Saint Stephen's Statue.




12, Gbeto Street, Off Iwaya Road, Onike-Iwaya, Yaba-Lagos.

Saint Stephen's Building.


PentecostToday is Pentecost day and we celebrate on this day, the descent of the Holy Spirit on the Apostles and also, we celebrate the birthday of the Church. Today marks the 50th day after the resurrection of Christ and this feast equally brings to an end the liturgical season of Easter. The word Pentecost is Greek for pentecostes which means “fiftieth.” The feast received this name because it was celebrated fifty days after the Feast of the Passover.  Another name for the Jewish Pentecost is Shebuot or "The Feast of Weeks“(the "week" of seven Sabbaths between Passover and Pentecost).

The first reading of this Sunday tells the story of how Christ eventually fulfilled his promise to his disciples, who faithfully obeyed his command: “Do not leave Jerusalem until the advocate comes!” (Acts 1: 5) From the perspective of this reading, therefore, today’s celebration is a reward for faithful obedience and steadfastness in prayer.

Beloved, we too can receive the gifts and graces from God if and only if we adhere to His commands. Very often, we find it very difficult to obey God, through His Church, His bishops, priests or legitimately constituted authorities. Note carefully that the apostles did exactly as Jesus had commanded them, and behold they were filled with the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Also, we can immediately see that while they waited, they engaged themselves in prayers. Jesus interestingly did not tell the apostles how long they must wait, and one could only imagine what the fear of waiting for so long would have caused them. Nonetheless, they trusted in the one that said, “Stay in Jerusalem until the Advocate comes”. Do we really trust in God’s word? Do we have the kind of faith the Apostles exhibited? Do He may tarry God’s time is always the best? For those who put their trust in the Lord, they shall never be disappointed.

Furthermore, it is important to note that one of the greatest aspects of today’s celebration that has been grossly misunderstood and abused is the gift of tongue. We need to fully appreciate the Pauline and scriptural teaching on the issue of gifts and speaking in tongues in 1 Corinthians 12 and 14. It is a gratuitous gift from God and does not come through learning, practicing and manipulation, especially as we see it been learnt today by many persons, even within our fold.

Beloved, anyone who speaks false tongues is both blaspheming against God and committing sacrilege. That is, sin against the Holy Spirit. This gift was given to the apostles to aid them spread the good news to all the nations gathered on that faithful day to listen to them: “Now there were devout men living in Jerusalem…each one bewildered to hear these men speaking his own language about the marvels of God.” It must be stated that this gift was not given to them to boost their ego, or for their own personal or selfish interest. Instead, it was given to them in order to edify the church and to transmit the message of eternal life on to others.

In the second reading (I Cor 12:3-7, 12-13), St. Paul explains how the sharing of the various spiritual gifts of the Holy Spirit enriches the Church.  He refers to the varieties of gifts given to the Church as coming from the same Spirit Who activates all of them in Christians for the common good.  They are described as the gifts, fruits and charisms of the Spirit. Paul insists that these spiritual gifts are to be used in the present time for the benefit of others, for the common good and for the building up of the Body of Christ.

Today’s Gospel relates how the Risen Jesus gave his apostles a foretaste of Pentecost on the evening of Easter Sunday by appearing to them and sending them to carry on the mission given him by his Heavenly Father.  He then empowered them to do so by breathing upon them and saying, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”  On the day of Pentecost, Jesus fulfilled his promise to send the Advocate or Paraclete. The gift of the Spirit would also enable them to fulfill Jesus’ commission to preach the Gospel to all nations.  It also tells us how Jesus gave to the Apostles the power and authority to forgive sins.  “Receive the Holy Spirit.  For those whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven; for those whose sins you retain, they are retained.”  These wonderful words, which bind together inseparably the presence of the Holy Spirit and the gift of forgiveness, are referred to directly in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  But they have a much wider meaning.  Those words remind us of the Christian vocation we are all have, to love and forgive as we have been loved and forgiven, in the world of today, which is often fiercely judgmental and vengeful.  

