Receive the Holy Spirit


Pentecost – May 31, 2020

First reading

Acts 2:1-11 – They were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak

WHEN Pentecost day came round, they 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.’

Second reading

1 Corinthians 12:3-7,12-13In the one Spirit we were all baptised

NO ONE can say, ‘Jesus is Lord’ unless he is under the influence of the Holy Spirit.

    There is a variety of gifts but always the same Spirit; there are all sorts of service to be done, but always to the same Lord; working in all sorts of different ways in different people, it is the same God who is working in all of them. The particular way in which the Spirit is given to each person is for a good purpose.

    Just as a human body, though it is made up of many parts, is a single unit because all these parts, though many, make one body, so it is with Christ. In the one Spirit we were all baptised, Jews as well as Greeks, slaves as well as citizens, and one Spirit was given to us all to drink.


John 20:19-23As the Father sent me, so am I sending you: receive the Holy Spirit

IN THE evening of the first day of the week, the doors were closed in the room where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews. Jesus came and stood among them. He said to them, ‘Peace be with you’, and showed them his hands and his side. The disciples were filled with joy when they saw the Lord, and he said to them again, ‘Peace be with you.

‘As the Father sent me,

so am I sending you.’

After saying this he breathed on them and said:

‘Receive the Holy Spirit.

For those whose sins you forgive,

they are forgiven;

for those whose sins you retain,

they are retained.’


HAPPY Birthday! Blessed, Dynamic, Sanctifying Pentecost, to one and all!!!

The Coming of God the Holy Spirit at Pentecost is the culmination and completion of our Lord’s perfect Mission on earth, the fruit of His Death and Resurrection, the Birth of the Church as His Bride, the Instrument and the Sacrament of Salvation for the world until the Lord comes.

Our Pentecost wishes for each other have to be prayerful and sincere in this “new normal” brought by the pandemic when we cannot physically gather as Church on our Birthday!

I was already a lecturer in the major seminary when I attended a talk a simple and rather naughty seminarian was giving to a group of “charismatic” youths on the vital role of the Holy Spirit in the salvation of humanity. The talk certainly wasn’t original, but I remember how clearly and meaningfully he communicated the Christian dynamics of salvation. He started off using the analogy of a diesel train, describing the different parts and function – the rail track (one way to somewhere), the carriages (carrying passengers wanting to get to that somewhere), the locomotive and its mechanical parts that would produce the motion (to move them there). Everything is there.  But will it move, will it get anywhere without the fuel, the diesel? Will we get from Tanjung Aru on a track that leads to Papar in a train pulled by a powerful locomotive? No, no, no! You need fuel; you need diesel. The Holy Spirit is the Power, the Fuel, the Diesel of our Christian life!  

Coming of the Spirit

By the selection of the scriptural readings today, the Church clearly wants to tell us the Good News that the Coming of the Spirit is the coming of God’s Power to unite, reconcile and bring home His dispersed and lost children. By the power from on high, we are all gathered together into the train standing on a track laid by Jesus the Way to heaven, pulled by the locomotive of the Father, to be brought home.  

The power of the Spirit in the tongues of fire and noise of a mighty wind drew all kinds of people in the known world, gathered in Jerusalem, to the Spirit-filled disciples of Jesus, to hear them proclaim the marvels of God, each understanding clearly those marvels in his own language.

Pentecost is the awesome reversal of the Tower of Babel (Gen. 11:1-9) where tongues and peoples and nations were divided because man challenged to dethrone God from His heights by inventing bricks and building a tower to reach beyond the heavens, in his sheer arrogance and pride. Man’s sin against God’s supremacy brought division not just between God and man, but man and man, tongue and tongue, people and people, nation and nation, a tragedy that is still lingering in the world.

The gathering together again of all God’s scattered children began with the death of a man lifted up on a cross at Golgotha, raised from death to life, returned gloriously to the Father by the Power of God the Holy Spirit. The glorified Lord, the Bearer of the Holy Spirit, now seated at the right hand of God the Father, is also the Sender of the same Spirit who gathers all who believe in Jesus and bring them home, so that where He is, all He loves shall also be, with His Father and our Father.

Without the Spirit, there will be no faith, no belonging to Christ in the Church, no ability to move as a Body and to continue the saving mission of Christ.

On earth, the Church is born. She is the New Ark of salvation afloat on the destructive deluge of sin (Noah). The Church is the Seat of God the Holy Spirit, dynamically at work to save. St. Paul tells us that it is only by the influence of the Spirit that anyone can genuinely believe and confess ‘Jesus is Lord’. Faith comes from the Holy Spirit. By the power of the same Spirit we are baptized into the one Body of Christ, the Body that is always at work driven again by the same Spirit who gives different gifts to each different member to serve the different needs of the Church as the Instrument of salvation.

