SOLEMNITY OF PENTECOST (2022)
Psalms 104:1, 24, 29-31, 34
1 Corinthians 12:3-7, 12-13
In last weekend’s gospel, the Solemnity of the Ascension, as Jesus is about to be taken up to heaven and seated at the right hand of God, He warns the disciples to stick around and stay together, for the gift of the Holy Spirit is imminent: “He enjoined them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father about which you have heard me speak; for John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” Today we celebrate that same gift of the Spirit shared with the disciples after Jesus’ resurrection. Today’s liturgy displays the tension in the early Church of exactly when the Spirit came upon the disciples [Acts, in Synoptic/Lucan fashion, placing it fifty days after Jesus’ resurrection; John placing the bestowing of that gift on the very day of the resurrection]. What matters, however, is not when it was given, but that it was given, for it changed the course of world history, making the foundation of a Church possible.
It is fitting that in a practical/liturgical manner, today’s solemnity marks the close of the great Easter season, for with Pentecost comes the complete fulfillment of God’s plan of salvation. The descent of the Spirit will invigorate the disciples, dispel their fears, and make them truly capable of bearing “witness” to the God they were privileged to call friend. In John’s account, it is the Spirit who will get the disciples out of that locked upper room where fear confined them, and it will make them capable of spreading the good news to the “ends of the earth.” We see this previewed in the Spirit enabling them “to speak in different tongues,” where representatives from every known part of the world hear what the disciples are preaching in their “native language.” By eradicating the familiar boundary of speech, the Spirit opens the entire world to the good news of Jesus Christ. It is why we proclaim on this most important solemnity that the Spirit “renews the face of the earth.”
However, the earth will be renewed, and the hearts of all people will be renewed, only when an effort is made to not only hear the word that is spoken, but to also understand what is being said and to allow it to take root in one’s heart. On any given Sunday thousands of people will hear God’s word spoken – a word of love and truth, kindness and gentleness, compassion and welcome, patience and forgiveness – and yet only a small number of individuals will allow the word to take root in their hearts and be the measure by which they judge the world.
The Spirit, visibly shared with us at our baptisms, enables us to give true witness to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, for the Spirit knocks down that which divides us. As Paul teaches the Corinthians in our second reading: “To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit.” As Paul goes on to say, “for in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, slaves or free persons, and we were all given to drink of one Spirit.”
Today’s solemnity celebrates God’s choice of us, just as He chose the disciples in the gospels, to be for Him the means of spreading His Word. When we fail to welcome the migrant, when the differences of culture and country of origin divides us, when the good of the overall community is ignored and selfishness overtakes us, when kindness and compassion is ignored, when forgiveness is viewed as impossible, when truth and justice are not priorities for us – it is then that we thwart God’s particular purpose for us. We will only be able to give witness to Christ, when all that we have to give others in every circumstance is the love that was placed there by a loving God at our baptisms. If we have not allowed that Spirit of Love to take root in our hearts, then we will never understand the importance of this solemnity we celebrate today.