CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 24 August 2019

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Conquer your fears in the new Pentecost

It is the birthday of the Church today! The Solemnity of the Pentecost marks the birth of the Church. The daring public address of the apostle Peter, was a war-cry against the fears which kept him and his friends enclosed and shut down for weeks after the brutal bloodshed and killing of their Master. 
 
The biggest difference in the life of the disciples after the Pentecost was that they were no longer scared of anything. The enemy had succeeded in creating fear in the minds of the disciples through the gruesome killing of Jesus. Torture, bloodshed and death are not for the faint-hearted. Fear is the biggest enemy of a believer. The Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost helped them to conquer that fear. 
 
Human history has witnessed violent torture and gruesome killings by oppressive forces to intimidate victims. Yet, in spite of relentless persecutions, the Church counts around half of the world’s population as believers in Jesus. Although no one loves bloodshed and martyrdom, the followers of Christ have always found them a worthier option than compromising their faith. “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church,” wrote Tertullian over 1,800 years ago. Sacrificing one’s life for the sake of faith was accepted as the crown of glory. Hence, the apostles themselves and leaders of the early Christian community were martyred for their faith. 
 
Pentecost is not a one-time experience in the Church. The community of believers, nurtured by the broken body and blood of Christ, continues to defy persecutions. On 24 August 2008, massive violence against the Christians broke out in Kandhamal district of Odisha State in India. The violence lasted for four months and saw over 100 Christians were killed, nuns raped and over 56,000 people were rendered homeless. Hundreds had to hide in the jungles for weeks. Many in India believed that it was the end of the Church in this tribal region. People cannot be silenced for long by inducing fear. Youngsters who witnessed violence, rapes and murders, and were forced to hide in jungles for weeks, came out in large numbers to be the new line of leadership in the Church—a new wave of Pentecost. 
 
Ten years later, on 27 December 2018, four survivors of the violence were ordained priests in Kandhamal. The flurry of vocations to religious and consecrated life, in spite of facing life-threatening violence, is hard to explain except for the new Pentecost in the Church. Every year, the celebration of Pentecost is an invitation to all the faithful to conquer their fears. What are the fears that haunt us today?  
 
Biblical images associated with the Pentecost are the earthquake, the wind and the fire. No human power can resist an earthquake. The wind is a reference to “the wind hovering over the waters” in the book of Genesis. The fire of the Pentecost is not the fire of destruction but the fire of love of the Spirit of Jesus. 
 
When the oppressive and destructive powers of the enemy are staring down on you, you might easily lose hope. If you ever thought that nations, people, situations and circumstances are irreversible, then the story of Pentecost is for you. It brings you a wave of new hope and a new birth. We await the new Pentecost. jose