Grace to you and Happy Feast of the Pentecost!
Permit me to begin today's reflection with a famous story about a renowned Geometrician. Plutarch, a Greek Philosopher, narrated it.
At the peak of the discovery of the science of mathematics among the Greeks, a prominent Geometrician of the Pythagorean school bragged of his ability to make any figure, no matter how crooked or twisted, stand at an upright position. All it takes, he claimed, was getting the proper right angel combination (90 degrees) and harmonizing it with gravity. He achieved much success in doing this, until a particular day when a smart student challenged him to make a corpse to stand erect.
The great geometrician did not see any difficulty in doing this. He started by trying various balancing schemes, experimenting with different postures, and exploring all possible combinations of angles. Under normal circumstances, these should give 90 degrees; therefore, make the dead body stand erect. He compassed, for example, 45/45, 50/40, 89/1, 70/20, but it was all a failure. He tried again and again, all to no avail. At last, he threw in the towel with the exclamation: "I do not know what is wrong with this figure; there seems to be something missing on the inside."
The acknowledgment of this geometrician and his submission of his limitations are didactic. Imagine a human being without a soul—that spiritual principle, which is the subject of our consciousness and freedom. It would be unthinkable, because, without the soul, all we see is a dead body. Hence, even one of the greatest mathematicians of ancient times couldn't make "life" in the dead body. The dead can't stand on their own. Only those alive could stand, walk, choose, and act. We can become the best we are called to be on earth, and as the Psalmist says, "praise God" because we are alive to do so.
The French spiritual writer, Dom Jean-Baptiste Chautard (1858-1935), wrote his classic, The Soul of the Apostolate. In it, he invites us to take the Interior Life, the life of the Spirit seriously. He was equally alluding to the presence of the Spirit of Christ, the Holy Spirit, in the Church. The Holy Spirit is the "soul of the apostolate" for good reasons. Through the Holy Spirit, Christ, with God the Father, continues to abide in the Church. One can't imagine a church not being led by the Holy Spirit.
The coming of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost was to commission the Church and all members of the Church to become “missionary disciples,” using the phrase of Pope Francis. So we become witnesses of the Risen Lord to all. Hence, on Pentecost Day, the Church was born, a Church whose primary vocation on earth is to evangelize. As Pope Paul VI emphasized, “Evangelizing is, in fact, the grace and vocation proper to the Church, her deepest identity" (Pope Evangelii Nuntiandi, 14).
The Holy Spirit is the livewire of the Church, the soul of virtuous/spiritual life. And today, we celebrate that memorable birthday of the Church on Pentecost. [For my reflection on the significance of the Pentecost, please read the reflection following this one].
At Pentecost, souls dead in sin are revived; a new encounter that makes us stand upright as disciples of Jesus Christ is witnessed. At Pentecost, a timid person, like Peter, who denied Jesus three times when his courageous confession was most needed (John 18:25-27), becomes a bold preacher before a multitude. The Holy Spirit breaks the barriers of fear, insecurity, and cowardice.
At Pentecost, a withdrawn, insecure, and shy apostolic community, locked up in the upper room (Acts 1:13ff), stood out in eloquence. They spoke in tongues and testified boldly about the wonders of the Risen Lord. They became evangelizers (Acts 2ff). The Holy Spirit makes the Church a bold vanguard of the truth, and believers, audacious emissaries of the Good News.
At Pentecost, there were miracles, healing, and deliverance. In the same way, the Holy Spirit goes on to do signs and wonders for those who welcome Him. "Taste and see that the Lord is good."
At Pentecost, the fire of love is kindled (Acts 2:3). The Holy Spirit shatters the shackles of hatred, exploitation, and unholy relationships. It promotes genuine love among people. Pure love for God and one another is by the Holy Spirit.
At Pentecost, the community is bonded in love, obedience, and eagerness to relive the Christ experience, and the Tower of Babel reality is upturned. No better explanation is given that men and women, from different tongues and nations, could speak one language of love, live in love, share from the same cup and participate at the same table (the Eucharist); if not, by the bonding impact of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit-lead-Church is a church wherein space, locality, or structures aren't a barrier. Rather, all become vehicles of orderliness through which the unity of faith and the bond of love blossom. As the Psalmist says, it's like olive branches around the table of the Lord (Ps 128:3).
Come Holy Spirit and fill the hearts of the faithful. Enkindle in us the fire of your love. Amen.
God love you. God bless you.
Fr. Maurice Emelu
[Pentecost Sunday A: Acts 2:1-11; I Cor 12:3B-7; 12-13; Jn 20:19-23]
Author and Goal
Father Maurice Emelu Ph.D., provides a daily blog of reflections based on the Scriptural readings of the day from the Catholic liturgical calendar. The goal is to teach, inspire, encourage, and foster healing through the grace of God's word. They are written in a language that is appropriate for a general audience. You will find these reflections helpful for your spiritual growth, inspiration, and developing your thoughts. They may also be useful for ministers in preparing their sermons for liturgical celebrations.