Archbishop Banda’s Pentecost Homily
Today, we are commemorating the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the disciples, the continuous presence of God amongst His people. This Feast marks a watershed – event; a defining moment in Christian history. It is the “birthday” of the Church. On Pentecost the Church began its public ministry.
Our first Reading recounts the descent of the Holy Spirit. As it were, the disciples lived in fear and behind closed doors in the Upper Room.
This is the same Upper Room where Jesus celebrated the last Supper, and inaugurated the Eucharist and the Priesthood.
It is in the Upper Room, where Jesus appeared several times after His resurrection to impress on His disciples that He was risen and alive.
It is in the Upper Room where Jesus challenged Thomas to touch the holes of his wounds and told him that; happy is the man who believes without seeing.
It is in the Upper Room, where now the Holy Spirit descends with power upon the disciples. It is in the Upper Room where the Church is born.
On Pentecost, in the upper room, Peter stood up to preach his first sermon. And he interpreted the events of that morning in the light of the prophecy of Joel (Joel 2:28-32). In that text, God promised to pour out His Spirit on all people and empower them to exercise divine power. On that score, Peter went on to explain that Jesus had been raised from the dead and had poured out His Spirit in the fulfillment of God’s promise through Joel (2:32-33).
When the crowds asked: what must we do? Peter replied: “convert and be baptized”. It was a call to a conversion of heart: A change of heart accompanied with an external form to symbolize that internal renewal, namely: baptism. Through conversion we come to a new way of understanding, a new way of thinking and a new orientation of life.
In the Upper Room of our heart; God wants us to be converted. In the Upper Room of our heart, God wishes to rekindle a new attitude towards one another and public property; a new perception about life; a new culture of work; and a new approach towards the common good.
The descent of the Holy Spirit ought to create in us an atmosphere and an environment that breaks barriers of language, race, tribe, gender, culture and political persuasion. Pentecost is a restoration of the precious gift of one language, the language of love. Those who allow themselves to be (converted) and transformed by the WORD and the SPIRIT of God will now speak a language of love – a language that knows no status, colour, race, tribe, gender, religion or political persuasion.
The true converted people speak a language of love with the ability to say, “I love you, I adore you, I care for you” and with the humility to be able to say: “I am sorry, I have messed up”; with the maturity to be able to say “I made a mistake, I misjudged you and I ask of your forgiveness”; and even the sensitivity to be able to say “I need you, you mean so much”.
It is in the upper room of our hearts that God dwells, and calls upon us to be accessible and not on account of our ability but rather on account of our availability. Ability without availability is a liability. Availability means that there is a sense of preparedness and readiness for God and others. It is not so much what we are capable of, but rather how much we allow ourselves to be guided and led by the Holy Spirit of God in the service of God and one another.
Now, that we are filled with the Holy Spirit, let us therefore go to the whole world and witness what the Lord has done for you. It is not on account of our ability but rather our preparedness and readiness to be filled with the Holy Spirit. The spirit that empowers us strengthens us and sustains us in our mission to communicate the truth of love and with love.
To communicate the same with love and not with bitterness and hard feelings; not with hatred, innuendoes and insinuations. Not even with hate speech, nor vulgar language and violence but being charitable with others. Even those we don’t agree with. May the gift of the Holy Spirit teach us a culture of civility to denounce all forms of violence, hooliganism, hateful speech and vulgar language.