By Cardinal Charles Maung Bo., SDB – Archbishop Of Yangon, Myanmar
A JOYOUS, HEALTHY AND HAPPY PENTECOST!
To all the brothers and sisters gathered in your houses, Happy Feast. This is a significant day. The birthday of the Mother Church. After the 50th day of Easter, the light of Pentecost penetrates all darkness, the grip of Covid. Let this be the starting of the healing of the world from that pandemic.
May the power of the Holy Spirit pervade every nerve and every cell in your body and bring total healing to every one of you my brother and sister. This is a great day of deliverance.
Come Holy Spirit, fill our hearts with your wisdom.
Holy Spirit is not in regular conversation in our circles. You may go to church very often, you may hear about the Father, you may hear about Jesus the Savior but not many sermons are preached about the Holy Spirit. When Jesus was taken up to the heaven after ‘mission accomplished’ he promised the Holy Spirit to all his followers. In life, we need the Holy Spirit but we struggle through life because we have limited interaction with the Holy Spirit. Holy Spirit is the third person, not a spirit but a person, the Bible refers to as “He”. He interacts with all humanity every moment, every second. Each one of us, St Paul points out, is the temple of the Holy Spirit.
Yet we seldom seek his Wisdom. We are like the blind beggar begging with the golden plate.
A blind beggar used to sit in front of a temple and beg. People used to throw coins. Once a generous was about to throw a coin but suddenly felt the plate held out by the beggar looked different. He checked the plate. It was a gold plate. He exclaimed to the beggar: You are richer than anyone else. The blind beggar pleaded: Do not make fun of a blind beggar. I am a poor man. The other man replied: yes you are blind and begging but you are begging with a golden plate.
Many Catholics are like that blind beggar. Begging for wisdom and consolation, without knowing we have the golden presence of the Holy Spirit in us. He is not only present as an enabler and a spirit of empowerment but with seven generous gifts: wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord. Like seven sacraments, our spiritual life is fortified by these seven gifts.
Not only these seven gifts, but the Holy Spirit also accompanies us in seven different ways – building us in God. The Bible calls the Holy Spirit with various names.
- He is the PARACLETE, the comforter in our times of sorrow
- He is the Counselor who helps us to choose the good from evil,
- He is the Teacher who opens our eyes to the mysteries of the Bible
- He is the Accompanier in our life’s journey, guiding us to our destiny
- He is the Strengthener who stand by us in our times of brokenness and despair and loneliness
- He is the Intercessor with the Father in all our needs
- He is the Healer who heals with his soothing presence in us.
As we sail through the lockdown as families, we need to draw from the seven gifts of the Spirit and his seven attributes we just now referred to.
Holy Spirit is an integral part of the act of creation, redemption, and establishment of the salvation history. Before the creation of the world, he was hovering over the chaos; in the immaculate conception of the incarnate God the Spirit pays a role. When Jesus’ mission was accomplished, the promise of the Holy Spirit brought about Christ’s church. God’s active presence in the world is signified by the role of the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit is the wonder worker. When we become aware of his power in us, we are empowered to work wonders. For a moment, bring the scene of Peter preaching to more than three thousand people. Just a few weeks ago, he was not ashamed of betraying Jesus Christ, not once, not twice but three times. Cowardice gripped his soul. The other disciples ran away, leaving Jesus to trod the anguish of the Way of the Cross.
But with the coming of the Holy Spirit, there was a great wonder: every apostle’s mind was clarified. They understood the mission of Jesus candidly. They were filled with the desire for evangelization. The mutilating fear gave way to fearless proclamation. The cloud of confusion was melted and the truth of Christ’s mission illumined in their hearts. They were not afraid of martyrdom. Fired by the Holy Spirit, the unlettered- fishermen of Galilee would challenge the mighty Roman empire, travel to various nations to proclaim. When the Spirit took over they went out, turned the world upside down, and established a church that has survived two millennium years, inspiring billions of people to follow the way of Christ. This did not come through money or massive building but by the sheer power of the Spirit that worked in those simple men and women. They fulfilled Jesus prophesy in Acts 1:8 “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
Catholic Church needs to regain the power of the presence of the Holy Spirit. He dwells in each one of us: through our baptism, through our confirmation. You are the temple of the Holy Spirit. (1 Cor 6:19). He is the voice that guides us through good times and bad times.
Let me dwell a while on Prosperity Gospel:
Prosperity Gospel saw its birth in the capitalistic American dream. The core message is life is about enjoying material benefits in this world. Poverty is a curse and lack of blessing from God. Righteous people are always wealthy.
Prosperity Gospel is the teaching of the Bible packaged as a sweet promise of prosperity. Prosperity Gospel makes a bold claim: God will give you your heart’s desires: money in the bank, a healthy body, a thriving family, and boundless happiness. God wants to make every believer a rich man. A strong intangible faith leads to tangible wealth, earthly reward.
The believer will experience luxuries of life as a reward for good behavior. The prosperity gospel looks at the world as it is and promises a solution. It guarantees that faith will always make a way. If you believe, and you leap, you will land on your feet. If you believe, you will be healed.
Its preachers are called “Mega pastors” preaching to “mega-churches”. They preach to thousands in the stadiums and telecast to millions. They preach a ‘seed’ theology. “If you send 100 dollars (seed) to the ministry, God will give you a thousand dollars. (harvest)” Most of the mega pastors are millionaires.
