RECEIVE THE HOLY SPIRIT! - For this Pentecost Sunday, there are separate readings for the Vigil Mass on Saturday and the Sunday Mass during the day; and within these are a number of alternative readings. So this week, we will concentrate on a few key readings that highlight the impact of Pentecost.
'Pentecost' is a Greek word meaning 'fiftieth day' and is the biblical feast commemorating the day God gave the Torah to the people of Israel. It was celebrated fifty days after the Passover Feast. All Jews of age were required to travel to Jerusalem to participate in the celebration.
Pentecost Sunday is often referred to as the birthday of the Church - the day when we Christians became Church. Our first reading (Acts 2:1-11) tells the story vividly. Ten days after Jesus had been taken up to heaven, the disciples were celebrating the harvest festival of Pentecost or Shavuot.
"'When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled, they were all in one place together. And suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind and it filled the entire house in which they were. Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began speaking in different tongues...' 'Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven staying in Jerusalem. At this sound, they gathered in a large crowd, but they were confused because each one heard them speaking in his own language.'"
In the Epistle reading (1 Corinthians 12:3, 12-13), St. Paul explains the many different spiritual gifts from the same Spirit, "There are different kinds of spiritual gifts but the same Spirit; there are different forms of service but the same Lord; there are different workings but the same God who produces them in everyone. . . . As a body is one though it has many parts, and all the parts of the body, though many, are one body, so also, Christ."
Our Gospel reading for Sunday (John 20:19-23) is significant in that it is when Jesus breathed into the apostles the Holy Spirit and gave them the authority to forgive sins. This Sacrament of Reconciliation is Jesus' gift directly to us.
"On the evening of that first day of the week, when the doors were locked, where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, 'Peace be with you.' When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, 'Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.' And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, 'Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.' "
This Advocate, the Holy Spirit came as promised by Jesus at the Last Supper. It is a thrilling and earthshaking event that changed the world. This "Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father and the Son" lives and remains active in our world today. This is our prayer today and always, "Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created. And you shall renew the fact of the earth."
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ay Vigil, May 15, 20
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