PENTECOST SUNDAY — Cycle A — 2017
FIRST READING: Acts of the Apostles 2:1-11
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 to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim. 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. They were astounded, and in amazement they asked, “Are not all these people who are speaking Galileans? Then how does each of us hear them in his native language? We are Parthians, Medes, and Elamites, inhabitants of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the districts of Libya near Cyrene, as well as travelers from Rome, both Jews and converts to Judaism, Cretans and Arabs, yet we hear them speaking in our own tongues of the mighty acts of God.”
SECOND READING: 1 Corinthians 12:3b-7, 12-13
Brothers and sisters: No one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy 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 all of them in everyone. To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit. 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. 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.
SEQUENCE: Veni, Sancte Spiritus
Come, Father of the poor! Come, source of all our store! Come, within our bosoms shine.
You, of comforters the best; You, the soul’s most welcome guest; Sweet refreshment here below;
In our labor, rest most sweet; Grateful coolness in the heat; Solace in the midst of woe.
O most blessed Light divine, Shine within these hearts of yours, And our inmost being fill!
Where you are not, we have naught, Nothing good in deed or thought, Nothing free from taint of ill.
Heal our wounds, our strength renew; On our dryness pour your dew; Wash the stains of guilt away:
Bend the stubborn heart and will; Melt the frozen, warm the chill; Guide the steps that go astray.
On the faithful, who adore And confess you, evermore In your sevenfold gift descend;
Give them virtue’s sure reward; Give them your salvation, Lord; Give them joys that never end. Amen. Alleluia.
GOSPEL: John 20:19-23
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.”
My sisters and brothers in Christ Jesus,
None of the followers of Jesus, not even His mother, knew what would happen as they prayed for the coming of the Spirit. This is a new experience in the life of the followers of Jesus. Jesus had promised the Spirit but no one knew what that might mean. When the Spirit did appear and manifest His presence in their midst, they were taken by surprise. We actually have two accounts of the giving of the Spirit in today’s readings.
One account of the giving of the Holy Spirit is the Pentecost account after the Ascension. The other comes from the Gospel of John, after the Resurrection, and Jesus breathes on His followers and breathes on them and tells them “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.”
Although most of us associate the Holy Spirit only with Pentecost or at least primarily with Pentecost, it is clear in the New Testament that the Holy Spirit is also given in connection with the forgiveness of sins. The Spirit on Pentecost is kind of flashy and bright and causes people to take notice. The Spirit who forgives sins is kind of quiet and unnoticed but very important.
Today the readings keep us aware of both of these manifestations of the Holy Spirit, showing us that even though the gift of tongues is important, it is not the only way in which the Spirit is given and manifested. This is why the second reading today, from the First Letter to the Corinthians, is so important. In this letter, in today’s reading, we hear this: “No one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy 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 all of them in everyone. To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit.”
As we look at this part of First Corinthians, we can see that just to proclaim Jesus as Lord is a gift of the Spirit. And this letter makes very clear that there are all kinds of gifts of the Holy Spirit, but they are forms of service for the Christian community, not means of attracting attention to one self. It is also clear that the gift of the Spirit is for some benefit, not just to show off.
So as we celebrate Pentecost today, we can speak together about the Holy Spirit and recognize that this Spirit is given to each one of us in a particular way, for the good of the Christian community, for some benefit, to help us be aware of the forgiveness of sins and to draw people to follow Jesus as Lord. May we be filled with that Spirit!
Your brother in the Lord,