The prosperity gospel encourages people — especially its leaders and preachers — to revel in private jets and multimillion-dollar homes as evidence of God’s love.
The pastors understand the condition of the people of today :
Believers wanted an escape: from poverty, failing health, and the feeling that their lives were leaky buckets. What they wanted was reassurance: that if they prayed, and believed, and lived righteously, they would be rewarded with some measure of comfort.
So the pastors preach a ‘Prosperity Gospel’ – if you believe and give generously to the church, you will reap a hundredfold in wealth and good health.
Most of these pastors belong to the Pentecostal churches. They also target-rich Christians. This movement has become a global phenomenon as inequality rises in many countries. Instead of looking into the root causes of human suffering, the structural causes of poverty ( huge wealth in the hands of a few rich people) prosperity gospel make everything fruit of the “individual effort”.
Because of the attractiveness of the message thousands get ‘anointed in the prosperity Churches’ with the Holy Spirit.
This is almost a sin against the Holy Spirit. Because soon after the Holy Spirit came upon Mary, her Magnificat was a succinct summary of the mandate of the Holy Spirit : (Luke 1: 53-53)
He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble. He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty.
And Jesus saying:
It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” Mk 10:25
Prosperity Gospel is against the present Pope since he insists on Christianity should be concerned about the distribution of wealth and uplifting of the poor. Often they term him as “Red Pope” (communist).
This prosperity Gospel is a very big obstacle for the spread of Christianity in the East. The religious traditions of the East like Hinduism, Buddhism insist on giving up luxuries and live a life of simplicity. To many people in the East Christianity seen from the prosperity Gospel view is another model of the market economy of the West. It has nothing to contribute towards the wisdom and simplicity of the eastern religions.
Prosperity Gospel preachers abuse the Holy Spirit since they often indulge in prophecies and speaking in tongues etc. Most of them claim to have been empowered by the Holy Spirit.
On the Pentecostal day the Holy Spirit came on the community of disciples and enriched them to proclaim the Good News of human oneness. They could go out and say “Then Peter said, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” (Acts 3:6)
Holy Spirit has received bad press from those who claim to be ‘anointed churches’. Having Holy Spirit is not running out and speaking in tongues and making noisy and hysterical exhibitions of healing, unending prophesy often attacking other religious people, creating divisions among people. That kind of Christianity has brought disrepute to the message of Christ.
When the Spirit comes, the Apostle Paul unequivocally states, purifies one’s life and live an ethical life. ‘Walk by the Spirit; not by the urgings of the lust’ ( Gal 5:16). There is a life change, a witnessing life that attracts others. On the Pentecostal day, there was an earth-shattering change in the hearts of the Disciples which provoked the change in the hearts of the 3000 people who heard them. Life changes and a Christian animated by spirit ‘ walks by the Spirit.”
Walking by Spirit implies we live by three principles :
- Present as the great Present: Live every moment, not to be distractions and the pains of the past, or the dreams of the future, but live every moment as the gift of the Holy Spirit.
- In Dependency: Living life in total dependence on God who is the provider, God who feeds the birds of the air and clothes the flowers of the field is always a providential Abba the Father.
- Guided by the Spirit: The Holy Spirit guides us through the jungle of life’s various confusions. Life is a constant struggle to choose. The Holy Spirit helps us to live of constant discernment.
These are pillars of an anointed person, a true follower of the Holy Spirit.
Once again the world is filled with false prophets who are too willing to misguide gullible faithful. These men claim to be “prophets” who claim to have a hotline to heaven and make frequent trips to heaven, peddle dubious predictions purported at the urging of the Holy Spirit, made Christianity a laughing stock and have diluted the message of Christ. The noise and hysteria supposed to the expressions of the Holy Spirit have scared thousands in reaching out to the salvific message of Christ. Christianity is not an emotional roller coaster. One of the reasons the East avoids Christianity is the noise and the din associated with the so-called Christian missions.
These obnoxious aberrations should not deter true Christians to seek the real gifts of the Holy Spirit. St Paul indicates every true Christian should seek the life-giving gifts from the Holy Spirit. (1 Cor. 12: 4-8)
There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. 6 There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work.
Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to other gifts of healing by that one Spirit.
We pray that as Catholics we become aware of the wonderful empowering gifts that is available to us. We celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit and the empowering of the Christian soul. Today we have come to celebrate the establishment of the Church through the intervention of the Holy Spirit.
More than ever we need the intervention of the Holy Spirit to cleanse every infected cell, to strengthen every wounded nerve. Only the Holy Spirit can destroy this virus. The Holy Spirit who hovered over the earth before creation, need to hover over each one of us, over each one of our families, over our cities and nations. We do hope all of us can return to churches after this feast.
We need to raise our hands and on our knees pleading with the Trinity. St Paul says true prayer comes at the urgings of the Holy Spirit.
In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. ( Rom 8:26)
We have sailed through the Lent season and Paschal seasons through heart-wrenching pain of the suffocating darkness. We are people of faith believing in a living, loving, and liberating God. Let the penetrating light of the Holy Spirit breaks through the darkness of pandemic to cleanse this world. Let each household that is listening to this filled with the Holy Spirit.
Let your Family be blessed with
Good health, peace, and presence of the Spirit.