by Fr Stanley Antoni
Responsorial Psalm 67:29-30,33-36
Holy Spirit, help us to be one with You
The Holy Spirit described by Jesus as “Dunamis“. It means Power. This Power of the Holy Spirit turns the world upside down. This is because the Holy Spirit shocks, amazes and astonishes the world. And we see this clearly in the bible. We see the Holy Spirit turning the world upside down and this power is so real in the bible. The Holy Spirit brings to life what is dead, heals what is wounded, purifies what is defiled and finally, most probably, restores righteousness to what is corrupted.
That is why when the Spirit descends, it turns the world upside down.
And Luke records this and we know Acts of the Apostles, some scholars are saying, is the Gospel of the Holy Spirit. You want to know how the Holy Spirit works? They said you read Acts of the Apostles, you will know how the Holy Spirit works. And Luke records in Acts Chapter 17:5-7 how Christians turn the world upside down.
And I want to focus only Verse 6. Go back you can read 5 to 7. However, they found only Jason and some other brothers and these they dragged before the City Council, shouting, “The people who have been turning the world upside down have come here now.” So Christians somehow have challenged the religious leaders and the civil leaders of that time in the sense that they turned their world upside down. And that is why there is a lot of turmoil, a lot of struggle whenever they see Christians.
That is why today, my dear friends, as we gather here to reflect on this theme “Holy Spirit, helps us to be one with you“, we are urged to reflect whether we are ready for such kind of union of the Holy Spirit or not. The Spirit that is not only going to turn our lives upside down but also turn the world upside down. And that is why Jesus describes the Holy Spirit as Dunamis, as Power.
So that is why today, are we ready to be in union with this Spirit that shocks, that amazes and that astonishes us and also the world?
So before we say ‘Yes’ or ‘No’, as good Catholics we need to see the consequences. We need to see what are the challenges that we are going to face if we desire for such union. Like Jesus, more so the disciples of Jesus, not only struggle to embrace Dunamis but most of all they died gruesome deaths. And that is why when the world is turned upside down, people will react. And they reacted to Christians in the Acts of the Apostles.
And that is why today Dunamis, which means power, is what Jesus promised His disciples. And that power turns the world upside down. And we see this clearly in the First Reading when Paul explicitly warn Christians the consequences of being empowered by the Holy Spirit. He told them to get ready to be attacked by the wolves.
“I am going away. I have prepared you. I have prayed over you.
Now get ready to be attacked by the wolves.”
Why? Because the Lamb will turn the world of wolves upside down. And that is why when that world of wolves turn upside down, they are not going to keep quiet. They will seek revenge. The American translation says, “Grievous wolves will come. They will attack you. They will try to kill you. They will try to rob you. Rob the holiness, the conviction and the good acts of the Lamb.“
And that is why from Paul we come to know that this is something that is expected. We need to anticipate such thing to take place because conflicts or war is inevitable when truth meets lies. When vulgarity meets purity. When gentleness meets violence. There will be war, there will be attacks. So what are these things? Violence, vulgarity and lies – these are the world of wolves. When the Lamb goes in and try to establish, and try to reveal the power of truth, gentleness and purity, it is inevitable the wolves will attack. And get ready. And that is why Paul says to the shepherds:-
“Empower your flock. Take charge of them. Take care of them.“
And that is why today, my dear friends, the Holy Spirit turns the world upside down. And Jesus is in the Gospel told His disciples once they embrace the Spirit of truth, the world will hate them because once you receive the spirit of truth, your world will be turned upside down. And these truths will cause uproar in the world. Like it or not, the problem is not with the truth. The truth in nature, by nature, is one, is unity, is union, harmony and solidarity. That is the nature of truth. The problem is people who knowing, after knowing the truth, the refuse to consecrate, they refuse to embrace the truth so they are the ones going to cause division, disruption, chaos and choose to remain indifferent.
The problem is not with the truth. The problem is people in relation to truth.
And that is why today Jesus says, “Be careful. Watch out. The world is going to hate you.” Again, Jesus used the word “World” not “Earth” because the earth was created by God. It is good. It remains good. It has been saved by God. But the World can be created by us which need not be good. And that is why today the World that fails to consecrate itself to truth is going to cause a lot of problems.
So there is a conflict between the consecrated world and the world that desecrates truth. And that is why Jesus said, “Be careful. You will be hated. You will be silent. You will be pushed aside.” And that is the consequences for you to embrace the spirit of truth.
So my dear friends, Jesus, Saint Paul, in fact all the Saints, have personally and explicitly told Christians the consequences of Dunamis. To be in union with the Spirit, it means turning our world upside down. And we see this in the lives of Saints. Nobody can deny this. Yet not all Saints receive equal attention. Some Saints are casually put aside. We don’t invoke them, we don’t talk about them. One such Saint is Saint Oscar Romero.
Saint Oscar Romero. Like it or not, Oscar Romero shocked the world. Astonished Christians and amazed the world. Yet, he is not invoked. Have you heard Catholics in Malaysia organising Novenas, seeking the intercession of Oscar Romero? I have never heard of this. Yes, devotion to the Divine Mercy, Saint Anthony, Padre Pio, great Saints but we don’t hear people organising Novenas seeking intercession of Oscar Romero. Why? Perhaps we don’t want to invoke the Spirit that worked in Oscar Romero.
Oscar Romero’s world turned upside down. That Dunamis made an impact in his life.
First, that Spirit challenged him to move from being a conservative to an orthodox, says “Move! You are very contented with conservatism. You move ahead!”
