Pentecost Sunday, Year A – 17
Acts 2:1-11; 1 Cor 12:3b-7, 12-13, John 20:19-23
After we have celebrated the Solemnity of the Ascension of Christ, there follows the Feast of the Descent of the Holy Spirit or the Solemnity of Pentecost. We see a connection between these two important feasts. The ascent of one leads also to the descent of the other.
It has been taught to us that the Descent of the Holy Spirit marked the beginning of the Church. But there are other roles of the Holy Spirit in the life of the apostles who were left by Christ. The Spirit was seen as the force which led the apostles to proclaim the gospel of salvation.
But for Paul, the Spirit appears as the continuing presence of God and Christ in the world. In fact, he calls the Spirit both as the Spirit of God and Spirit of Christ. Let us reflect once again on the Holy Spirit and his importance to our life.
Essentially Pentecost is the final movement of God’s journey toward us. The initial movement begins in Genesis with God in the Garden of Eden. Note that it is God who makes the move. It is God who initiates; God who offers; God who loves us first.
He chooses us. We do not choose him. He chooses us first because He is the superior. If it were otherwise, and indeed when people think they first choose God, then men and women in their pride would fancy that they are in control.
Today’s First Reading from The Acts of the Apostles tells us that the promise of Jesus been fulfilled. While staying with them, He had ordered them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait there for the promise of the Father.
In obedience to Jesus, the disciples gathered together in Jerusalem and experienced the divine sign. The disciples did receive the gift of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost Day. Luke initiates the new creation and the introduction of the age of the Holy Spirit as the dominant reality of humankind.
In the second reading, Paul speaking to the Corinthians tells of the effects of the Holy Spirit in their lives. He says we cannot even call Jesus “Lord” unless we have his Spirit.
To call Jesus “Lord” is not just uttering a pious phrase; it implies a real faith in who Jesus is and the proof of that will be in the way we live our lives.
Secondly, the Spirit is the source of the special gifts or the ‘charisms’ which each member of the community receives. The Source of the gifts is one – the Spirit of God and that is what unites together all those who receive them into one community.
But there is a huge variety of gifts. It is important to note that the gifts are not given as a personal grace for oneself. They are rather special abilities by which each one serves the needs of the community.
The Gospel of today brings us to the Easter Day, the day of the Resurrection on the first day of the week. Jesus’ disciples were hiding in fear behind locked doors. As colleagues of Jesus they are afraid they may have to face arrest or even worse.
Suddenly, they experience the presence of Jesus among them. He gives them the usual Jewish greeting ‘Shalom’ or peace which is his gift to them and in the presence of Jesus they experience a kind of peace which only he can give.
There is an immediate transformation in the disciples, who till now were terrified, but suddenly are filled with joy. There are two qualities that always accompany the presence of Jesus in our lives – peace and joy.
Now Jesus gives them the mission: “As the Father sent me, so am I sending you.” The baton is being passed and the work has to continue. They have a job to do and it is exactly what Jesus himself came to do namely, to establish the Kingdom on earth.
They have the task of continuing his mission on earth. Jesus now breathes on them. The breathing recalls God breathing life into the dust and bringing the first human being into existence. Here too there is a kind of creation, as the disciples are re-created into the new persons.
He gives them the power to forgive and to reconcile. This is their new task: to be agents of reconciliation, of people everywhere with their God and reconciliation with each other as brothers and sisters, children of one common Father.
Reconciliation means the healing of wounds, of all forms of division. It is reconciliation that brings together all the diversity into one in the life of the Church and within any community or parish in the Church.
Reconciliation is needed again and again—to reconcile not only divisions within the Church, but also those divisions that cause separation and can place one outside the Church and outside the Body of Christ. This is the work of the Kingdom.
It is what we are called to do. He gives them power as he tells them that those whose sins they forgive, they are forgiven and those whose sins they retain, they are retained.
Today’s feast rounds off the tremendous mysteries that we have been commemorating since Holy Week – the Passion, the Death, the Resurrection, and Ascension of Jesus culminates in the sending of the Spirit of the Father and the Son on his disciples.
This feast has been the extraordinary intervention of God into our lives by what we can only call the “mystery” of Christ. Today’s feast indicates that it is an on-going reality, which still touches our lives every single day.
This week, let us reflect upon the purpose of the Holy Spirit in the Church. He can guide and teach us according to the purpose that He has been sent by the Lord God. Through the power of the Spirit we ask for the grace to be forgiven and the grace to forgive.
As Jesus empowers his disciples with the new life of his Spirit, we look for the gift of Peace from the same Spirit.
‘He sits as a refiner and purifier of silver.’ This verse puzzled some women in a Bible study and they wondered what this statement meant about the character and nature of God. One of the women offered to find out the process of refining silver and get back to the group at their next Bible Study.
As she watched the silversmith, he held a piece of silver over the fire and let it heat up. He explained that in refining silver, one needed to hold the silver in the middle of the fire where the flames were hottest as to burn away all the impurities.
The woman thought about God holding us in such a hot spot. The man said he not only had to sit there holding the silver, but he had to keep his eyes on the silver the entire time it was in the fire. If the silver was left a moment too long in the flames, it would be destroyed.
The woman asked the silversmith, ‘How do you know when the silver is fully refined?’ He smiled at her and answered, ‘Oh, that’s easy — when I see my image in it.’
If today you are feeling the heat of the fire, remember that God has His eye on you and will keep watching you until He sees His image in you.
As individuals, we should be aware of the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives. We should allow him to take control over our lives so that we can be guided and enlightened in every endeavor we do. Moreover, we should also allow him to dwell in us so that our lives may be full of spirit and life. Amen.