THE HOLY SPIRIT HELPS US REDISCOVER OUR SONSHIP IN CHRIST
SCRIPTURE READINGS: [Acts 2:1-11; Ps 104:1, 24,29-31, 34; Rom 8:8-17; Jn 14:15-16, 23-26]
Recently, a Dutch teenager was allowed to die, following a year-long battle with depression and anorexia after she was raped as a young child. She explained her choice to end her own life by refusing food and water in an Instagram post, saying she struggled to live with the trauma which had become insufferable. In the Netherlands, children as young as 12 years of age can seek euthanasia, although those below age 16 need parental consent to do so. Even if the withdrawal from treatment is not exactly euthanasia, the decision to end a life is no longer in the hands of God but in the hands of man! In 2017, the country had 6,585 deaths by legal euthanasia.
How did the world come to this stage when even human life is no longer considered sacred? It is because of the sins of man. We live unspiritual lives. St Paul wrote, “People who are interested only in unspiritual things can never be pleasing to God.” When we are worldly, we are selfish and inward-looking. We only think about ourselves, how to satisfy our physical and sensual needs. We go after comfort and pleasures instead of seeking higher goals in life. Unspiritual people are not in touch with the hunger of their soul except the needs of their bodies. They are cut off from God, from the spiritual.
This, precisely, is what is hinted in today’s first reading. The story of Pentecost is a reversal of the story of the Tower of Babel. At Babel, the people thought highly of themselves, thinking that they could reach the heavens on their own without God’s help. This is a repetition of the sin of Adam, wanting to be like God without God. They thought that by building the Tower, they could access heaven whenever they wanted. We fail to realize that we are finite beings and ignorant of many things and do not have the fullness of truth. Because today, all are right and no one is wrong, people no longer listen to each other. Each clings to his or her view. As a result, what follows is the division of humanity.
Hence, after same sex union, euthanasia is the next agenda promoted strongly by an atheistic world. The truth is that in an atheistic world, life is no longer sacred. It ends at death. There is no soul, no afterlife. This is the other message of atheism; that we are all the same. We are made of matter, not spirit. So what is the purpose of prolonging life if there is no meaning? My life is mine so it is for me to decide what I want to do with it. This is the mentality today, which of course is driven by secularism, pragmatism and relativism. In public space today, we cannot mention the name of God, much less speak of the sacredness of life. Since God does not come into the picture, what is the basis to say that life is sacred and we cannot kill or take away our life just as we do with animals? The basis of “Thou shall not kill” ironically is a biblical concept. Yet, the world is denying the reality of the sacred. But they know that deep in their hearts there is an afterlife or God, or else why do we give so much honour to the dead or try to rescue bodies from the sea in an airplane crash.
Pentecost is a reversal of the Tower of Babel. Instead of man seeking to meet God by building a tower to heaven, God sends us the Holy Spirit to connect us with Him. Babel was a human effort and initiative, but Pentecost is a divine initiative in God’s plan. Instead of miscommunication in the Tower of Babel, at Pentecost we read that all the people present could understand the apostles in their own language. People from different ethnic backgrounds could “hear them preaching in our own language about the marvels of God.” They said in wonder and amazement, “Surely, all these men speaking are Galileans? How does it happen that each of us hears them in his own native language?”
Through communication, not just of words but of love, which is the universal language of the Holy Spirit, Pentecost renewed humanity into one people of God. Once again, under the banner of God’s love and that of our Heavenly Father, we are one family. This is a universal family comprising all men and women, all of whom are our brothers and sisters. It is the Holy Spirit that makes this possible by enlightening us that we are all one in Christ, and filling us with His love, without which we would not able to look at each other as our brothers and sisters in Christ.
Pope Emeritus Benedict tweeted, “Euthanasia is a false solution to the drama of suffering, a solution unworthy of man. The true response cannot be to put someone to death, however, ‘kindly’, but rather to witness to the love that helps people to face their pain and agony in a human way.” Only love can overcome death, especially for those who are suffering. If people commit suicide, it is because no one journeys with them or feels with them.
It is within this context that we need to ask for the renewal of the Holy Spirit in our lives and to come again. This is what we prayed at the responsorial psalm. The Holy Spirit comes to renew our relationship with God who has become distant from us. This is even true for those who are Christians. Many Catholics do not live as if they are God’s chosen people. They are more like His frozen people, living like dead men and women, without life and love and passion. Many do not live like His children, His sons and daughters. This is because even though they are baptized and in principle have received the Holy Spirit, they have no conscious experience of the Holy Spirit in their lives. The Holy Spirit is still latent in them. For us to encounter God personally once again, we need to allow the Holy Spirit to open our minds and hearts to receive His personal love.
The Spirit is the One who helps us to recognize Jesus as the Son of God because “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.” Only through the Holy Spirit, can we recognize that Jesus is Lord. Only through the Holy Spirit, can we accept the Word of God as it really is, God’s word and not some human thinking. (cf 1 Th 2:13) The Holy Spirit is, therefore, the One who brings us to Jesus and in and through Jesus, we come to know the Father’s love and mercy, especially through His teaching, His life, death and resurrection. Without the Holy Spirit, we will not have the faith to know and believe in Jesus, nor the power of the sacraments, especially Baptism, the Eucharist, Confirmation, Reconciliation and the Holy Orders.
With acceptance in faith of Jesus as the Son of God, we enter into the Spirit of Jesus in experiencing the Father’s unconditional love and thereby are able to “cry out, ‘Abba, Father!’ The Spirit himself and our spirit bear united witness that we are children of God.” Through Jesus in the Holy Spirit, we come to know in the depth of our soul that we are children of God. “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.” Knowing that we are His sons and daughters gives us the courage and dignity to live as God’s children because we have come to know God’s love in Christ. We no longer live as if we are orphans, not knowing our identity, our origin and our calling. We know where we came from and where we will return.
How, then, can we renew the Holy Spirit in our lives? Obedience is the precondition for receiving the Holy Spirit. Jesus said, “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 for ever.” Obedience means renunciation of sin. We must desire to give up sin even if we cannot do it on our own. But when we are sincere, the Holy Spirit will give us the power and grace to live a spiritual life. “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.” Indeed, with the Holy Spirit, we are given true freedom to love because the Spirit frees us from our bondage to selfishness.
In this way, we become true sons and daughters of God. We are now connected with God, our origin and goal of life. We are also connected with our brothers and sisters. Indeed, as St Paul says, “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.” We too are empowered to suffer with Jesus in giving ourselves to others in service and love, and so share in His glory, in His joy of emptying ourselves for others, and participating in the Trinitarian love of God. Life, therefore, is now complete. We now live in love with purpose and meaning. Life is sacred and it is made possible because of love.
Written by The Most Rev William Goh, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore © All Rights Reserved
Best Practices for Using the Daily Scripture Reflections
- Encounter God through the spirit of prayer and the scripture by reflecting and praying the Word of God daily. The purpose is to bring you to prayer and to a deeper union with the Lord on the level of the heart.
- Daily reflections when archived will lead many to accumulate all the reflections of the week and pray in one sitting. This will compromise your capacity to enter deeply into the Word of God, as the tendency is to read for knowledge rather than a prayerful reading of the Word for the purpose of developing a personal and affective relationship with the Lord.
- It is more important to pray deeply, not read widely. The current reflections of the day would be more than sufficient for anyone who wants to pray deeply and be led into an intimacy with the Lord.
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