Second, that Spirit told him not to remain indifferent to social issues. “Get involved! Touch! Make it pure, make it beautiful, make it good. Try to restore all that has been lost.“
Finally, the scariest of most, I suppose, is his gruesome death.
So can you see the Spirit, the Dunamis, challenged Oscar Romero to go to areas that you and I rather not go? And that is Dunamis. That is the Power that Oscar Romero experienced in the sense that when the Spirit comes, the world of the Spirit is not just about heaven. It is also about earth. It is not just about religion but also about politics. It is not just about cult but also about cultures.
And that is why today, my dear friends, let us ask again the same question that we started:-
Do we want this Dunamis? The Dunamis that is going to turn our world upside down? Do we really, really want to be in union with this Dunamis?
The choice is yours. The choice is mine. But Jesus described it as Dunamis and Saints have proven and demonstrated the effects of Dunamis.
So my dear friends, some realities to reflect as Christians. I have listed down eight here for us to reflect whether we want Dunamis to turn our world upside down or not:-
The first one. When election whether it is religious or civil becomes an organised lie, discernment dies. Democracy is dead. And this is the world where we need to expose the lies and proclaim the truth. We need to tell people there is a big difference between discernment and scheming. So we need to turn this world upside down. Organised lies in the name of election.
Second reality. When taxation is the relocation of monies to the elites to bail out selective GLCs. If that happens, that purpose of taxation is manipulated. So can we turn this world upside down by seeking for greater sense of accountability? If not, this world is going to continue and this world contradicts the world of the Spirit. So as Christians, what is our response?
Third reality. When disappeared or abducted people are still missing, then solidarity among us is dead. So we need to grow in the greater sense of solidarity and belonging. The kind of solidarity and belonging that seeks, that defends. Do you realise, I don’t know, more and more we have forgotten about Pastor Khor, we have forgotten about Indra Gandhi. Somehow we forget. Somehow we tend to say “It’s okay.” How can this happen? Why do we tend to forget? Will the Spirit forget? Will Christians who have experienced deep sense of solidarity will let go of this? I don’t know.
The fourth. When we witness people engaging in daylight robbery, integrity is dead. None of us cannot say we don’t know these robbers. And yet we say “It’s okay.” The recent Synod, do we deliberate on the issue of corruption? What is the world of Dunamis? Where will the Spirit lead us?
Fifth. When the selective and prominent guilty ones move around freely, the sense of shame is dead. We need to create and remind people and instill in them a greater sense of sin, shame and judgment. If you don’t believe me, go and read the Gospel of John. Jesus will say, “When the Spirit comes down, you will prove the world wrong in three things.” What are these three things? You go and discover.
The sixth reality. When victims are not restituted by employers or companies, justice is dead. So this world need to be turned upside down. We need to defend, we need to restore justice for the victims. Do we do that as Christians?
Seventh. When education stops at skills and efficiency, education is dead. We need to advocate the need for a holistic pedagogy that assures holistic education, especially for the poor. It is something that I have learned from Plato. Plato knew that the Sophist somehow have hijacked the real motive, the real purpose of education. What Plato did? He started the first university, academy. And in that academy, he taught the Greeks philosophy, how to seek truth, how to detect incoherent arguments. When the Greeks started to learn philosophy, they started to grow – How to speak, what is truth, what is democracy, what is justice. And that is how Plato somehow contributed to the revival of the Greek civilisation. So today, now as Christians, look around. What kind of education that we are subscribing? What can we do? Don’t tell me “nothing”. If Dunamis comes down, if all of us are seeking for that union, Dunamis will provoke us to do something.
And finally when social media engages in propaganda and aspires to get personal data of people for manipulation purposes, trust has died. We need to remind these people this is wrong.
So today, my dear friends, as we gather here to reflect on this theme, “Holy Spirit, help us to be one with you“, we must remember the Spirit that we are invoking is Dunamis. And when He comes down, according to Luke, He turns the world upside down. So, are we ready to allow the Holy Spirit to turn our world upside down?
In all honesty, as individuals or as a community of families, as a parish, how have we shocked, amazed, astonished people around us? How have we shocked people? Amazed them? They are astonished with us? Where do you get this wisdom? From where do you get this courage? How can you keep on forgiving? What is the secret of this enduring love? Do we astonish people?
Finally, how our experience of the Holy Spirit, the Dunamis, has brought about or will bring life to what is dead? For that, we need to identify what is dead, healing to the wounded, purify what is defiled, restore righteousness to the corrupted.
And that is why today, my dear friends, Jesus told His disciples to wait for the Dunamis. They waited. Dunamis came down and their world was turned upside down. Their experience of Dunamis led them to turn the world upside down.
So today, what is your experience of Dunamis? What is my experience of Dunamis? Some of us are saying “We are still waiting.” Some of us are already turning the world upside down. Congratulations to you.
I don’t know about you. I am just going to talk about myself. But I am not. I am praying very hard that the Dunamis will change my life upside down. First of all, I must be astonished and shocked with the Holy Spirit so that whatever I touch as a priest, whenever I minister to people, that they will experience that Dunamis, that Dunamis who is going to turn our world upside down. And that is the Spirit that Jesus described.
So today, my dear friends, may Oscar Romero pray for us. So I want you to spend one minute in silence.
Is your world upside down? Or is your world perfectly okay?
Are you an astonishing catholic? Of course, you are beautiful, you are handsome. But astonishing in another sense. When you are there, people feel the power of the Spirit.
Again, may Oscar Romero who shocked the world pray for us.
Click below to listen to the homily and watch the video:-