Once upon a time, a young lady who was having issues with her fiancé approached an older woman whom she considered prayerful to share the problem with her. The lady told the woman about the drinking habit of the fiancé and how it was becoming a big challenge for her to the extent that she was considering quitting the proposed marriage. The woman told the lady not to worry that she would pray and ask the Holy Spirit for guidance and the right things to say.
After few days, the woman went to see the lady in her house and by a stroke of chance, she met the man who was planning to marry the lady. After exchanging pleasantries and talking about other issues, the visiting woman offered to pray for the two intending couple before leaving. After a fairly long prayer, she told the man that the Holy Spirit just ministered to her that he is into excessive alcohol intake and if he does not stop, the young beautiful lady would leave him and marry another man. The man was shocked at the revelation from the “Holy Spirit” and calmly accepted to stop taking alcohol. When the woman left, the man knelt down and begged the lady not to leave him and earnestly promised to quit drinking.
The man actually stopped drinking but the young lady was troubled within her because she knew she was the “holy spirit” that told the lady about the man, and not the real Holy Spirit. The lady later approached the woman and asked her why she had to say that it was the Holy Spirit that told her about the man while she was the person that told her in the first place. The woman responded by saying that it was the same Holy Spirit that moved the lady to come to her to tell her about the man, so they were on the same page.
This may sound funny but it is at the same time serious. In our day and age, many people make claims about being moved by the Holy Spirit to say or do various things and many people accept most of these whole and entire. It was on account of this that the apostle John instructed that we should not believe every spirit but we should test them because not all spirits ministering comes from God (1 John 4:1). Of course, there are evil spirits; in fact many of them.
Today is Pentecost Sunday, and we are celebrating the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the apostles and the Blessed Virgin Mary; ten days after the Ascension of Jesus Christ. This happened while they were waiting and praying at the Upper Room as our Lord himself had instructed them (Luke 24:49; Acts. 1:4,8).
Before going into the Pentecost episode, it will be proper for us to understand whom the Holy Spirit is. This basic understanding will open up doors for further understanding of the Holy Spirit’s power and active presence among us.
Often we see the Holy Spirit represented with an image of a dove. This was adapted from what happened at the baptism of our Lord Jesus Christ (Matt.3:16; John 1:32). The Holy Spirit has also being noted with the imagery of fire. The confirmation on the day of Pentecost is very apt here (Act 2:3). In other places, the Holy Spirit is identified with fire following the tongues of fire that descended on the eleven apostles and others at the Upper Room (Acts 2:3). God’s presence has actually being marked with the symbol of fire: the burning bush (Ex.3:2), the fire of judgement (Is.4:4), the hedge of fire (Zechariah 2:5), the unquenchable fire (1 Thess. 5:19), the consuming fire (Heb.12:29). There is also the symbolic manifestation of the Holy Spirit by the blowing of the wind (Acts 2:2). We also remember that the Spirit of God moved over the face of the deep in the form of wind before God the Father started creating (Gen.1:2). Furthermore, Adam became a living being when God breathed upon him after being fashioned from the dust of the earth (Gen.2:7).
We have taken some time to do the foregoing analysis simply to demonstrate that the Holy Spirit is not a dove, fire, wind nor any similar phenomenon. The Holy Spirit is a person and not a thing as most people erroneously assume. In fact, He is the third person of the trinity. After God the Father and God the Son, we have God the Holy Spirit. Hence, the Holy Spirit is God and remember that we have only one God though there are three persons in the same one Godhead.
In the Old Testament, the Holy Spirit was not known as a person just like our Lord Jesus Christ was also unknown in the Old Testament as a person. The Holy Spirit was rather implicated in the dynamic force of the one holy God, the creator of the universe. It was in the New Testament that the Holy Spirit came to be known through the teachings of our Lord Jesus Christ. In his introduction of the Holy Spirit, our Lord explained that the world cannot accept Him because it neither sees Him nor knows Him (John 14:-17).
A further understanding of the personality of the Holy Spirit could be drawn from His functions. Within the “promissory note” given by our Lord Jesus Christ concerning the Holy Spirit that he agreed to send, he indicated the following functions of the Holy Spirit: Helper, Leader, Counsellor, Advocate, Guide, Teacher, Mentor, Reminder, Protector and so on.
