when I was preparing this reflection, I feel, I was guided and counseled by the Holy Spirit. Actually a question arose in my mind. Why is that there is no reading from the First Testament in today’s liturgy? Is there no Holy Spirit in the First Testament? Out of curiosity, I just typed the keyword, “Pentecost” in BibleWorks Application and I got total five reference of the word, two from the First Testament (Tob 2:1 and 2 Macc 12:32) and the three from Second Testament. I was surprised to see how there are references of the Pentecost in the First Testament. Then I felt inspired to read the whole book of Tobit, which I did for the first time in one stretch. This is when I realized that the presence of the Holy Spirit, though not so vividly and clearly, is present there even in the First Testament. I realized it was the Holy Spirit in the form of Angel Raphael, who introduced himself as Azariah. In the book one can find the dominant presence of the Holy Spirit. It was He who journeyed with Tobias to Media, guided him, instructed him, told him the medicinal usage of the gall, heart and liver of the fish in the Tigris River. Be it routing out the demon from Sarah, marriage of Tobias with Sarah or be it healing of Tobit from his blindness, we see the powerful healing and counseling act of the Holy Spirit in the Angel of Raphael. I think this is an example of how the Blessed Trinity (God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit) are ever active in the salvific mission. Yes, the work of the Holy Spirit is active even today in and among us through different ways. Only thing that we need to do is to cooperate with Him by being in the grace.

Our Human mind is very so beautiful and powerful. John Milton in Paradise Lost says, “Mind is its own place. It can create heaven in hell and hell in heaven.” Yet, how is it that our mind cannot feel, cannot recognize the works of the Holy Spirit and fruits of the Holy Spirit? How is that our mind does not become the temple of the Holy Spirit? Is not true that our human mind in our sin-laden and broken world is being eclipsed? Today, we need to question ourselves on what sort of things our mind is busy with. I wish and pray on this Pentecost for an Epiclesis over our human mind. Let Holy Spirit come down and sanctify our human mind to hell of our world into heaven here and now. Come Holy Spirit Sanctify our minds!

An Ascending Thought on Ascension

After the passion and death on the cross, Jesus Christ appeared to his disciples for forty days at different time and different places to show that He is risen from the dead. He gave them his final instructions. He appeared to them for final time on the mount Olive near Bethany and commissioned them to go to the whole world and preach the good news. Now when He had spoken these things to the disciples, on their seeing He was lifted up in heaven. A cloud received Him out of their sight. Jesus is seated at the right hand of the Father in glory. This is the event of Ascension of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

We hear about this Christ Event, viz. Ascension of Our Lord, in the Gospel reading of the day. St. Luke describes about this event in his first (Gospel) and the second (Acts of the Apostles) books. Today’s first reading was from the Acts of the Apostles. St. Paul has also spoken in his letter to the Ephesians about how Jesus Christ ascended into heaven in all power and glory and is seated at the right hand of God. All this indicates that the Ascension of Our Lord is an important and final Christ Event. It is one of the foundational pillars in Christian faith. Not only Sacred Scriptures but the faith tradition of the faithful is witness to this.

It is said that there are footprints of Jesus Christ on the mount Olive, from where Jesus Christ ascended into heaven. Many people who go for the pilgrimage to the Holy Land do visit this site and enrich their faith.

To lead you into the mystery and history of the Ascension I would like to draw your attention into the three biblical references.

1. Gen 11:1-9:- This reference is about Tower of Babel. Here we are told how people planned to build themselves a city and a tower whose top would be in the heavens. The did attempt to do so. But their plan failed because their purpose was inspired by selfishness, ambition and pride.

2. Gen 28:10-22:- This is a reference that mentions about Jacob’s Dream. Jacob is journeying from Beersheba toward Haran and  in a place called Luz, while putting up a night saw a dream. He dreamed that a ladder was set up on the earth whose top reached to heaven; and there the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. God spoke to him saying, “I am the Lord, God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie I will give to you and your descendants…and in you and in your seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed…”

3. Mt 26:63-64:- This is a reference of Jesus in front of the Sanhedrin. The High priest under the oath of the living God asked Jesus, “Tell us if you are the Christ, Son of God!” Jesus said to him, “It is as you said. Nevertheless, I say to you, hereafter you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.”

