Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful, gathered in your name. Enkindle in us the fire of your divine love. Allow your dormant gifts within us to manifest themselves in our lives so that all will know your presence and activity in our lives. Amen
The first and third readings speak of the Holy Spirit’s coming. The second reading tells us that the Holy Spirit grants the Church a diversity of gifts.
FIRST READING: Acts 2:1-11
Luke situates the coming of the Holy Spirit on the Jewish Feast of Pentecost. In John’s Gospel, the Holy Spirit comes on Easter Sunday evening. In scripture, it is the theological meaning of events that matter and not their historical chronology.
In Jewish tradition, Pentecost was a harvest feast, which celebrated the giving of the Law on Mt. Sinai. Pentecost celebrated Israel’s covenant with God, the birth of Israel. Pentecost (a word meaning fifty) took place 50 days after Passover.
Luke has the Holy Spirit come on Pentecost to announce the beginning of a new Israel. The Church will be universal in scope. People of every nation will be invited to join this new People of God.
The arrival of the Holy Spirit is described in both visual and auditory terms reminiscent of the Old Testament theophanies, (i.e., appearances of God). God appeared to Moses in a burning bush and God spoke to Job from a whirlwind (Job 38:1). The first gift the Spirit imparts is the gift of tongues. Perhaps the most miraculous thing about this whole event is the inner change it worked in the disciples. A group of fear-filled disciples now became bold proclaimers of the Gospel.
SECOND READING: 1Corinthians 12:3b-7, 12-13
Paul seeks to make two important points in these verses. First, all the gifts come from the same Spirit. This One Spirit is the unifying factor in a community in which the many gifts were threatening to create chaos. Second, the gifts are given for the common good and not given for one’s own self-aggrandizement.
GOSPEL: John 20:19-23
“On the evening of that first day of the week . . . Jesus came.” This appearance happens on Easter Sunday evening, the evening of the resurrection. Jesus comes to a group of frightened disciples (“the doors were locked for fear of the Jews”). The fact that Jesus could come through locked doors shows that “resurrected life” is totally different, not confined by physical obstacles. Yet, by showing them “his hands and his side” Jesus is saying that there is a connection and continuity between the crucified Christ and the resurrected Christ. Also, by showing them his pierced hands and side, Jesus is communicating the cost of glory.
Then Jesus imparts three gifts: peace, joy and the spirit. The “peace” or shalom which Jesus brought replaced the feelings of guilt the disciples must have had for abandoning Jesus in his hour of greatest need. The gift of peace or shalom restores harmony to a broken or wounded relationship. Joy: the disciples rejoiced when they saw Jesus. This joy at the presence of Jesus replaced the feelings of depression the disciples must have been feeling because of Jesus’ absence. Then Jesus imparts his spirit: “He breathed on them.” This gesture is seen as reminiscent of God breathing the breath of life into Adam (Gen. 2:7). Pentecost is the beginning of a new creation. By his gesture of breathing, Jesus brings to birth his Church. Then Jesus commissions those gathered to go forth and forgive sins. “Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them and whose sins you retain are retained.” Originally, these words were probably seen as the Church’s prerogative to confer or withhold baptism from those seeking entry into the Church. People who were judged as not truly repented of sin or who were not embracing the message of Jesus were refused baptism, which, among other things, cleansed the recipient of sin. Later, our Church saw in these words of Jesus, the foundation of the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
How have you experienced the Holy Spirit’s presence and activity in your life?