Without the Spirit, there will be no faith, no belonging to Christ in the Church, no ability to move as a Body and to continue the saving mission of Christ. Our whole Christian life is begun and brought to fruition by the working of the Holy Spirit. After the mission of the Incarnate Word in the history of salvation, the Era of the Spirit has arrived, the era of the Spirit and His Bride, the Church.

The gospel takes us back to the evening of the Lord’s Resurrection in the upper room. No wall, no door, could prevent the Risen One, the Bearer of the Holy Spirit, to meet His own, to give them peace, to give them His own breath, the Holy Spirit.

His first word is peace; His second is commission, commanding His disciples to take over His saving mission; His third is the giving of the Spirit, the power of God to carry on what He has accomplished.

The power of the Spirit to save, given to the disciples, is the power to forgive sins, the wall that divides God and man, man and man:

‘Receive the Holy Spirit.

For those whose sins you forgive,

they are forgiven;

for those whose sins you retain,

they are retained.’

Let’s be clear. The power to forgive is God’s alone, administered by the Church. Today, in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, the priest acting in the name of the Church, in the prayer of Absolution,  actually says explicitly that God and God forgives: “God the Father of mercies … through the death and resurrection of His Son …Through the ministry of the Church may GOD GRANT YOU PARDON AND PEACE, and I absolve you from all your sins, in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”

God’s Boundless Mercy

Much has been spoken frequently on God’s boundless Mercy. We remember with gratitude the Jubilee Year of Mercy 2016. There is no problem with “For those whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven”. But what about “for those whose sins you retain, they are retained”, the second part of the power of the Holy Spirit which has also come from the very lips of the Risen Lord in the evening of His Resurrection???

Certainly “to retain” and bring about the retention of sins is not one made to limit the unconditional mercy of God. We are all familiar with the sin against the Holy Spirit which cannot be forgiven, because the sinner, in his inalienable freedom of choice, rejects the true God he knows and His forgiveness.   

There is an increasingly popular doctrine which teaches that there is no hell, neither is there sin that takes one to hell. The loving God, the same heretical doctrine teaches, if He is true to His unconditional mercy and love, automatically overlooks all sins and takes everyone to heaven. Already it sounds robotic! However, forgiveness is meaningless unless there is something to forgive, sin. To say that there is no sin is also to call God a liar when He sent Jesus to die for the forgiveness of sin. Sin is sin. Its serious consequence, damnation, has to be taken seriously. The sinner has to recognize its grave consequence, admit it, repent and do amendment in his life. If he doesn’t, the Church, precisely out of mercy, must retain the sin, as a way to warn and encourage the sinner to take his sin seriously, repent, seek forgiveness and amend his life. Indeed, to retain sin is part of God’s love, justice, and mercy.

In this modern age, more and more people are losing any sense of sin. Some go to Confession rattling away sins with no sense of remorse and of their grave consequence, casually going through the disinfectant confessional box, in case… they go to hell. For their own good, their sins will have to be retained until they become serious about their sins and repentance, and amendment. Anyone who heartily owns his sins and real sins and is repentant, God’s mercy and love is always there, boundless. To retain sins therefore is part of God’s mercy and love, a power given ultimately for the forgiveness of sins.  

We celebrate Pentecost in 2020 locked down in our homes, unable to gather and become “Church” (the Assembly of those who believe) physically. What shall we do? First, we must believe that, as on the first evening of the Resurrection, no wall, no door, can prevent the coming of the Risen Jesus the Bearer of the Holy Spirit to us! God’s work is not bound by His own sacraments, (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1257). Even baptism by desire is valid baptism.

Our true life of faith actually begins in the mystery of personal selves under the influence of the Holy Spirit to profess “Jesus is Lord”. No church gathering, no sacrament, no nothing, can substitute that!  But we need to be honest. Sunday after Sunday, Pentecost after Pentecost, we substitute our personal faith and life led by the Spirit with just “attending church”. This pandemic is certainly an extraordinary gift for each of us to take the essential journey not to the building of the Church, but to the longest journey first, into our heart and spirit and to get into the primary and essential business of our personal, and inner faith and life.  

Come O Holy Spirit, the Power of God, fill the hearts of your faithful, enkindle in us the fire of your love! Enkindle our faith, enkindle our zeal to live for God. Send a tongue of your flame, and blow a breath of your mighty wind into our heart, that we may experience a new Pentecost, a new irresistible urge to acknowledge our sins, to seek forgiveness, conversion, reconciliation, unity, and to become dynamic Soldiers of Christ. Renew us on our return journey to the Father, through Jesus His Beloved Son. On You we depend, on You we live. Amen! Amen! Amen!

Cover Image: A typical Western image of the Pentecost. Duccio di Buoninsegna (1308)

Quote Image: The Cenacle in Jerusalem is claimed to be the location of the Last Supper and Pentecost. (

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