COME HOLY SPIRIT, FILL THE HEARTS OF THE FAITHFUL ENKINDLE THEM WITH THE FIRE OF YOUR LOVE. SEND FORTH THY SPIRIT AND THOU SHALL RENEW THE FACE OF THE EARTH.
In the Diocese of Lodwar in Kenya, where I was appointed Bishop three months ago, we are faced daily with the problems that are associated with Africa. What most people know about Africa is that it is a continent full of problems: Civil wars, ethnic clashes, famine, HIV/AIDS, corruption; bad leadership, tribalism, etc.
In one of our parishes, we have a huge refugee camp hosting over 80,000 people, mainly from Somalia who are fleeing the war in their country. In the beginning of the month of May, some fighters from a tribe in Ethiopia that are our neighbours killed over 30 people from the Parish of Todonyang. One of those who died was the parish chairman.
Right now we are undergoing a very severe drought that is already causing people and animals to die because of hunger and thirst. Confronted with all these daily problems that no one seems to have the solution, the temptation is to give up and allow despair to set in; to lose hope.
The fact is, that what is happening outside us, the calamities of nature and the ills of our society, mirrors the struggles and challenges we face inside ourselves and in our own hearts. We are aware of our own weaknesses and sins, our brokenness, breakdowns in our own families, the inner fears we have to face, the lack of love that surround us, the absence of inner peace, etc. We can be caught up in situations that lead us to depression, acute anxieties and the inability to go on with life. How we long for a new start, for a new world a new renewal in us and in our world!
When our Lord Jesus Christ was crucified and died, many, including his own disciples, thought that it was the end of the hope and the promises He had made, especially to those who had believed in Him. The two disciples of Emmaus could only remark: “Our hope had been that he would be the one to set Israel free”. They could only talk in the past tense. Their hopes had been dashed and they were on their way home. Thomas the Apostle had disappeared and was not with the rest of the apostles when our Lord, after rising from the death, had appeared to them. He was a man full of doubts and wanted proofs and assurances to believe. The rest of the disciples were closed in, locked in their room, full of fear and afraid of the Jews. They were lost and disillusioned.
The Lord Jesus, after His resurrection, had to go all over Jerusalem to look for them and gather them together. For forty days after His resurrection, He had to intercept the Emmaus disciples and He had to reassure Thomas not to doubt any longer. He helped St Peter to affirm his love and refocused him in his vocation of shepherding the community of faith that he came to establish.
Having told them that He was going back to His Father, the Lord Jesus instructed them to stay in the city of Jerusalem - “until you are clothed with power from on high” (Lk 24:49); what Jesus called the promise of the Father.
The solemnity we are celebrating today, the day of Pentecost is when this promise from the Father was fulfilled. This is the day when God poured the Holy Spirit on the community of believers gathered around the mother of Jesus, the Blessed Virgin Mary and St Peter, the one chosen to be the shepherd of the nascent Church.
We know how transforming this power from above was. From a group that was closed in, afraid and full of fear, the apostles came out, full of courage, fired up with faith and love, boldly proclaiming the Good News of Jesus Christ. From people who were full of doubts and unbelief, there emerged people who were ready to suffer all and die for their faith in Jesus Christ. They travelled to far distanced countries to witness and share with others their new hope and life in Jesus Christ. They took to heart the command of their master “Go, therefore, make disciples of all nations, baptise them in the name of the Father and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, and teach them to observe all the commands I gave you. And look, I am with you always; Yes, to the end of time” (Mt 28:20).
From that time on, many men and women, one generation after another have continued to share the new life and faith in Jesus Christ. Filled with the Spirit of Jesus Christ, they are conscious that the only language they have is the language of love. With this language they are able to speak to the hearts of all. All the barriers and walls that divide human beings are broken down because when they love with such a divine love they conquer everything.
I am always overwhelmed by the presence of men and women in the Diocese of Lodwar, who like a burning candle, have spent their lives in the desert of Turkana, amidst shortages and deprivations of all kinds, witnessing to their faith day and night serving the people of God there. They have started schools to bring education to the people of Turkana. They cross rivers and valleys to bring medicine to the sick and save lives. They have searched for funds to provide water for the people and their animals. They are willing to share what they have when the hungry come knocking at their doors.
What is driving such people to leave aside the plenty and the good life of Europe, America and other parts of Europe to go to a place like Turkana to live and die there? What makes them to freely choose not to raise a family but to live a life of chaste celibacy in commitment to Jesus Christ?
We can only answer these questions by saying that they have been touched by the Spirit of Jesus Christ. They have let themselves be led the Spirit of God who gives them strength and a very high sense of purpose, to live only for God and His will.
As we celebrate Pentecost, it is important for us to examine ourselves to see whether truly we have welcomed the Paraclete into our own lives. We need to find out whether we have opened our hearts to that power that makes us feel and know that we are children of God. We also need to check whether we have created in ourselves some barriers that block the Holy Spirit from operating in our lives. We know that when we are led by the Holy Spirit we have peace, joy, love, kindness, self-control and other fruits of the Holy Spirit in our own hearts.
Let us ask our Mother Mary, the spouse of the Holy Spirit to pray for us so that we may be men and women full of the Holy Spirit, ready to be transformed ourselves so that we may transform and change the face of this world.
Bishop Dominic Kimengich is currently on a short visit to England. The St Paul’s Missionary Community runs health, education, water and agricultural projects in Turkana. If you would like to support their work please see: www.newways.org.uk/
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