Renew Our Hearts and Nigeria with Your Spirit O Lord!

Pentecost Sunday, Year B. Homily by Archbishop Ignatius A. Kaigama at Parish of the Twelve Apostles, Abuja, May 23, 2021.

Readings: Acts 2:1-11; Ps. 103(104): 1, 24, 29-31, 34; 1 Cor. 12:3-7, 12-13; Jn. 15:26-27, 16:12-15

Renew Our Hearts and Nigeria with Your Spirit O Lord!

Today brings an end to this year’s Easter Season. We are celebrating a promise fulfilled, with the coming of the Holy Spirit, during the Jewish Pentecost, a festival of harvest, which, with time, became a festival marking the conclusion of the Covenant on Mount Sinai.

Acts 2 describes what happened on Pentecost day: The twelve Apostles, now including Matthias and the others were all together. A sound like a violent wind blowing, and something like tongues of fire came on the disciples. This resulted in a radical transformation that was interior and external, filling them with grace and power to courageously speak as witnesses of Jesus both to Israel and to the world. The miracle to speak in foreign tongues was so that the Gospel would be understood by those present from foreign lands. The listeners concluded that the group was drunk. Peter explained however that they were not a group of drunks, but the event was a fulfilment of God’s promise in Joel 2 to pour out His Spirit upon all people, so that they could prophesy and see visions.

The act of the Holy Spirit which swept into this community of the disciples of Jesus, who were in prayer, marked the official inauguration/birthday of the Church.

Happy birthday to our over 2,000 year-old one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church!

Pentecost was said to be a “Unity Feast”; for it reversed the disaster of Babel that divided the human family (cf. Gn. 11), but now opened racial and linguistic borders.

By this feast today Jesus renews our baptismal and confirmation mandate with the Holy Spirit to enable us go into our world to bring peace, healing, reconciliation, unity, joy, love and salvation; not war, not violence, not immorality and not corruption. He wants us to achieve unity in our diversity.

Our fervent prayer today is: Come O Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of Nigerians that we may achieve sincere understanding and unity; to be sanctified and consecrated in the truth. Truth is crucial to our survival and progress. We ask the Holy Spirit to cleanse our land soaked by the blood of innocent victims spilled by terrorists, kidnappers and anti-social citizens. May the Lord grant them eternal rest and reward as well as to Lt. Gen. Ibrahim Attahiru, Chief of Army Staff and his co-travellers who died in a tragic air crash.

Jesus did not want to create the illusion that being His disciples would spare us the trials and tribulations of our time as we find ourselves in our country today. In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus is clear that people will “revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you” (Mt. 5:11). In John 15 Jesus says the world will hate you without a cause and those who kill you will think they are doing something noble. Jesus reminded we believers that we will be scattered (cf. Jn. 16: 32), but the consolation is that we have the Advocate, the Counsellor, the Holy Spirit, to help us remain steadfast.

A journalist with the Voice of Nigeria asked me last Sunday what we can do about the unending insecurity and corruption and how the Holy Spirit will help us at Pentecost? I responded that the Spirit transforms, edifies, guides and teaches, as long as we open the doors of our hearts to let God in, and to embrace positive and transforming change. God does not force change on us. Our values must change for the better. Today, when someone shows you direction, helps to carry your handbag or opens the gate for you, he gives you this piercing look that seems to say, “Are you not going to financially reward me?” Today, it is easy to swear an affidavit to change one’s age, whether for a football career, NYSC purposes, or for getting a job. Our abusive language and lack of respect for one another especially in the social media is to say the least, unafrican. White lies are told as if they don’t matter. Someone is telephoning from the back of his house but says he is just arriving Lagos! Parents fight dirty with school authorities in defence of their children who were perhaps justifiably punished for an offence. Regrettably, we are losing the value of life and the dignity of the human person as evidenced by the frequent kidnappings and killings such as in the case of the recent attack on St. Vincent Ferrer’s Catholic Church, Malumfashi, Katsina State, and the gruesome murder of its young and newly appointed Parish Priest, Rev Fr. Alphonsus Bello and the kidnap of the elderly Fr. Joe Keke.

Let us pray that the Holy Spirit will lead all of us in Nigeria to positive interior change and transformation. We adhere a lot to religious rules, customs, traditions and dwell so much on religious externalities, but lack the practice of religion that should liberate us Nigerian Christians and Muslims from our religious and ethnic prejudices that have held us in severe bondage and retarded us from genuine growth and development.

Through the Holy Spirit, Jesus makes us missionaries of love and compassion: “As the Father has sent me, so I send you” (Jn. 20:21). Jesus gives us through the Holy Spirit the heart to forgive (cf. Jn. 20:23) and the Holy Spirit helps us to live as children of God, binds and unites us as a Church and as a nation.

As we celebrate the primacy of the Holy Spirit 1 John 4:1 urges us that not every spirit can be trusted; test them to see if they come from God.

As we have been given to drink of the same Spirit” (1 Cor. 12:13), may the Holy Spirit help us to bear abundant fruits of love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, kindness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (cf. Gal. 5:22-23), “not by power nor by might, but by my spirit, says the Lord Almighty” (Zech. 4:6).

Peace be with you!

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