31 May 2020 Solemnity of Pentecost Sunday … (ACTS 2:1-11; I COR.12:3-7, 12-13; JN.20:19-23)

“We Need to Observe Pentecost”

Today very joyfully we are celebrating the great Feast of Pentecost, the descent of the Holy Spirit.  At the time of Jesus, the Jewish people had three major festivals: the Feast of the Passover, the Feast of Tabernacles, and the Pentecost. During these three great Jewish festivals, every male Jew living within twenty miles of Jerusalem was legally bound to go to Jerusalem and participate in the feast.   Pentecost literally means 50th.  It was originally a post-harvest thanksgiving feast celebrated on the 50th day after the Passover feast.  Later, the Jews added to the Feast of the Pentecost the celebration of Yahweh’s covenant with Noah, which took place fifty days after the great deluge, and still later, Yahweh’s covenant with Moses on Mount Sinai, which also occurred fifty days after the beginning of the exodus from Egypt and that was the official birthday of the Nation of Israel. 

For the Christians, Christmas, Easter and Pentecost mark the three most significant points of our salvation history.  Pentecost is celebrated on the 50th day after Resurrection.  Holy Spirit descended on Apostles in tongues of fire.  Pentecost is in one way the incarnation of the Holy Spirit into this world; it also commemorates the official inauguration, or Birthday, of the Christian Church.

1)  What did the Holy Spirit do in the lives of the apostles and what does he do in our lives?  Today we are invited to experience and appreciate the transforming, sanctifying and strengthening presence of the Holy Spirit within us.  The apostles became new people with great courage.  Today’s 2nd reading also reminds us that there are different kinds of spiritual gifts but the same Spirit; different forms of service but the same Lord; different workings  but the same God who produces all of them in everyone.”    God’s Holy Spirit brings us together.  Language is a significant symbol that can unite or divide people.  

In the Book of Genesis (ch.11:1-9) we read that people are saying to each other “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens and let us make a name for ourselves.”  It was probably around 610 BC, after the great deluge, and at that time all the people in Babel were speaking the same language.  Building Babel Tower was a revolt to God’s power and an attempt to assert human power. God defeated them by multiplying their languages and leaving them unable to understand each other. 

This Babel experience is totally reversed at the Pentecost.  As we heard in the first reading, when the Holy Spirit descended on the apostles they came out into public and began speaking and, everyone, absolutely everyone, no matter their ethnicity or language, heard the disciples’ words as if they were in their own language. Though we look different, speak different, think different, act different, but still we are one body, all one in Christ united by the Holy Spirit as the children of one God.  Today we find a lack of unity within many families between husband and wife, parents and children and in our society.  As we receive the Holy Spirit today, let us pray that we remain united with God, with Christ, with his Church and with all our brothers and sisters who are the children of one God.

2) We have to grow in the spirit of forgiveness.   As we heard in today’s Gospel, the risen Christ breathed on the disciples and said to them “Receive the Holy Spirit.  Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them and whose sins you retain are retained.”   Jesus not only forgives our sins but also gives the apostles the power to forgive sins.   Learning to forgive is a lifelong task, but the Holy Spirit is with us to make us agents of forgiveness.  If there is anybody in our lives that needs our forgiveness let us forgive that person as we receive the Holy Spirit.

3) We need to observe Pentecost not just one day, but every day.  Without breath, there is no life.  Without the Spirit, the church is a field of dry, dead bones.  In fact, the Spirit is present and empowering us every day from the beginning of our life in God.   Today is a day to bring new life and enthusiasm into our lives. 

Therefore,  let us pray:

O Holy Spirit rekindle in us the spirit of new life and enthusiasm, the fire of God’s love. Help us to direct what is going astray;  to heal what is wounded; and to help those who have been hurt by any form of injustice.   Lord fill us with your Spirit so that we may water what is dry and barren; bend what has become rigid; and warm what has become cold.  Strengthen us, O Holy Spirit, to drive out all our fears and anxieties, our prejudices and restrictions, and open our hearts with God’s love that includes everyone in the world.  Fill us with a deeper sense of compassion, patience, tolerance, generosity and your Spirit of forgiveness.   Amen.

May God bless you and fill you with His Holy Spirit.