Pentecost Sunday (Year B)

Acts 2:1-11; 1Cor 12:3-7,12-13/Gal 5:16-25; Jn 20:19-23 (15:26-27,16;12-15)

Jesus Breathes the Holy Spirit

OTHER HOMILY SOURCES from Fr Munachi E. Ezeogu, cssp

01 Homily for Pentecost Sunday

By Fr Munachi E. Ezeogu, cssp

Come Holy Spirit

Acts 2:1-11

Romans 8:8-17

John 14:15-16,23-26

One bright Sunday morning like today, Benson’s mother hurries into her son’s bedroom and wakes him up. “Benson, it’s Sunday. Time to get up! Time to get up and go to church! Get up!” Benson mumbles from under the covers, “I don’t want to go.” “What do you mean you don’t want to go?” says the mother. “That’s silly. Now get up and get dressed and go to church!” Benson goes, “No, I don’t want to go and I’ll give you two reasons why I don’t want to go.” He sits up on the bed and continues, “First, I don’t like them and second, they don’t like me.” His mother replies, “Now, that’s just plain nonsense. You’ve got to go to church and I’ll give you two reasons why you must. First, you’re now forty years old and, second, you’re the pastor!”

This sleepy Benson could as well be any of the apostles whom Jesus had commissioned to be his witnesses in Jerusalem, in Judea, in Samaria and to the ends of the earth. But as soon as Jesus leaves them, what do they do? They retire to their upper rooms and hide themselves. They were afraid of the Jews. Like Benson they knew that the people did not like them, they knew that their message was different from the popular message of the time, and they just felt like wrapping themselves up in bed and not having to get up and face the hostile society. We too are often like that, going to church quietly, receiving Jesus in our hearts quietly, and going home again quietly to say our morning and evening prayers quietly. But what about the charge that Jesus left for you and me to be his witnesses and to share the Good News of God’s love with all humankind? No. People do not like to be reminded of God. I am afraid they are going to tell me off if I speak to them about God. I am afraid they will not listen to me. I am afraid they will call me a freak out of touch with reality. They don’t like us and we don’t like them. And so, like Benson, we give up on our God-given duty and go on enjoying our comfortable silence, our comfortable sleep.

Fortunately, Pastor Benson has a guide, his mother, who wakes him and persuades him to go out and preach. This is the kind of work that the Holy Spirit does in the hearts of believers. When fear of trouble tends to freeze our faith into silent submission to despair, the Holy Spirit warms us up and empowers us to go out there and make a difference. The Holy Spirit reminds us, as Benson’s mother reminded him, that we have a mission. Our mission is to tell everybody the Good News that God is their Father, that God is the Father of us all, that in spite of all the visible difference of language and culture and social status, we are all one family and should therefore live as brothers and sisters. Our mission is to break the barriers between “us” and “them,” between male and female, between Jew and Gentile, between rich and poor, between Black and White, between First World and Third World, and to bring all humankind to speak the one universal language of brotherly/sisterly love. This is possible only through the working of the Holy Spirit.

One reason his mother gave Benson why he should wake up from his sleep is that he is now forty years old. He is now of age. Christianity is now 2000 years old in the world. Yet even in the so-called Christian civilizations, the universal brotherhood of all humankind in God through Christ has not been understood. “What can I do?” you may say, “I am only a single individual. What difference can I make?” Maybe we can learn something from the story of the black squirrel and the owl.

A black squirrel once asked a wise old owl what was the weight of a single snowflake. “Why, nothing more than nothing,” the owl answered. The squirrel then went on to tell the owl about a time when he was resting on a branch of a maple tree, counting each snowflake that came to rest on the branch until he reached the number 1,973,864. Then with the settling of the very next flake — crack! The branch suddenly snapped, throwing the squirrel and the snow to the ground. “That was surely a whole lot of nothing,” said the squirrel.

You daily personal efforts to spread the reign of love and justice may be as lightweight as snowflakes. But by heaping our snowflakes together we shall eventually be able to break the heavy branch of sin, evil and injustice growing in our world today.

Come Holy Spirit and fill the heart of your faithful
and enkindle in them the fire of your love.

