SOLEMNITY OF PENTECOST (2019)
Acts of the Apostles 2:1-11
Psalms 104:1, 24, 29-31, 34
1 Corinthians 12:3b-7, 12-13
If only there were a “strong driving wind” and “tongues as of fire” every time the Holy Spirit was at work, for then it might be easier to discern the Spirit at work in our midst!
The description of the first Pentecost in the first reading from the Acts of the Apostles, a Pentecost that occurs in Acts some fifty days after the Lord’s resurrection, is a tangible Pentecost, one that is easily discernible in our ordinary, and oftentimes mundane, world. In Luke’s account there was no missing the moment, for if the wind and fiery tongues weren’t enough to declare that something special was happening, there was also the fact that people from all over the known world could understand these Galileean fishermen “speaking in their own language.” The extraordinarily diverse crowd that had gathered in Jerusalem had become one in the good news that spoke “of the mighty acts of God.”
Sadly, most of our Pentecost moments are not as tangible as that of the first Pentecost, and it is reasonable to suppose that most of the Pentecost moments of the first disciples were of the more ordinary variety, like yours and mine. Although the gospels and Acts all speak of the gift of the Spirit after Jesus’ resurrection from the dead, we should not assume that the Spirit was not active throughout Jesus’ entire earthly ministry and before. The Spirit was surely at work in the shepherds who adored the newborn king in a stable, in the Temple crowd who were present when the adolescent Jesus taught for the first time, in the fisherman at the Sea of Galilee, moving them to see in this preacher from Nazareth someone extraordinary, someone who would cause them to leave their nets behind and follow Him. In the absence of a mighty wind and fiery tongues, the Spirit is very much at work.
In John’s gospel, Jesus not only breaks through locked doors, but, more importantly, He breaks through the crippling fear of the disciples which kept them apart from the world who hungered for the good news that they were meant to share. Like the spirit of God “that swept over the waters” (Gn 1:2) at the moment of creation, Jesus breathes on the disciples and gives them the Holy Spirit, who would enable them to leave their safe and comfortable confinement and go out and preach the good news, news that had everything to do with forgiveness. The primary message of Jesus is all about love and forgiveness, a message that all diverse people can understand. Love and forgiveness breaks down the barriers that divide us. As Sr. Mary McGlone states: “Pentecost proclaims that God created our diversity to enrich us so that understanding one another would lead us to grow in community with all of God’s beloved.”
There is no time or place that is not in need of the gifts of the Holy Spirit (traditionally wisdom, understanding, knowledge, counsel, fortitude, piety, and fear of the Lord), gifts that are easily represented by love and forgiveness. In the Collect for today’s celebration we pray that the Holy Spirit, as it did on that first Pentecost, will again fill the hearts of all believers, that the world in which we live might be renewed and made holy, and that the “love of God which has been poured into our hearts through the Spirit of God dwelling within us” might spread the love and forgiveness which is at the heart of what it means to be Christian.
O God, who by the mystery of today’s great feast
sanctify your whole Church in every people and nation,
pour out, we pray, the gifts of the Holy Spirit
across the face of the earth
and, with the divine grace that was at work
when the Gospel was first proclaimed,
fill now once more the hearts of believers.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
When we pray in our Psalm response, “Lord, send out your Spirit, and renew the face of the earth,” we acknowledge the power of the Holy Spirit to make our world a better place, to make us a better people. It is by sharing the love and forgiveness that has been shared with us with all people, that the face of the earth is renewed, and it is the Holy Spirit that has been given to all (1 Cor 12:4-11) in order that all people might be agents of love and forgiveness.