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THE HOLY SPIRIT HAS GIVEN US THE POWER OF FORGIVENESS

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HOMILY OF PENTECOST SUNDAY, YEAR A

Introduction:

Pentecost Greetings to you all in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ!

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today, being Pentecost Sunday, we celebrate the birth of the Church, when the Holy Spirit descended upon the apostles and gave them the strength and courage to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ to all nations, as well as the power of forgiveness.

Meanwhile, the Holy Spirit is often referred to as the third person of the Holy Trinity, which consists of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, God speaks to us, guides us, comforts us, and gives us the gifts we need to live holy lives.

The Descent of the Holy Spirit on the Apostles:

In the first reading, the apostles, filled with the Holy Spirit, were able to speak in different languages, reaching out to people from all walks of life who were gathered in Jerusalem at that time. Peter, who had denied Jesus three times before His death due to fear, was now filled with strength and courage and boldly proclaimed the resurrection of Jesus Christ to the crowds who had gathered.

As the first reading shows, “When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly, a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them” (Acts 2:1–4).

Moreover, this event was not just a one-time occurrence; we too are called to be filled with the Holy Spirit. As Catholic Christians, we receive the Holy Spirit when we are baptized and confirmed. We also receive the Holy Spirit through the Word of God, sacraments, and prayer, which enables us to live a life of service, humility, and love.

What is the Purpose of the Holy Spirit?

Jesus Himself promised us the gift of the Holy Spirit in the Gospel of John: “And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever—the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept Him, because it neither sees nor knows Him. But you know Him, for He lives with you and will be in you” (John 14:16–17).
Hence, the Holy Spirit is sent for many purposes: 

1. To guide believers in their faith: 

The Holy Spirit helps build up the faith of the Christian community through various gifts of the Spirit. He equally directs them in their spiritual journey, helping them discern God’s will and providing them with wisdom and understanding (John 16:13).

2. To comfort believers: 

The Holy Spirit is often referred to as the “Advocate” or “Comforter,” who brings peace and comfort to believers in times of trouble or distress (John 14:16–17).

3. To empower believers:

The Holy Spirit helps to remind believers of the teachings of Jesus Christ. He gives them the power to live a holy and righteous life, helping them overcome sin and temptation (Acts 1:8).

Certainly, the gift of the Holy Spirit empowers us to become more Christlike, to live more authentically, and to be more effective in our mission of spreading the good news of the Kingdom of God.

5. To bring unity to the Church:

The Holy Spirit is the source of unity and pulls down barriers, and wherever He enters, He destroys sin. He rejuvenates the Church and teaches her to be an open house of unity without walls of division. He is believed to work in the hearts of believers, bringing them together in love and unity despite their differences (Ephesians 4:3–4).

6. To Love Sincerely:

This is the main purpose of the Holy Spirit. Since we are created by a loving God, we are expected to love Him and our fellow human beings sincerely, just as Christ has loved us (John 13:34–3515:12–17).

As the scripture says, “God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” Therefore, the Holy Spirit not only empowers believers to love others but also fills them with God’s love (Romans 5:5).

7. To give believers the Power of forgiveness:

The Holy Spirit endowed the apostles with the power of forgiveness, the authority to forgive sins. This is one of the main purposes of the Holy Spirit.

We can take comfort in the promise that Jesus Christ makes to us in today’s gospel reading: Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” And with that, He breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained” (John 20:21–23).

The Efficacy of Forgiveness Through the Power of the Holy Spirit:
Coexistence of good and evil. a white and blue dove The Love of God

The power of the Holy Spirit frees our hearts from rancour, grievances, bitterness, hatred, jealousy, etc., but fills us with love, joy, peace, patience, forgiveness, spiritual and emotional healing, etc. (Galatians 5:22-23). That is why, after one has received the sacrament of reconciliation, the person is freed from his or her sins to love God and humanity sincerely.

Besides, the gospel reading reminds us of the value of forgiveness and the power it holds in our lives. Jesus Christ calls us to extend mercy to those who have wronged us, just as God shows mercy to us (Matthew 6:14–15). If we cannot forgive our offenders, then there is no true love in us. This implies that we have not yet allowed the Holy Spirit to take absolute control of our lives.

Why do we need to Forgive?

1. We need to forgive because God forgives us whenever we offend Him. So, for us to continue receiving divine mercy, we need to forgive others too.

 2. Forgiveness frees us from the burden of anger, grudges, and bitterness, which often hamper growth and development.

3. It reconciles and restores relationships damaged by conflict and resentment so that we can have peace of mind.

4. It reflects God’s love and mercy towards us, i.e., having empathy and compassion toward those who have hurt us.

How can we forgive?

1. Forgiveness is not always easy, but it is essential to our spiritual growth and well-being. So, we can achieve this through fervent prayers and seeking the assistance of the Holy Spirit.

2. By recognizing our own need for forgiveness and extending mercy to others instead of seeking revenge, we can emulate the actions of Jesus Christ, St. Stephen, Mother Teresa of Calcutta, etc., who prayed to God to forgive their offenders instead of being revengeful.

The Consequences of the Gifts of the Holy Spirit:

The second reading describes the consequences of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Each of us has been given different gifts by the same Spirit for the common good. As the scripture says, “No one can truly say “Jesus is Lord” except by the Holy Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12:3). Therefore, since the Holy Spirit has given us the power of forgiveness, we need to extend mercy and fraternal love to others. Our gifts must not be a source of competition but rather be put to the service of unity.

Conclusion:

My dear brothers and sisters, as we celebrate the birth of the Church as well as the descent of the Holy Spirit on the Apostles, let us reflect on this amazing gift that God has given to us and renew our commitment to live a life of holiness, service, love, and forgiveness.

Furthermore, as we reflect on the importance of forgiveness, let us remember that Christ Himself forgave those who persecuted Him. Let us always follow His example and extend mercy and grace to those who have wronged us, knowing that true freedom and healing come only through forgiveness. If we cannot forgive our offenders, then there is no true love in us. And if there is no true love in us, then we need to ask the Almighty God to send us His Holy Spirit.

Prayer:

May the Power of the Holy Spirit fill your heart and guide you on your journey of faith. May He empower you to love one another sincerely, to always seek the Sacrament of Reconciliation, and to be ready to forgive, through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.

Peace of Christ be with you…

Rev. Fr. Ben Okala, C.S.Sp.

HAPPY FEAST OF PENTECOST!

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