Pentecost Sunday: May 31, 2009

Acts 2:1-11; 1 Cor 12:3b-7,12-13 or Romans 8:8-17; John 20:19-23
The feast of Pentecost 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. Today’s feast indicates that it is an ongoing reality, which still touches our lives every single day. Yet we have to be cautious in the application of the mystery. We must understand the scriptures correctly. The first reading gives a graphic picture of Pentecost with the tongues of fire and the multi lingual discourses. The Gospel tells us what happened immediately after the Resurrection. Jesus comes to the disciples and gives them the Holy Spirit. The Scriptures also tell us that the Spirit was hovering over the universe even before the creation. In reality none of them contradict. They are one and the same reality and the actual space and time is not important for us to understand the working of the Spirit.
When Cardinal Roncalli became Pope John XXIII in 1958, no one expected any change in the church. No one expected the spirit to work through the instrumentality of the simple Pope. He called Vatican II which has brought ne Pentecost into the church. In fact the first Christian Pentecost came as a surprise too. The Jews had already gathered in Jerusalem to commemorate the wondrous gift of the covenant on Mount Sinai. But no one expected a sudden rush of wind to blow down from heaven and receive the tongues of fire to transform them into great wonderful preachers of the Gospel of Jesus. This very Pentecost still works in our lives and hearts and we have to be open to receive the same spirit.
Speaking about the Spirit Jesus says: “When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who comes from the Father, he will testify on my behalf.” What is an advocate? An Advocate is like an honest lawyer who defends and supports someone’s cause. He is a true champion who encourages, supports and upholds the rights of the person. He advances, promotes and recommends the cause of the individual. He urges the person to persevere in his beliefs. He makes us open to the errors of the world. This description of the Holy Spirit as an Advocate perfectly described His personal interest in our spiritual well-being. St. Paul says that as children of God, when we pray, “When we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’ it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God…” The Holy Spirit pleads for us for the grace of God the Father to shine on us. He supports us in the perseverance of our living faith in Christ. The New testament tells us that Jesus is our advocate. “If anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous,” says St John. . The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Christ. He is the also the Spirit of God the Spirit of the Father. Both Jesus and the Holy Spirit, being One in God, are our Advocates before God the Father.
The Gospel of today speaks of “the first day of the week”, that is, the Sunday after Good Friday, the day of the Resurrection – or Easter Sunday. Jesus’ disciples are hiding in fear behind locked doors. As friends of Jesus they are afraid they may have to face arrest or even worse. Suddenly, there is Jesus among them. He greets them with the word ‘Shalom’ meaning, “Peace with you” or ‘Peace is with you’. With Jesus we experience peace which he alone can give. Immediately the terrified disciples are filled with joy for Jesus brings with him peace and joy. They are now given the mission, the mission of Jesus, to proclaim the kingdom. Jesus says, “As the Father sent me, so am I sending you.” Then Jesus breathes on them. The breathing recalls God breathing life into the dust and bringing the first human being into existence. Here too there is new creation, as the disciples are re-created into the ‘new person’ that Paul will speak about in his letters, a person filled with the Spirit of Jesus and mandated to continue his work. They are also given the mode of work, to forgive and to reconcile. It is no easy task for them. Jesus says: “For those whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven; for those whose sins you retain, they are retained.” Reconciliation means the healing of wounds, of all forms of division. This is the work of the Kingdom.
Today’s First Reading from The Acts Of The Apostles tells us that the promise of Jesus been fulfilled. The disciples did receive the gift of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost Day. The arrival of the Holy Spirit came with a sound like the rush of a violent wind. So powerful was the sound that it was also heard by devout Jews from every nation under heaven who were living in Jerusalem. It is interesting to note here that not everybody heard the sound, only the “devout” Jews. The non- believers and those who are indifferent to their living faith are not receptive to the grace of God and the manifested power of the Holy Spirit. When the Holy Spirit arrived, divided tongues, as of fire, rested on each of the disciples. This is the Biblical sign of the divine presence. Following this manifestation, the disciples began to speak in other languages as the Holy Spirit gave them ability. As we all know, speaking in tongues is one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Here, too, there are significant elements: There is the powerful wind and there is the fire – the tongues of fire over each one in the place. This reminds us of the burning bush in Exodus, the Exodus narrative, indicates God’s power and presence. We think of the burning bush from which God spoke to Moses , it reminds us of the pillar of fire in the desert and so on.
Let us now see the effects of the Spirit in our lives. That is very well expressed in the Second Reading from the First Letter of Paul to the Corinthians. Paul says we cannot even call Jesus “Lord” unless we have his Spirit. At the same time the Spirit is the source of the special gifts which each member of the community receives. There are variety of gifts but it is important that the gifts are not given for ones personal use but to be used at the service of the community. At the same time we are reminded that “we were all baptised, Jews as well as Greeks, slaves as well as citizens in one Spirit and this Spirit was given to us all to drink.” The Spirit is a way of true freedom and liberation. Finally, the Spirit makes us co-heirs with Christ to “suffer with him that we may also be glorified with him “. St. Paul continues by giving us the list of the fruit of the Holy Spirit. These are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. They are now special chosen persons. If we perform these spiritual actions, it will not be held against us because we are walking in holiness towards God with a well disposed heart. Praise be the Holy Spirit! Praise be Jesus and the Father for blessing us with all these spiritual gifts so we may be filled with the Holy Spirit as the disciples of Jesus were filled with the Holy Spirit.


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