On Pentecost Sunday we celebrate the great feast of God’s gift of God’s very self, the Spirit of God to us. The Risen Lord breaths his Spirit on his disciples and sends them to bear witness to his mission. The Holy Spirit appeared in the form of tongues of fire and enabled the apostles to preach the word of God with courage.
The Holy Spirit came upon the disciples when they had gathered in prayer. The Spirit of God prays with us too, when we gather to pray. St Paul says, “We do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes, with sighs too deep for words”. Further when ever the community is founded on faith, there the Spirit of God is alive. Only when our community is grounded on their own spiritual resources, will we experience the presence of God. Jesus says, “Where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I, in their midst”.
Just like God who raised Jesus the Son of God, from the dead, the Holy Spirit becomes the agent of our own everyday resurrection, in our mortal flesh. The Apostles were transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit and it is our hope that we would be transformed too by that same Spirit. Therefore, let us pray that the power of god be active in our lives.
We need to first pray for ourselves that we will be strengthened, encouraged and empowered to discern the truth, amidst so much of deception and untruth around us. Let us pray that God will help us to develop a Sri Lankan spirituality. A spirituality of silence and a spirituality of voice, which will go side by side and hand in hand. ‘Silence’ to listen to the still small voices of God, that will also come to us through the cries of God’s people around us. Also to understand our own calling and to realise what God is calling us to do, amidst such cries. The ‘voice’ is to express and reveal this reality of God’s crying people around us. This is also to give a voice to the unheard cries, the voiceless in our society, there by to enhance the bond of solidarity in the community. Such binding will also express the ‘community salvation’, rather than individual and selfish salvation or the liberation, that is much prevalent in our religious as well as social aspects of the community. This is important because even in the calling of individuals in the Bible, God calls them to be co-workers with God for community salvation. Certainly not for individual, personal or selfish inward looking liberation. Therefore, it is necessary for us to pray for ourselves, so that we uphold each other, in the total mission of God in our own country and in the world, for the liberation of the community.
The Spirit of God is also the Spirit of Freedom and Liberation. The apostles were freed from all bondage and fear. As much as in the world, it is also a reality in our own country that freedom is only served with lip service. Therefore let us uphold in our prayers all those whose freedom has been curtailed or denied in our society. We need to identify al least some of the main areas where freedom is being curtailed.
- Let us remind ourselves that there is hardly any freedom for dissent. To hold a different view from that is held by those who wield power, is understood as being opposed to them and that itself has become a crime to be dealt with. The cheapest interpretation of such alternate opinion is to be unpatriotic or a sacrifice of the nation. The greatest danger is that such persons are to live in the fear of their own lives, because the elimination of opposing ideas and persons, has become the order of the day. Therefore let us pray to the Spirit of Freedom that a situation be created, of a society where multiple opinions can survive side by side for the benefit of God’s people.
- On this feast of Pentecost let us remember all those who do not have the freedom to return to their own homes or localities. There are many in our society who are internally displaced due to a number of reasons. May be due to natural disasters, variety of other calamities and the war. The victims of such situations have been displaced for long periods of time, amounting to years and decades. There are many other conflict situations and people are in constant anxiety in real life. It does not necessarily mean that such persons should succumb to pressures of life. It remains the responsibility of all those in authority to provide for such persons, irrespective of any separation by ethnicity, race or religious affiliation. The Spirit of God is the usherer of new life. The strange gift of God, the Holy Spirit can do marvels in what ever the circumstances might be. The Holy Spirit transports us to a different realm of living, in spite of whatever our actual state in life might be. Therefore in that fear let us pray to the Spirit for freedom for such persons affected to return to normalcy begin their lives and livelihoods, anew.
- Forced disappearances are a very common occurrence today in our world, as much as in our country, which is confirmed by the Commission on Forced Disappearances. While leaving space for the ‘end of the war’, five years hence persons are still disappearing. Those who speak on behalf of the disappeared or constantly in search of them are also harassed. There is so much of uncertainty among close relatives or friends about their where-abouts and to the extent of not knowing whether they are alive or not. It is a civilised human tradition and a practice to remember the dead. Even that appears to be curtailed and have limited opportunity. Such reality is unbecoming of a civilised society. May we pray to the Spirit of Freedom to bring an end to such forced and unlawful disappearances and provide the opportunity to remember and uphold those whose lives have been terminated.
- God of all nations has called us to pray for all states and their leaders, that they may govern with justice and foster instruments of justice. We need to pray for our country, her leaders, the people and their judiciary. It appears that the independence of the Judiciary is fast disappearing and to some extent has already disappeared. God’s people who seek justice are the poorer by such lack of independence, even though it is their right to enjoy God’s justice. In view of this let us uphold our judiciary and all those responsible for imparting and protecting justice for our people, so that the ‘Rule of Law’ will be protected, fostered and allowed to prevail for the benefit of our people.