All the three passages seem to hint at the Ascension of Our Lord Jesus Christ. God created humans in his likeness and image. We were in ‘Grace’ and shared His holiness and justice and in the glory of God, the Father. But, we lost that Grace of God when Adam and Eve, the primordial man and woman, disobeyed and  sinned against God. We lost that heavenly bliss we have had before. we are deprived of the access to the tree of life.

We are not sure of the historicity of the event of the Tower of Babel. However, it does tell us a religious truth that we our own cannot have access to heaven. We have salvation without the grace of God. However, God did not leave humankind in their sinful and broken situation. He chose Abraham and proceeded ahead with the  salvation history of humankind. This salvific plan of God gets fulfilled in Jesus Christ. Ascension of our Lord is an important Christ event of that salvific mystery and history. It is in that way, that dream of Jacob becomes a type for Ascension of Our Lord. This dream of Jacob is fulfilled in the Ascension of Our Lord Jesus Christ. In fact Jesus Christ is that “ladder” on  which not only angles of God but also people of God ascend to heaven. It is in Jesus that we have full of Grace and truth (Jn 1:14) and of His fullness we have all received grace upon grace (Jn1:16). By one man’s (Adam) disobedience we had lost that original Grace of God and by one man’s (Jesus) obedience we have been restored that grace. In Jesus Christ, God  and humans have reconciled again. It is by Jesus’ becoming that ladder, heaven and earth have become one again. This is what the mystery of ascension tells us.

Now the question is what way does this  ascension of Jesus affect us? Quite often we think that heaven is above and we are here down below. Sometimes we also think that Jesus went upto heaven would mean that He is not with us anymore. No. All these are figurative language. In fact Bethel, House of God, is there wherever God is present. Moreover, Jesus has promised, “I am with you always, even till the end of age (Mt 28:20).” The Ascension of our Lord does mean to us, because we too can share in the power and glory of Jesus Christ. But, we fail to do so. Why? The episode of Tower of Babel (Gen 11:1-9) can answer to this question. At times we too make use of all possible means to make this this world a heaven, but without God, without being in the Grace of God. We use ladders of our own and not the ladder that Jesus provides to reach upto heaven.

I think we must take note of two things as the message of the day. First, no matter how hard we try on our own spending time and money, but without the grace of God we cannot achieve salvation. we cannot achieve justice, true peace and happiness. Secondly, without human effort (Hard WORK) relying only on the grace of God, we cannot achieve salvation. To achieve human salvation (Justice, peace and happiness) we need both Grace of God and Human effort. If we are baptized with Christ, if we obey his commandments and lead our lives according to the teachings and principles that He showed, we will definitely be part of his divine glory.

I pray that we may be able to die to self (our selfish self, our pride etc.) and have the mind of Jesus Christ in humility and obedience; and thus be true witnesses to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Amen.

Mother’s Life: Bits of Love

May 13, is the mother’s day. I am sure many of us wished our mothers “Happy Mothers’ Day”. On this occasion I did call upon my beloved mother. I fondly remembered her. However, is that enough? I think it is a special day for all of us, sons and daughters, to reflect on the lives of our beloved mothers.

Mother’s life is a life of love, a love shown not in big deals but in bits, in small things of our daily lives. One can easily see how mother’s heart burns with boundless compassion, affection, dedication, and sacrifice. A mother can abhor what is evil in her sons/daughters but never think ill of them. She will do lot of sacrifices for the benefit of her children. If you want to ponder mystery of love, you must ponder on the mothers’ lives. Mothers’ lives teach us bits of love.

It is a sad fact that in our post modern world, the word ‘love’ is the most abused word. Today unfortunately it has a wide range of ‘double’ meanings. Consequence is that we, the meaning making beings, misunderstand with such double meanings and make a mesh of our lives. Who bothers today to learn from mothers’ lives true bits of love? On the day like mother’s day, we are given an opportunity to reflect deeply into the mystery of love. We must seriously think how our bits of love can make Gigabyte of love- to make our world a better place to live in.