PENTECOST SUNDAY A
GIVE US YOUR SPIRIT LORD
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today is the feast of Pentecost. A feast that takes place fifty days after the resurrection of Jesus and ten days after the Ascension. In the celebration of today, we pray the Lord to once more send his Spirit upon us, to renew our faith, renew his Church and renew the face of the earth.
Today we celebrate that day when the disciples of Jesus, renewed by the Holy Spirit, were able to open the doors to preach to all. This day is the birthday of the Church. There are seven gifts of the Spirit (wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord). These also produce the twelve fruits in the recipients: charity, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, generosity, gentleness, faithfulness, modesty, self-control, and chastity. The Spirit recreates us for eternal happiness.
First reading (Acts 2:1-11)
Luke begins his account of Pentecost as the fulfilment of the promise of Jesus to send the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles. Pentecost for the Jews was first an agricultural celebration but more importantly it celebrates the giving of the Law (Torah) on Mount Sinai at the time of the Exodus and Yahweh’s covenant with his people. Luke says that, “They were all together in one place” a recognition of the unity that the early church enjoyed (Acts 1:14). The rush of sound like a mighty wind, which filled the house, the tongues of fire, points to the power of God at work as in the days of old with Moses and Elijah. It signifies a commissioning.
Those who were filled with the Spirit began to speak in tongues as given by the Spirit. The feast of Pentecost also had international dimension to it. There were people from many nations from where the Jews lived. This greatly helped the scattering of the first seeds of the faith. At the sound of this happening, the people came together to see what had happened. The people gathered and all heard the message in their own language. While there was the gift of tongues, we cannot also rule out the gift of understanding given by the same Spirit to those who were listening.
The gift of tongues and understanding at Pentecost was a reversal of the Babel event (Genesis 11:1-9) in which those who wanted to build a tower to heaven ended up in confusion. At Pentecost, the reversal of Babel meant turning confusion into Communion.
Second reading (1 Corinthians 12:3-7, 12-13)
In this passage, it is evident that Paul was addressing a Corinthian community that has been divided along the line of its gifts and ministries. Such factionalism Paul says is unhealthy in a Christian Community. He develops this into a treatise on the body with the relationship of its many parts while they remain parts of a single body. Jesus had told his disciples, “I am the Vine and you are the branches, cut off from me you can do nothing.”
In developing the role of the Spirit in the community, Paul acknowledges that the greatest gift common to all is faith, a recognition that, ‘Jesus is Lord.’ This same Spirit manifests itself in many other ways in a variety of gifts which are meant for the entire community, one is only a caretaker of such a gift. To illustrate the unity and diversity of these gifts, Paul uses the analogy of the body. By this Paul situates every gift as coming from our baptism into Christ Jesus. Such gifts must then be used for the good of the community rather than allow it become a means of division.
Gospel (John 20:19-23)
In the Gospel of John, we have a collapse of the resurrection, Ascension and Pentecost into a single happening on the resurrection day. John says that it all happened on the evening of that same day of the resurrection—the first day of the week. The disciples obviously gathered in the upper room for fear of the Jews, but even behind closed doors, the Lord revealed his loving presence with the disciples bringing them peace.
Jesus also breathed on them, and said, “receive the Holy Spirit…” This is a powerful reminder of the Breath of God in Genesis 2:7 and Ezekiel 37:9-10. The life giving breath will unite the disciples and give them the courage for mission. This Spirit also empowered them to carry out functions reserved hitherto to God alone, “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”
It is possible to look at the world today with all the problems facing it and to ask, where is the Spirit? Or even where is God in all of these? It is important to note that the descent of the Holy Spirit, did not turn them into robots. Each individual retained the freedom to make a choice—for the right or the wrong. This accounts for the disparity, dichotomy and disunity we experience in the world today. One cannot but note the imbalance of wealth and poverty in our society. While some have enough for themselves and plenty to waste, others are simply scavenging from waste dumps. Sometimes these problems are so huge that one is tempted to feel that it is impossible to bring about any change. But change is possible if an individual decides to do his own bit, then another and then another…
Pentecost is an on-going event and not a once for all experience. The Spirit continues to operate in our world, moving us to respond to the needs of the community. The Spirit of God continues its journey, In those who see their gifts and talents as not just an opportunity to make money but an avenue to affect the life of the community. In those who have learnt to give back to the community what they have received themselves. In those who pay a just wage to their workers and those who do their work diligently. In parents who raise their children to fear and love God, and to respect their neighbours and the environment in which they live. In those who preach the Good News and those who listen and change their lives.
The Spirit is present particularly when we gather to pray and celebrate the supreme sacrifice that brings all together—the Eucharist.
What does the Spirit move you to do at this time? Never let the world discourage you. Go forth, be free like the Spirit that moves you and achieve the goal the Lord has set out for you.
Let us pray: Come Holy Spirit and fill the hearts of the faithful and enkindle in them the fire of your love. Amen. May the Almighty God bless you, the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.