- People of Sri Lanka, whether in the South, North, East, West or in the Centre have long enjoyed freedom of assembly. This may be for a gathering in the village, to discuss matters of mutual interest, a social event of a funeral or a wedding or even for a gathering in a religious place of worship. Such gatherings are being curtailed in many ways, quite often. It has become almost impossible to gather for remembering the dead or for a peaceful protest, pertaining to matters of common interest. Our recent experience has been that such restrictions are brought about using court orders, citing national security. However, it is important for any democracy to permit such peaceful protests and similar gatherings. Let us pray to the Holy Spirit that such freedom be made available to all people in the country.
- Democracy is valued with much sanctity for many decades in our country. It is sad that people are fast losing faith in the democratic institutions. Free and fair elections is one of the most important casualties today. This is a corporate responsibility of all citizens in a country. Let us pray that God the Holy Spirit may intervene in a special manner to influence and challenge all concerned to preserve and foster democracy for our future generations. May the Spirit of God that broke in, as tongues of fire will kindle the flames of courage in us to influence and challenge ourselves in this task.
- Sri Lanka as a multi religious and multi ethnic pluralist country, has enjoyed freedom of religious practice through out our history. Religious extremism appears to be gradually destroying this harmonious freedom. Our people have co-existed with peace, harmony, understanding and respect for each other for generations, which has also assisted in our nation building. A very small number of aggressive and violent groups appear to have taken control of law enforcement and are acting in unreasonable and unjust manners. Religious freedom is necessary with justice to all. Sadly, political authorities have failed to control the situation. Let us uphold such groups and the authorities at this Pentecost and pray that religious freedom may be preserved in our land.
- It is rather urgent for us to remember with much concern and love, all those who have got used to, or are compelled to use ‘hate speech’, especially through our media. Let us appeal to them to refrain from such speech. Such speech inflicts violence in the minds of our children, young people and the adults. They can also effectively destroy the fabric of our society. Our prayers are solicited at this time earnestly, that God may empower us to speak meaningfully and call on them to refrain. All leaders both religious and political, have a moral responsibility to make this appeal and ensure the transformation of such people. May the Spirit of all transformation help us.
- Violence has reached unprecedented proportions in the country. Mass murder, terror and torture have become the order of the day. Hardly anything is done without the use of force or violence. Many have diminished in their patience. Discussion and dialogue are not trusted as ways of plan implementation. Young people’s minds are more geared to aggressive thoughts and violence. Terror is unleashed at the ‘batting of an eyelid’. Torture appears to be the only way forward in any investigation. Sadly, our society is engulfed in pain and agony, even though we are a nation blessed with the resources and teachings of four main religious traditions of the world. Let us pray for the intervention of the Holy Spirit to maintain peace, tranquility and sanity among us
- Accountability is a fast disappearing practice in our human community. Development and creative growth is ensured where there is accountability to each other. We as a nation have suffered over the years due to lack of this valuable character. Greed, selfishness and corruption have escalated around us and accountability has diminished. All leaders need to develop this quality of accountability, especially to those who have been committed to their care and concern. May the Spirit of Fire and Love encourage all our people and especially our leaders, to be accountable in all their dealings to build a sustainable society.
- Such non-accountability has manifested in many areas of trade and today especially the drug trade is mostly abused. Dangerous drugs have ruined many lives of children and young people, while there is sufficient evidence to believe that such trade is practiced with powerful political patronage. On the other hand life saving medicinal drug prices have rocketed sky high. Series of national plans have failed to control this situation. There is also so much of abuse in making low quality medicines available in the market and at times with those whose expiry dates have long passed. May the Holy Spirit touch the hearts of all those responsible for this state of affairs, so that the precious lives of many can be protected and nurtured.
- Sustaining life has always been a priority in God’s plan of the creation. There is perfect balance in the environment and sustainability with interdependence are marked features. But today there is willful rape of life sustaining and replenishing natural ecology. Human greed has led to the plundering of God’s creation which is our environment and life on earth is in danger. May the life affirming Spirit of God, help us to understand the responsibility that God has left in our hands and to truly commit ourselves to protect, foster and nurture the environment for future generations, who are the real owners and the inheritors of the mother earth.
- As we remember in our prayers all these concerns, we are reminded that the most vulnerable in our society are the children, the women and the differently abled. Let us bring before the throne of Grace all those organisations and individuals who are engaged and working with these groups, in order to empower and create awareness among them.
All these concerns amount to, denying life to the most vulnerable, the powerless and the voiceless in our midst. The major concerns do not end here. There are and will be many more, that need to be added on to this list of intercessions. Please feel free to add as many concerns as possible. We in Sri Lanka appeal to all well meaning persons through out the globe and especially our partners in mission, to pray on our behalf. Let us all pray for the guidance of the Holy Spirit that will stir us with tongues of fire to become agents of God’s justice and peace and instruments of communication that will create awareness among the people whose lives are denied. May this appeal bring peace, justice and every blessing to all concerned. May the Spirit of Justice empower us in this very important spiritual task.
Bishop Kumara Illangasinghe
Kandy, Sri Lanka.