The first Pentecost was an amazing event that found its way into the secular history books of the time because it signified the beginning of the phenomenon we call Christianity. How could a small group of people with little or no education and even less influence, transform the then known world in the space of a few short years? When the flame of Christianity took hold it just spread like wildfire and it all started with the tongues of fire that rested on the apostles that first Pentecost.
Something extraordinary happened in that upper room where the disciples had gathered. It was a place where initially there was more fear than courage. They were petrified that the same fate was going to befall them as had their master when suddenly something happened that transformed them into fearless witnesses full of courage and zeal. It was literally the birthday of the Church and the ongoing ripples of that event were to spread out and have such far reaching consequences that we are believers today because of it.
The Spirit that Jesus promised wasn’t poured out as a kick-start to get the infant church up and running. It was always part of the divine plan that every believer who accepted Jesus Christ as Lord of his or her life would be filled with that same Spirit. The Christian life is by definition a life of union with Christ lived in the power of the Spirit. Rather than being about will power it is about my will, yes, but working in conjunction with the power of the Spirit.
There is an incidence mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles where Paul goes to the city of Ephesus and meets with a group of the early followers of Jesus. They are a committed, prayerful, church going people and to them he puts a strange question. Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you were baptized? They look at him puzzled and reply, ‘we never even heard about the Holy Spirit’. If we were asked that question today would our answer be any different? Have we ever really heard of the Holy Spirit or grasped its significance for our lives? The Holy Spirit in our tradition has tended to be either the forgotten paraclete or that mysterious holy dove that no one seems to know too much about.
Each of us here has been confirmed. This carries the presumption, that we have received the Holy Spirit, but have we? I am not suggesting for one minute that God had not been true to His Word and witheld the gift of His Spirit. The question is have we received it for ourselves. For a gift to be truly gift there has to be both a giver and a receiver. Otherwise it is just like a parcel that has arrived but was never opened. For far too long we seemed to think that because the sacrament of Confirmation was given that it had some automatic and ongoing effect in our lives. If we but look around and see the way so many who have been confirmed live their lives, there is absolutely no evidence to suggest that this is true. Many who are confirmed go on to live Godless lives with no Christian values.
Some years ago Archbishop Desmond Tuto of South Africa was giving a sermon on the Holy Spirit. To illustrate what he was saying he brought along a very ordinary lightbulb. Each one of us he said is like the lightbulb, we are capable of being light up and radiating light; we have all we need to be lit up in ourselves except the power. Out task in life is to become connected to the source and to learn how to remain connected. The Holy Spirit of course is our source of power. It doesn’t come from above but from within. The more we learn to live from that deeper place within ourselves the more enlightened and empowered we become. This is precisely what happens when we pray or meditate, we are tapping into the infinite resources of Spirit within ourselves. We are living a deeper and more meaningful life where the storms of life don’t blow us away. It’s like what Jesus said that ‘In the world you will have trouble but in me you will find peace.’ One of the fruits of the Holy Spirit is Peace.
The Bible uses the term ‘Living in the Spirit quite a lot. How would we know whether or not if we are living a Spirit filled life? One of the best indicators has to be whether we experience the fruits of the Spirit in our daily lives.
The first of these is Love. This is a love way beyond myself which fills my heart to overflowing to the extent that I want to share it with everyone that I meet.
The second is Joy; which is an inner sense of wellbeing and goes much deeper than happiness because it is not dependent on external happenings.
Then there’s Peace, which I have just mentioned.
Patience; which we certainly need in order to put up with others shortcomings.
Followed by Kindness, which is such an endearing quality in anyone. Someone once said; Always be kinder than you think you need to be because everyone is broken enough to need kindness.
Gentleness, which is an indicator of inner strength. Only those who are weak have to use power and be controlling of others.
Finally we have the fruit of self-control where we are not enslaved by any form of passion or addiction. This is where we no longer see ourselves as a victim of anyone or anything but are very much in charge of our own lives. The opposite of this is where we might say I am not my own person anymore, my life is not my own or I am out of control.
Such are the fruits of the Spirit and the best indicators of living the Spirit filled life that we are called to. Jesus did say that it was by their fruits that people would recognize his disciples, so in relation to the fruits of the Spirit just how fruitful are we?