Pentecost was ordinarily an annual celebration among the Jews. In fact, the word Pentecost, from the Greek pentēkostē (hēmera), means “fiftieth (day)”. Hence, It was celebrated fifty days after Passover. It was a celebration in thanksgiving to God and it was highly festive. It was on this particular day that the Holy Spirit came down on the apostles. They were gathered together in ONE place. The mention of ONE PLACE here is very instructive for us. It is a realisation of the prayer of our Lord Jesus Christ: “that they may be one”. When people are gathered together as one, great things really happen. There is power in being one and united especially in prayer. That was why our Lord Jesus Christ said: “when two or three are gathered in my name I am in their midst” (Matt.18:20).
They were gathered together in one place and were praying together when a mighty wind came upon the Upper Room and the Holy Spirit descended on them like tongues of fire and they began to speak in various languages such that people from various nations could hear them speaking in their native tongues to their amazement. It is noteworthy that there was understanding in the midst of the various tongues spoken on the day of Pentecost. This was unlike at the site of the tower of babel where there was one language but no understanding because the people were gathered in their name, not in God’s name; thus, they were scattered as they wanted to make a name for themselves (Gen.11:1-9).
For every divine action, there is a reason. It could be really worthwhile to ask: “what is the reason for the coming of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost?”. The answers to this question will lead us to a fuller understanding, dependence, and appreciation of the Holy Spirit.
- Fulfilment: The coming of the Holy Spirit fulfils the promise of our Lord Jesus Christ to the apostles that he would send the Holy Spirit that would lead them to the whole truth. The Holy Spirit that would teach them everything, the advocate that will stand in for them and help them (John 16:13-14).
- Confirmation: The coming of the Holy Spirit is an apt confirmation of the fact that the Ascended Lord had reached heaven and is sitting at the right hand of God the father (Col 3:1). It is a further confirmation that the work our Lord came to do on earth has been concluded; the work of our redemption. Without the coming of the Holy Spirit, the redemptive work of Jesus Christ would have been regrettably incomplete.
- The Release of the Seven Necessary Gifts of the Holy Spirit: When the Holy Spirit descended on them, they received seven important gifts which any attentive reader of the bible could identify from the Acts of the Apostles. They received: wisdom, knowledge, understanding, fortitude, counsel, piety, and fear of God. Using Peter as an example one could notice the difference between the pre-Pentecost Simon Peter who denied his master when a little maid confronted him (John 18:17) and the post-Pentecost Simon Peter who stood boldly and preached a staggering sermon that brought about the conversion of about three thousand souls (Acts 2:41).
- The Release of the Twelve Rare Fruits of the Holy Spirit: The Catechism of the Catholic Church clearly stated that the fruits of the Spirit are perfections which the Holy Spirit forms in us as the first fruits of eternal glory (no.18320). The fruits of the Holy Spirit are: charity, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, generosity, gentleness, faithfulness, modesty, self-control, and chastity, (Gal.5:22-23).
- The Release of the Theological Virtues: These are basically called supernatural gifts from God because they are infused by God. With the coming of the Holy Spirit, these theological virtues are formally poured out and received. The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that they are the pledge of the action and activity of the Holy Spirit in the faculties of the human being (no.1813) . The theological virtues are faith, hope and charity (1 Cor.13:13).
The outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the apostles today should also mark our own Pentecost experience. In the first place, there is a need for us to have a deeper and personal relationship with the Holy Spirit. This personal relationship with the Holy Spirit is not restricted to any particular group or society in the Church as some people erroneously assume. From the inception of our life as Christians, we are baptised in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. So from the outset, we are given the imprint of the Holy Spirit and we should continually live by it.
The Holy Spirit should our guide and the power behind all our choices and actions. St. Paul made it clear that those who are led by the Spirit are the sons (and daughters) of God (Romans 8: 14). It is the Holy Spirit that helps us in our weakness (Romans 8:26) and gives us the grace to call God Abba Father (Romans 8:15).
Without the Holy Spirit, we are no better than a car without an active engine. However, with the Spirit of God moving us our lives, we shall rise from a gory situation to a glorious one, from shame to fame. With the Holy Spirit, our present condition will not be our final conclusion, with the Holy Spirit our present situation will not be our final destination. With the Holy Spirit. the darkness in our lives will turn into light. With the Holy Spirit, doors are opened for us. With the Holy Spirit, our fear will be turned into faith.
Let us give the Holy Spirit a chance in our life today. Let us go up to the Upper Room of prayer and we shall experience that great turn around that would revitalize, reconstruct, rejuvenate and regenerate us. Let the Holy Spirit take control! God is surely sending down His Holy Spirit to recreate us and renew the face our lives today (Psalm 104:30).
May the Holy Spirit fill you up today as never before and have a gorgeous celebration.