May 26, 2020
Pentecost occurs 50 days after Easter and the story of Pentecost is clearly recorded in Chapter 2 of the Acts of the Apostles. The Jewish festival of Pentecost is the harvest on the fiftieth day after the second day of Passover (see Leviticus 23:15-16); later in Judaism Pentecost was “the anniversary of giving the Law on [Mount] Sinai” (The Concise Oxford Dictionary). So, “Pentecost was the second great feast of the Jewish year, a harvest festival, when the first fruits of the wheat harvest were presented to Yahweh. It was celebrated seven weeks after the beginning of the barley harvest (hence ‘Feast of Weeks’)” (“Pentecost, Feast of,” J.D.G. Dunn, The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology,” Volume 2, editor: Colin Brown)
In the Christian context, Pentecost is the story of the coming of the Holy Spirit. It is a feast of the highest class. “Vestments are red at Pentecost because the Holy Spirit is symbolized as tongues of fire” (Jessie Corrigan Pegis, A Practical Catholic Dictionary).
A point of geography aside here. Pentecost is a place on the island of Vanuatu in the Pacific Ocean islands of New Caledonia and Vanuatu. Also, on one of the islands there, there is a place called Espiritu Santo (“Holy Spirit”)!
“The Feast of Pentecost is often called the birthday of the Church” (Reynolds R. Ekstrom and Rosemary Ekstrom, Concise Catholic Dictionary for Parents and Religion Teachers). And “the early Christians realized that the descent of the Spirit empowered Peter to boldly proclaim the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ. It empowered the followers of Jesus to baptize thousands gathered in Jerusalem for the Pentecost feast and it enabled all of Christ’s disciples to carry this good news to the whole world.
“The Pentecost-event filled the followers of the Risen Jesus with His Spirit and strengthened and encouraged them to fulfill the great mission they had received from Him (Matthew 28:16-20). In a sense they were really fired up and guided by the Holy Spirit to spread the Gospel to all nations and to baptize believers. When the Church celebrates Pentecost, Catholics are reminded that the Spirit continues to guide Christ’s followers and His Church here on earth. Catholics are taught like the first Christians who received the Holy Spirit, they too have received the call to spread Christ’s good news to all people.” (ibid.)
Today’s scriptural readings and proclamations are the following:
- First Reading – Acts 2:1-11 = the coming of the Holy Spirit to the early Church;
- Responsorial Psalm = “Lord, send forth Your Spirit and renew the face of the earth” – very appropriate!;
- Second Reading = 1 Corinthians 12:3-7 and 12-13; there are many different gifts in the Church from the Spirit but it is the same Spirit that gives them all;
- Gospel = John 20:19-23; the Risen One gives the Spirit to His followers;
- and today’s Mass also has a beautiful Sequence (after the Second Reading).
Today’s Liturgy and liturgical texts are pregnant with grace (the Spirit of God) for us! Make sure you internalize the following from today: “to each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good” (Second Reading) and “nothing thrives apart from You [The Holy Spirit]” (the Sequence). To make this real, do the following:
i) good-sized donations for Food Banks;
ii) lots of prayers for front-liners who at times give up their lives to save us;
iii) be sure to keep in touch with long-distance relatives over the telephone or internet;
iv) run errands for elderly neighbours in your neighbourhood;
v) and since you probably will be spending more time at home (than in the past), use some of
that time to improve a family relationship that needs this.
(Feel free to replace any of the above with something else of your own choosing.)
Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of us, all of your faithful, and kindle in us the fire of your love. Amen.