THE DESCENT OF THE HOLY SPIRIT ON THE DAY OF PENTECOST
A biblical reflection on PENTECOST SUNDAY [Year B] – 23 May 2021)
First Reading: Acts 2:1-11
Psalms: Psalm 104:1,24,29-31,34, Second Reading: Galatians 5:16-25; Gospel Reading: John 15:26-27; 16:12-15
The Scripture Text
When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly a sound came from heaven like the rush of a mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them tongues as of fire, distributed and resting on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.
Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in his own language. And they were amazed and wondered, saying, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language? Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians, we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.” (Acts 2:1-11 RSV)
It would be a mistake to restrict Pentecost, or the descent of the Holy Spirit, to a one-day wonder when a house in Jerusalem was rocked by a mighty wind and there were mysterious tongues of fire in the air.
The three readings in today’s Holy Mass widen our understanding of the Spirit’s coming as they approach it from different perspectives. Luke’s story in the “Acts of the Apostles” about the Pentecost Day is certainly the most familiar to us since our liturgical calendar follows His timing of events. In John’s Gospel we read that Jesus promised His apostles/disciples that He would send them the Holy Spirit, who would teach them all truth and help them recall what He had said (John 15:26-27; 16:12-15). In the second reading, we read that Saint Paul told the Galatians about the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:16-25).
The coming of the Holy Spirit marks the dynamic expansion of the evangelical mission entrusted to us the disciples, to all races …… to the whole world. So, it suited Luke admirably to set the event in the context of the harvest festival of the fiftieth day. Pentecost means the fiftieth day.
The symbols in Luke’s story are the mighty wind and the tongues of fire. The wind expresses the movement of God’s creative power, recalling the breath of God over the primitive chaos in the story of creation. The tongues express the proclamation of the message. They are of fire, which is the symbol of love and the agent of purification or judgment. Luke’s concern in his composition of the story is the expansion of the mission of Jesus into the universal mission of the Church.
John the Evangelist sees the divine gift of the Spirit in the Easter context of the uplifting of Jesus in His dying and rising. “… and I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself” (John 12:32). Jesus had promised much to all those who would be raised up in His rising. He promised that believers would discover fountains of living water within their own souls. Jesus said: “He who believes in Me, as the scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart shall flow rivers of living water.’” Now this Jesus said about the Spirit, which those who believed in Him were to receive; for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified (John 7:38-39). Later, in the Last Supper, Jesus said, “… when the Counselor comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, He will bear witness to Me; and you also are witnesses, because you have been with Me from the beginning” (John 15:26).
At Pentecost we celebrate the birthday of the Church. With John we celebrate our involvement in the uplifting of Jesus by the gift of the Spirit to overcome sin. With Luke we celebrate the dynamism of the Spirit seen in the preaching of the Good News and expansion of the Kingdom on earth. With Paul we celebrate our walk with Spirit, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh (Galatians 5:13). Again, Pentecost is the birthday of the Church …… our birthday!!!
Prayer: Heavenly Father, pour the living water of the Holy Spirit over my heart, so that I may bear fruit for You. Come, Holy Spirit, and reveal Jesus to my heart today. Let me know the Lord and the power of His resurrection. I want to become a new creation today. Amen.
Jakarta, 22 May 2021
A Christian Pilgrim