Just as Jesus was anointed with the Spirit at the beginning of his ministry, so the disciples needed the anointing of the Holy Spirit to carry out the mission entrusted to them by Jesus. The Holy Spirit is given to all who are baptized into Jesus Christ to enable us to live a new way of life - a life of love, peace, joy, and righteousness (Romans 14:17). The Holy Spirit fills our hearts with the love of God (Romans 5:7), and he gives us the strength and courage we need in order to live as faith-filled disciples of the Lord Jesus. The Spirit helps us in our weakness (Romans 8:26), and enables us to grow in spiritual freedom - freedom from doubt, fear, and from slavery to our unruly desires (2 Corinthians 3:17; Romans 8:21). The Spirit instructs us in the ways of God, and guides us in living according to God's will. The Spirit is the source and giver of all holiness. Isaiah foretold the seven-fold gifts that the Spirit would give: wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord (Isaiah 11:2).

Why did they need power from on high? The Gospels tell us that Jesus was filled with the Holy Spirit when he was baptized at the Jordan River: "And John bore witness, 'I saw the Spirit descend as a dove from heaven, and it remained on him... this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit'" (John 1:32,33; Mark 1:8; Matthew 3:11). "And Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan, and was led by the Spirit for forty days in the wilderness... and Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit into Galilee" (Luke 4:1,14).

This celebration invites us into a more profound relationship with the Holy Spirit. This is a relationship marked by the love of God which breathes life into our daily existence. We need to appreciate the fact that the Holy Spirit is not merely something relegated to the sacrament of Confirmation alone. The Holy Spirit desires a relationship with us that will take us on the greatest adventure imaginable, a journey to the very Heart of God. The Holy Spirit desires to be present to us in a manner that brings light out of darkness, freedom out of bondage, order out of chaos and life out of death.

After his resurrection Jesus "breathed" on his disciples and gave them the Holy Spirit. Just as God breathed life into Adam, so the gift of the Holy Spirit is an impartation of "new life" for his people. With the gift of the Holy Spirit a new creation begins. God recreates us for his glory. Jesus' gift of peace to his disciples was more than an absence of trouble. His peace included the forgiveness of sins and the fullness of everything good. Do you want power to live a faith-filled life as a disciple of Jesus? Ask the Father to fill you with the power of his Holy Spirit (Luke 11:13).

We need to permit the Holy Spirit to direct our lives so that we can be spirit filled Christians and every day will be a Pentecost for us:  a) by constantly remembering and appreciating His Holy Presence within us, especially through the Sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation;  b) by fortifying ourselves with the help of the Holy Spirit against all types of temptations;  c) by seeking the assistance of the Holy Spirit in our thoughts, words, and deeds, and in the breaking of our evil habits;  d) by listening to the voice of the Holy Spirit speaking to us through the Bible and through the good counsel of others; e) by fervently praying for the gifts, fruits and charisms of the Holy Spirit; f) by renewing our lives through the anointing of the Holy Spirit; g) by living our lives in the Holy Spirit as lives of commitment, of sacrifice, and of joy; h) by having a spirit of forgiveness towards those who hurt and offend us; i) by speaking words of healing, restoration, love and peace to others; j) and by living a life of Pentecost every day.  We are called to love as Jesus loved, not counting the cost. As Saint Paul exhorts us, "Walk by the Spirit, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh.  If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit" (Galatians 5:16, 25). 

The Lord Jesus offers each one of us the gift and power of his Holy Spirit. He wants to make our faith strong, give us hope that endures, and a love that never grows cold. He never refuses to give his Spirit to those who ask with expectant faith. Jesus instructed his disciples to ask confidently for the gift of the Spirit: "If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!" (Luke 11:13).  Do you thirst for God and for the abundant life he offers through the gift of his Spirit?

Prayer – Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful, and enkindle in us the fire of your Divine Love. Amen!!!



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