THE SOLEMNITY OF PENTECOST (2023)
Psalms 104:1, 24, 29-31, 34
1 Corinthians 12:3-7, 12-13
Perhaps the most telling part of today’s Liturgy of the Word is the boldness of the compilers of the appropriate Scripture readings, placing the two contradictory readings of Acts and John in the same liturgy. The day of “Pentecost” [the name means “fifty”] in Acts envisions the gift of the Spirit some fifty days after Christ’s resurrection. The evangelist John sees the gift of the Spirit being shared on the “evening of that day, the first day of the week,” i.e. the day of the Lord’s resurrection. What this screams out to rabid historians and non-historians alike, is the time and the day of God’s sharing of His Spirit is of no consequence. That the Spirit was most definitely given, is the reason for today’s solemnity, and the reason everywhere that all people can say Jesus Christ is Lord.
What our first and third readings do have in common, and is worth noticing, is that there is very little time spent on the actual bestowal of the Spirit. Even the evangelist Luke’s longest account speaks of a moment with “a noise like a strong driving wind,” and then the appearance of “tongues as of fire,” which rest on the disciples present, and the Spirit is bestowed. The rest of Luke’s account focuses on the Spirit’s effect on those present, in which the very diverse group of people all heard the gospel message in a dialect they could understand, regardless of their country of origin [which are listed by Luke].
John has Jesus appear to the apostles on the evening of His resurrection, and Jesus simply “breathed” on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” The gift we celebrate today is done in John’s gospel as simply as the Spirit that came down on the water at the time of our baptisms. The lack of a “noise” and the absence of “tongues as of fire” might cause us to feel short-changed, but we should never underestimate the power of the Spirit that lives within us. It gives us the power, as Paul says in our second reading, to say “Jesus is Lord,” and if we allow God to speak from within the depths of our hearts, there is no danger of God’s Word not being understood, “whether Jews or Greeks, slaves or free persons, we were all given to drink of the one Spirit.”
And because we are all so different, “there are different kinds of spiritual gifts” says St. Paul, “but the same Spirit; there are different forms of service but the same Lord; there are different workings but the same God who produces all of them in everyone. To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit.”
On this Pentecost 2023, discover the Spirit of God living within you, and allow it to be unencumbered so that it might accomplish the work that God intends us to accomplish. As the Spirit invigorated the disciples, turning them from frightened individuals in a locked upper room, to men who would form the very foundation of the Church of which we are a part, so, too, do we ask that Spirit to change us for the better. It is the Spirit that changed them into the teachers and preachers of the gospel of Jesus Christ, unafraid even to the point of losing their lives.
We ask God now to once more “fill the hearts of all believers” with the gifts of the Holy Spirit, for the world seems poised and needing as never before what God has to offer: wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear for the Lord. May the followers of Jesus, especially in war-torn and autocratic countries be allowed to freely practice their faith, and may the numbers of followers, as in the days of Jesus, increase and multiply, that the healing and comforting gospel of Jesus might spread far and wide.