Sunday, 28 May 2023 : Vigil Mass of the Solemnity of Pentecost Sunday (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we gather together this evening as one united Church, we all celebrate the Vigil of the Pentecost Sunday, marking the beginning of this great celebration and commemoration of the moment when the Holy Spirit came upon the Church and all the disciples of the Lord assembled back then in Jerusalem, fifty days after the glorious Resurrection of the Lord and ten days after He ascended gloriously to Heaven. This descent of the Holy Spirit fulfilled what the Lord has promised His disciples regarding the coming of the Advocate, or the Helper, Who is God the Holy Spirit, that the Lord Jesus Himself promised that the Father would send upon the disciples in order to strengthen and to guide them even after He was no longer physically with them.

The coming of the Holy Spirit marked a very important moment in the history and development of the Church as it marked the time when the disciples began a new phase in their ministry and work as they responded to the Lord’s call, encouraged and strengthened by the Holy Spirit, as they embarked on their missionary work and began proclaiming their faith openly without fear, as contrasted to how they had acted before. The disciples were full of fear and were in hiding from the Jewish authorities prior to the coming of the Holy Spirit. But after the coming of the Holy Spirit upon them, they became full of fire and zeal, strengthened and encouraged to proclaim the truth and the Good News of Christ without fear and without worry anymore, doing what the Lord has been entrusting to them, and with the Wisdom that the Holy Spirit has bestowed upon them.

In our first reading today, there are a few readings used that can be used in this Pentecost Vigil like that of the Easter Vigil, with multiple readings preceding that of the Epistle reading, highlighting the significance of the Solemnity of the Pentecost Sunday at the end of the glorious season of Easter and mirroring the most joyful celebrations that we have had in the Easter Vigil celebrations, in the Mother of All Holy Vigils. On this Pentecost Vigil, there used to be baptism performed just as commonly done on Easter Vigil and Easter Sunday Masses. The readings used from the Old Testament also highlighted the significance of the actions and the descent of the Holy Spirit, in completing many of the works and plans that the Lord has for us, His beloved people, in bringing us ever closer to Him and in empowering us all in our ever present and challenging struggles of life in this world.

The first one from the Book of Genesis recounted to us the story from the moment when mankind, after the Great Flood of Noah, became proud and began to seek ambitiously to reach out to the heights of Heaven by building up a huge tower, which we know as the Tower of Babel. Back then, all of mankind were still speaking the same language and tongue, and could understand each others’ speeches. They were all working together on a very ambitious and prideful project of building a great tower surpassing all others and reaching even unto Heaven itself. For their pride and arrogance, God punished mankind and confused their language and tongue which caused them to abandon their project as none of them could understand each other or work together anymore. Thus, we saw how the fruits of sin and pride are divisions and confusion, while the fruits of the Holy Spirit are unity and harmony.

How so? That is how the coming of the Holy Spirit can be contrasted to the moment of the divisions due to the Tower of Babel. While the Tower of Babel event led to mankind being separated by linguistic and other barriers, the Holy Spirit gave the Apostles and the other disciples of the Lord the Wisdom and the ability to comprehend other languages, and also the ability to speak in tongues. The Acts of the Apostles account of the Pentecost Sunday itself highlighted how the people then assembled in Jerusalem for the Festival of the Pentecost, fifty days after the Passover Feast, from various countries and origins, all with different tongues and languages, all could understand what the Apostles were speaking and preaching about, empowered by the Holy Spirit. Thus, we can see how through the coming of the Holy Spirit, God once again brought His divided and scattered people together into one flock, united in His Church.

Then, from the other reading taken from the Book of the prophet Ezekiel, we heard of the famous vision of the prophet in which he saw a vast valley filled with huge multitudes of human bones, all dry and without life. By God’s will and through the Spirit of God, the Spirit of life coming to dwell in them, the Lord showed Ezekiel how all those dry bones began to reassemble themselves and returned into a living state, as they returned into a more and more human state, and finally, as the Spirit of God returned life unto them, all of them became a massive assembly of a huge number of the people of God assembled all in that valley upon what Ezekiel saw in that vision. This was a prefigurement of the restoration of the people of God, which would be restored to a new life full of grace and love of God, no longer subject to the tyranny of sin and death, that His Son, Our Lord and Saviour would bring to us, and the Holy Spirit would complete through the Church.

Thus just as sin and evil that have entered into our hearts and minds with the temptations of Satan and our failure to resist those temptations, led to suffering and death, the loss of life and the grace of God, thus through His Son and by the gift of the Holy Spirit, God Himself has sent unto us the path of hope and towards eternal life, which He has reassured us, that through Him, all of us shall gain a new life and existence that are no longer under the dominion of sin and evil. Sin no longer has its power over us, and no one shall ever separate us from the love of God again. God has always loved us and He has lovingly reached out to us, desiring to be reconciled and reunited with us. However, it is often always us who reneged on our Covenant and promises to Him, and we have often ignored His love and kindness, choosing to allow ourselves to be swayed by the falsehoods and the temptations of this world.

That is why all of us need to be reminded that today as we celebrate the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Church and all of us, the Holy Spirit that we have received through the Sacrament of Baptism, and then strengthened in grace and the gifts of the Holy Spirit by the Sacrament of Confirmation, all of us are called to renew the commitment and the dedication which each and every one of us ought to have to the Lord. As the Temples of the Holy Spirit and the Holy Presence of God, all of us should do our best to live our lives as good role models and inspirations, as Christians, so that by our actions, efforts, words, works and interactions all of us may truly embody the gifts of the Holy Spirit within us, and that we may truly bear rich fruits of the Holy Spirit, in our every moments and actions, in all the opportunities that we have received.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, as we celebrate this great Solemnity of Pentecost, let us all realise that each one of us as the members of God’s One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church all have the same responsibilities and calling, the mission to carry on what the Lord has told us to do, as what His Apostles, the innumerable saints and martyrs, courageous missionaries and faith role models had done before us. All of us should do our very best such that in each and every one of our actions, works, deeds and all the things we do, we always live our lives in the manner that the Lord has taught us, and allow the Holy Spirit to lead and guide us in our journey of faith and in our actions. All of us share in the same Spirit of God the calling to do our part in glorifying the Lord by our lives, and in proclaiming the Good News to more and more of the people out there who have not yet known the Lord and His truth.

May all of us therefore, as part of the one Church of God, one flock of God’s people, united and made whole again, no longer scattered and separated because of sin, and empowered through the gift of the Holy Spirit, continue to do what we can to carry out the missions of the Church and to live our lives truly filled with the Holy Spirit, and continue to pass on the courage and the strength that the Spirit has granted to us. May the Risen Lord, our Saviour Jesus Christ, continue to be with us and keep on leading His Church, all of us, to the right path. May all of us remain ever faithful and dedicated as good and inspirational Christians, now and always, forevermore. Amen.

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