Sunday, 23 May 2021 : Vigil Mass of the Solemnity of Pentecost Sunday (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, this evening we celebrate the Vigil Mass of the great Solemnity of Pentecost Sunday, marking the most momentous occasion when the Holy Spirit descended on the Apostles and the other disciples of the Lord assembled in Jerusalem, on the fiftieth day after the Resurrection of the Lord, not long after the Lord ascended gloriously and returning into His Heavenly Throne. This day we celebrate this important moment as the Holy Spirit came down from Heaven unto us, as promised.

Today marks the beginning of the Universal Church, as it was on this day that the disciples of the Lord began their missionary outreach and efforts, as they previously hid themselves and kept a low profile out of fear of the Jewish authorities. After the Holy Spirit descended upon them, they began to go out and preached the Good News of God’s salvation and truth to the people assembled in Jerusalem, led by St. Peter, the leader of the Apostles, and it was told that three thousand men were convinced by them and gave themselves to be baptised.

Through the Scripture readings we have received and heard today in this Vigil of the Pentecost, we heard very important and symbolic readings that we may not have realised at first why these readings were chosen as the Scripture passages for this occasion. In fact, as we heard and remembered again what we have just heard earlier on, in the readings prescribed for this Pentecost Vigil, God wanted to show us through His Church, that the coming of the Holy Spirit restored and renewed all of us, His beloved people, once weakened and brought down by sin and the darkness of evil.

In our first reading, one of the readings came from the Book of Genesis, detailing the moment when God confused the language of the men and women gathered at the site of Babel, where they all aspired in pride to build a tower so high that it would reach up to the heavens itself. Through their wickedness, sin and disobedience therefore mankind had been scattered all throughout the world, divided by their languages and different speeches, unable to understand one another, divided in purpose and essence.

Then, when the Lord sent His Holy Spirit to His Apostles and disciples at the Pentecost, if we recall what happened, the Holy Spirit came down on them all and strengthened them, and they all began to speak in tongues, as they went out preaching and glorifying God before all the people who were gathered in Jerusalem, and all those people assembled were all astonished because they heard these disciples of the Lord all speaking simultaneously and at the same time in their own languages.

What happened, brothers and sisters in Christ? When mankind became proud and fell into sin, they lost the gift of wisdom and language, knowledge of the Holy Spirit, which God withdrew from them as what happened at the Tower of Babel. When He granted the Holy Spirit back once again to His disciples, they all received the Spirit that reinvigorated them, gave them wisdom and knowledge, one of which is the gift of tongues, that they were able to comprehend and speak in various languages.

Then, we also heard the reading of the Covenant between God and His people Israel as it happened in Mount Sinai in one of the other first reading for this Vigil, which is significant because in that occasion, the people of God rebelled against God and three thousand men were lost to the sin of idolatry, as they chose a golden calf idol over themselves to be their god instead of the Lord God Who led them out of the land of Egypt. Those three thousand people were slain because of their sin against God, in denying Him and refusing to acknowledge Him as God.

And as mentioned, on the day of the Pentecost, three thousand people were added to the numbers of the faithful, as an obvious contrast with what we heard regarding the moment when the Israelites fell into sin and disobeyed God with the golden calf idol. This is very symbolic as the gift of the Holy Spirit strengthens and restores the unity that we have with God, our Lord and Saviour, overcoming the power of sin that had led to death. Instead, through the Spirit, we have received new life in God, as those three thousand people baptised on the Pentecost had received theirs.

The prophet Ezekiel saw a great field of dry bones in his vision, and he saw how those bones became a great and vast assembly of people, all living and breathing after the Lord gave them the breath of life, which is representing the Holy Spirit, that exists in everywhere and in all things, just as in the beginning of the Book of Genesis, the Holy Spirit was represented as being in all things and floating all around nothingness before Creation came to be.

It was this same life that God has given to the first man, Adam, as He moulded him from dust, and the same life that the Lord has given to each and every one of us. And it was significant that this vision was revealed to the prophet Ezekiel as Ezekiel lived during a time when the fortunes of the Israelites were at its very lowest, having been scattered and made to wander off among the nations, humiliated and cast down because of their sins and disobedience against God, even losing their own homeland and the city in which God has placed His own dwelling, Jerusalem and its great Temple.

Through that vision, God wanted to tell His people that He shall restore them and return them once again to His grace. He shall gather them all back once again and reunite them to Himself, just much like how He also would restore all the other people who had been scattered because of their sin and pride at the Tower of Babel. He would restore them all and bless them once again, calling them to repent from their sins and to abandon their wicked ways. Through the Holy Spirit He would bestow on them all, He would reveal the fullness of truth to them and that they may seek and find Him.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we all celebrate this Vigil of the great Solemnity of the Pentecost Sunday, all of us are called to reflect on the wonderful gift of the Holy Spirit that God has given us, that through the Holy Spirit, He has strengthened and encouraged us, giving us wisdom and guidance wherever and whenever we need them. And all of us who have shared in the same Spirit of God, through our common baptism, have also shared in the same mission of the Church, that is to be the witnesses of the Lord and His truth in our own communities, at all possible opportunities, to reach out to our fellow men and women.

God has given us the Holy Spirit that we may be sanctified, rejuvenated and strengthened, that through the various gifts and talents we have received, we may indeed bear rich fruits of the Spirit, and shine with the most wonderful light of faith such that all those who see us, hear us and witness our deeds and works, they may all know that we are God’s beloved ones, His followers and disciples. And this is the challenge that we all have today. Have we been living our lives faithfully as we should as Christians, brothers and sisters in Christ? Or have we instead been ignorant of our mission and calling as Christians?

Let us all therefore be genuine witnesses of the Lord in all possible opportunities, doing whatever we can in order to touch the hearts and minds of others, so that through us, many more people may come to believe in the Lord, just as how the Apostles and disciples of the Lord spoke with such great passion and showed their love for God that so many turned to the Lord and became His followers. As members of the same Church of God, this is what we have been called to do, and what we should embrace wholeheartedly, following the examples set by our holy predecessors in faith.

Although the season of Easter ends with this celebration of the Pentecost, it does not mean then that everything goes back to normal and we can just continue on with our lives without any action or commitment from us to live in accordance with our Christian faith. On the contrary, all of us are called and reminded this Pentecost, as always, to be fruitful in the Holy Spirit and to make best use of all that God has given us, and to walk courageously and faithfully in His path. Pentecost as I said earlier, marked the important moment when the Church was truly born, and as such, marks a beginning rather than an end.

Pentecost marks the beginning of a new, evangelistic and missionary journey that from now onwards we should continue to live our lives to the fullest, and we should commit ourselves fully to the Lord that through us, God and His works may continue to reach even more and more people, and through us, the Holy Spirit shall come down and renew the face of the whole earth, dispelling the darkness of sin and evil, and bringing forth a new era of peace and love. May God be with us always, and may He continue to guide us, through the Holy Spirit, that we will always ever be faithful and dedicated to Him. Amen.

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