The Day of Pentecost

Today we celebrate the great day of Pentecost when Christ filled the Church with the power of his Spirit and sent it out into the world to bring his peace, joy and forgiveness to all mankind.

- the Sunday Missal
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Why No Temptations

A boy was accompanying his plantation manager on a duck hunt. The lad was a Christian and the two of them got to talking about religious matters. The boss said, “I don’t understand why you Christians are always talking about sin and the devil and temptation. I don’t ever have any temptations. The devil leaves me in peace. he has never attacked me or disturbed me.”

“I think I can explain that,” answered the lad. “It’s like when you and I are on a duck hunt. You shoot with your double-barrel shotgun and several ducks fall dead. But some others are only wounded and they flap about and try to get away. I take out after them with my long pole and beat them to death.

“You are like a duck which the devil has shot dead. He leaves you lying there. He knows that he already has you. I am like one of the wounded ducks who is trying to get away from him. So he is always after me with his long pole and wants to kill me.”

- Willi Hoffsuemmer

- taken from “The Storyteller’s Minute” by Frank Mihalic, SVD
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Acts of the Apostles 2:1-11

When Pentecost day came round, the apostles had all met in one room, when suddenly they heard what sounded like a powerful wind from heaven, the noise of which filled the entire house in which they were sitting; and something appeared to them that seemed like tongues of fire; these separated and came to rest on the head of each of them. They were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to speak foreign languages as the Spirit gave them the gift of speech.

Now there were devout men living in Jerusalem from every nation under heaven, and at this sound they all assembled, each one bewildered to hear these men speaking his own language. They were amazed and astonished. “Surely,” they said, “all these men speaking are Galileans? How does it happen that each of us hears them in his own native language? Parthians, Medes and Elamites; people from Mesopotamia, Judaea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya round Cyrene; as well as visitors from Rome - Jews and proselytes alike - Cretans and Arabs; we hear them preaching in our own language about the marvels of God.”
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Romans 8:8-17

People who are interested only in unspiritual things can never be pleasing to God. Your interests, however, are not in the unspiritual, but in the spiritual, since the Spirit of God has made his home in you. In fact, unless you possessed the Spirit of Christ you would not belong to him. Though your body may be dead it is because of sin, but if Christ is in you then your spirit is life itself because you have been justified; and if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, then he who raised Jesus from the dead will give life to your own mortal bodies through his Spirit living in you.

So then, my brothers, there is no necessity for us to obey our unspiritual selves or to live unspiritual lives. If you do live in that way, you are doomed to die; but if by the Spirit you put an end to the misdeeds of the body you will live.

Everyone moved by the Spirit is a son of God. The spirit you received is not the spirit of slaves bringing fear into your lives again; it is the spirit of sons, and it makes us cry out, “Abba, Father!” The Spirit himself and our spirit bear united witness that we are children of God. And if we are children we are heirs as well: heirs of God and coheirs with Christ, sharing his sufferings so as to share his glory.
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John 14:15-16, 23-26

Jesus said to his disciples:

“If you love me you will keep my commandments.
I shall ask the Father
and he will give you another Advocate
to be with you forever.

“If anyone loves me he will keep my word,
and my Father will love him,
and we shall come to him
and make our home with him.
Those who do not love me do not keep my words.
And my word is not my own;
it is the word of the one who sent me.
I have said these things to you
while still with you;
but the Advocate, the Holy Spirit,
whom the Father will send in my name,
will teach you everything
and remind you of all I have said to you.”

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What strikes me most about today’s first reading is that twelve men walked among a crowd of people and started speaking in strange languages, but it is devout people that heard them and stopped to listen in surprise. The first reading makes no mention of people who were not devout, but we can take a guess at what non-devout people probably thought of the Apostles. They probably thought that they were mad-men and carried on their business. Think about what they had missed!

Devout people are naturally more aware of God’s presence in their lives and how God works in them, through them, and for them. These are people who are interested in spiritual things, as St. Paul describes. The reason that they are interested in spiritual things rather than unspiritual things is because the Spirit of God is alive in them.

A friend of mine remarked to me earlier this week that people who come from some sort of religious background, in particular Christians, are more affected by sexual sins than other people are. The reason is because we know that what we are doing is wrong. And the reason we know that what we are doing is wrong is because the Spirit of God is alive in us.

People who do not believe in God and do not have the Spirit of God in them are not at all bothered by sexual immorality. They might even promote it, since to them it is not wrong. But we know that sexual immorality is wrong because God’s Spirit is in us, and because God’s Spirit in us, we are interested in spiritual things like morality. Indeed morality is not a physical or intellectual or even a legal thing; it is a spiritual thing.

Those who have God’s Spirit in them are sometimes aware of a great battle that takes place within their souls. Their body wants to do something while their spirit is telling them, “No! Don’t do it! It’s wrong.” A friend of mine once described this as two wolves battling for control of him. When asked which wolf wins, he answers, “The one that I feed.”

We all have to make the choice of which wolf we want to feed. We may not have the strength to live out our choice, but we still have to choose. Choosing to do, or not to do, something is the first step. The next step is realising that we don’t have the strength to do it ourselves, so we must ask God for the strength. This is where it becomes very apparent that non-religious people have a problem here - they don’t believe in God! They have to rely on their own strength, and as those of us who have fought such battles before, we know that we don’t have the strength to win the battle on our own.

Is it better not to believe in God, then? So that we will not have to deal with feelings of guilt and shame? Not quite. Regardless of whether we believe in God or not, he exists. That’s the first thing. The second thing is that regardless of whether we believe in morality or not, it exists. The third thing is that whether we believe it or not, choosing to live a moral or immoral life has consequences on our physical, psychological, and spiritual well-being.

Therefore, if you feel guilt and shame for your sins, thank God, because it means that the Spirit of God is alive in you and that the devil hasn’t gotten you yet. If, however, you no longer feel guilt or shame for thoughts, words and deeds like you once did, be worried, because it means that you are dead because of sin, as St. Paul says. Ask the Lord Jesus Christ, therefore, to raise you from the dead, for he alone has conquered death. And come to remember once more - you cannot raise yourself from the dead.
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Prayer:
Dear Lord, we pray for all people who do not struggle to do good, but readily give in to their bodily desires and claim this as freedom. Help them (and us) to realise the slavery that they (and we) have allowed themselves (and ourselves) to fall into, and grant us the grace to desire to be raised from the dead, and to let the Spirit of God be alive in them (and us) again. Amen.

Give Thanks to the Lord for: Feelings of guilt and shame that tell us that the Spirit of God is alive in us.

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