“The Outpouring of the Holy Spirit”
Homily for the Sunday of the Pentecost
By Archbishop Cyril Salim Bustros
Sunday of the Pentecost
John (7:37-52, 8:12)
“The Outpouring for the Holy Spirit”
Today is the feast of the Holy Spirit. In the Old Testament the prophets announced that the Spirit of the Lord would rest on the hoped-for Messiah for his saving mission. The descent of the Holy Spirit on Jesus at his baptism by John was the sign that this was he who was to come, the Messiah, the Son of God. He was conceived of the Holy Spirit; his whole life and his whole mission are carried out in total communion with the Holy Spirit whom the Father gives him “without measure” (John 3:34).
We read in the Gospel of Luke that Jesus came to Nazareth, and went to the synagogue; and there he was given to him the book of Isaiah. He opened the book and found the place where it was written: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord” (Luke 4: 18-19). The Holy Spirit is the power of God to do all the good works in the world.
This fullness of the Holy Spirit was not to remain uniquely the Messiah’s, but was to be communicated to the whole messianic people, as we heard in the address given by Peter to the crowd referring to the Prophet Joel: “And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all mankind”.
On several occasions Christ promised this outpouring of the Holy Spirit to his disciples. During the Mystical Supper, he told them: “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will pray the Father, and he will give you another Consoler, to be with you for ever, the Spirit of truth whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him; you know him, for he dwells with you, and will be in you” (John 14:15-17).
And before his ascension to heaven, he told them: “John Baptized with water, but before many days you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit… You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you, and you shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8)
This promise he fulfilled on Easter Sunday, according to the Gospel of St. John, and then more strikingly on the day of the Pentecost, according to St. Luke. We read in St. John: “In the evening of that same day… Jesus came and stood among the disciples and said to them: Peace be with you… As the Father has sent me, even so I send you. And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and said to them: receive the Holy Spirit. For those whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven, for those sins you retain, they are retained” (John 20:19-23).
On Easter the disciples were baptized by their union to the risen Lord. On Pentecost, which is a Greek word that means the fiftieth day after Pascha (Easter), they were confirmed by the descent of the Holy Spirit, as we heard in the passage of the Acts of the Apostles. The Holy Spirit descended on the Apostles so that they started speaking in several languages “telling the mighty works of God” and preaching, without fear of the Jews, the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. This fiftieth day after the Passover was, for the Jews, the remembrance of the Sinai Covenant in which God gave the Law to Moses and to the Hebrews. After the Resurrection of Jesus we are no more under the Law: the ancient Law was replaced by the Holy Spirit. In this descent of the Holy Spirit lies the difference between the Old Testament and the New Testament. We read in the Prologue of St. John: “The Law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” (John 1:17). The grace is the Holy Spirit Himself given to us through the Sacrament of Chrismation (called in the Western Church Confirmation).
What does mean, for us today, to be baptized with the Holy Spirit? It means a radical change in our mind and in our deeds; it means to be a new creation, to have a new mind according to God, not according to the flesh, and to act according to God’s will, not according to our sinful egoistic will. God is Love, and His Spirit is the Spirit of Love. When we are baptized with the Holy Spirit, all our deeds must be filled with love. St. Paul says to the Galatians: “Walk by the Spirit, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh … Now the works of the flesh are plain: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, anger, selfishness, dissension, party spirit, envy, drunkenness, carousing and the like.” And he adds: “I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things shall not inherit the Kingdom of God”. Then he describes the fruit of the Spirit: “But the fruit of the Spirit is: love, joy, peace; patience, kindness, goodness; faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires”. And he concludes: “If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. Let us have no self-conceit, no provoking of one another, no envy of one another” (Gal. 5: 16-26).
How must be our relationship with the Holy Spirit? Our vocation as new creatures is to follow the inspiration of the Holy Spirit in order to become spiritualized, divinized. Our Eastern Spirituality is a spirituality of divinization. We are not afraid to use this term. Jesus sent us the Holy Spirit to divinize us. There are two phrases in St. Paul which summarize our relationship to the Holy Spirit. In I Thessalonians he writes: “Do not quench the Spirit”, and in another translation: “Do not restrain the Holy Spirit”, or “Do not stifle inspiration” (5:19). When we hear God speaking to us, and the Holy Spirit inspiring us to do good and to shun evil, let us not close our ears. Otherwise the words of Isaiah will be applied to us; “This people’s heart has groan dull, and their ears are heavy of hearing, and their eyes they have closed” (Mt. 13:15). That is quenching the Holy Spirit.
Another expression Paul uses in his Letter to the Ephesians is also worthy to keep in mind in our relationship with the Holy Spirit. He says: “Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, in whom you were sealed for the day of redemption” (5:30). We grieve the Holy Spirit by our sins. This reminds us of Jesus weeping on Jerusalem: “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you that kill the prophets and stone those who are sent to you! How often have I longed to gather your children, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you refused! Behold, your house will be left to you desolate” (Matthew 23:37-38). Let us not grieve the Holy Spirit by our sins, let us not cause Jesus weep on our house, the house of our soul, which will be destroyed if we “do not know the time of our salvation” (Luke 19:41-44).
Before every office and at the beginning of the Divine Liturgy we pray to the Holy Spirit to come and sanctify us. Let us pray every day this prayer:
“Heavenly King, Consoler, the Spirit of truth, present in all places and filling all things, the treasury of blessings and the giver of life, come and dwell in us, cleanse us from all stain and save our souls, O Good One”.