02 Homily for Pentecost – on the Epistle

By Fr Munachi Ezeogu, cssp

Reversing the Curse of Babel

Acts 2:1-11

Romans 8:8-17

John 14:15-16,23-26

Today we come to the high point of our Easter celebration, the Feast of Pentecost. Pentecost, meaning “fifty days” after the Passover — was the feast day in which the Jewish people celebrated the Giving of the Law on Mount Sinai. On Mt Sinai the different tribes of Israel entered into covenant with God and with one another and so became the people of God. God gave them the Ten Commandments as a guide to show them how to be a people, because being people of God means relating to God and to one another in a way that God Himself has mapped out, not in the way that we think is right. Proverbs 14:12 says “There is a way that seems right to a people, but in the end it leads to death.” The beginning of wisdom, the beginning of true religion, therefore, is when we realize that as humans we are limited and shortsighted, and so we ask God to show us how to be the people of God that He has created us to be.

Whenever human beings forget how limited we are and try to take the initiative in our dealings with God, what inevitably follows is disaster. An example is the story of the Tower of Babel that we are told in Gen 11 where human beings decided to build a tower that would reach to heaven. In this way they would have access to God whenever they wanted, in this way they could manipulate God. But in the process of building the human bridge to heaven God came and confused their languages. They began to speak different languages, there was no more communication, no more understanding among them, and they could no longer work together. The result was the proliferation of languages and human misunderstanding.

Does the story of Babel remind you of the story we read today from the Acts of the Apostles, the disciples of Jesus speaking in other languages? Actually the two stories are related. But Pentecost is not a repeat of Babel, Pentecost is a reversal of Babel, and this for three reasons:

1. At Babel human beings decided to build a tower to God by their own effort; at Pentecost it is now God who decides to build a bridge to humans by sending the Holy Spirit. Babel was a human initiative, a human effort, Pentecost is a divine initiative, a divine activity through the Holy Spirit.

Imagine this: Jesus ascends to heaven and mandates the disciples to spread the Good News from Jerusalem to all Judea, to Samaria and to the ends of the earth. But the task is too much for them. How could these twelve, uneducated, rural fishermen from Galilee go out and address the learned world of Greek philosophers and Roman poets. Moreover even their fellow Jews are hostile to them. So what do they do? They go in and pray, and wait and pray, and wait — for God’s initiative. And as soon as God gives the sign of the Holy Spirit, there they go, all out on the streets boldly and fearlessly proclaiming the Good News.

What God asks of us as believers always seems impossible. And it is indeed impossible if we rely on our own initiatives and will power alone. But if, like the disciples, we realize that godliness is above us, and so commit ourselves to waiting daily on God in prayer, God will not be found wanting. At the opportune time God will send the flame of the Holy Spirit to invigorate us, and change us from lukewarm to zealous, fervent, enthusiastic believers.

2. Babel was a requiem of misunderstanding, Pentecost is a chorus of mutual understanding. The miracle of Pentecost is very different from the miracle of Babel. At Babel, the people came together with one language, understanding themselves. After God’s intervention they dispersed no longer understanding each other. At Pentecost, on the other hand, people of different ethnic backgrounds (Persians, Asians, Romans, Egyptians, Libyans, Arabs, etc) came together unable to communicate, but after the miracle of Pentecost, they said, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? How is it that we hear them, each of us in our own language?” (Acts 2:7-8).

In order words, as Peter, for example, spoke everyone from all the different language groups gathered there would hear Peter speaking in their own language. The miracle of Pentecost was a miracle of mutual understanding, a restoration of that precious gift that humanity lost at Babel. Now, someone might ask, is there such a language that one could speak and everybody would understand in their own mother tongue? The answer is yes. Ant the name of that language is LOVE. Love is the language that all women and men understand irrespective of ethnic background. Everybody understands when you smile. Love is the language of the children of God, the only language we shall speak in heaven.

3. Finally, Pentecost differs from Babel in its result. Babel resulted in the disintegration of the human family into different races and nationalities. Pentecost, on the other hand, brings all peoples together and reunifies them under one universal family. This universal family embracing all races and nationalities is called church. “Catholic” means “universal”. On Pentecost we celebrate the birthday of the Church. Today is, therefore, an opportunity to rededicate ourselves to be active and faithful members of this family of God we call Church.

Fulton J. Sheen once said about the church that even though we are God’s chosen people, we often behave more like God’s frozen people. God’s frozen people indeed: frozen in our prayer life, frozen in the way we relate with one another, frozen in the way we celebrate our faith. We don’t seem to be happy to be in God’s house; we are always in a hurry to get it over and done with as soon as possible. Today is a great day to ask the Holy Spirit to rekindle in us the spirit of new life and enthusiasm, the fire of God’s love.

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See Today’s Readings:  Cycle B

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