Pentecost, meaning “fifty days” after Easter, celebrates the Holy Spirit’s descent on the Apostles. The narrative in the second chapter of Acts of the Apostles describes a dramatic transformation of the disciples in Jerusalem. A sudden sound, like that of a strong wind filled the house where 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.” (Acts 2:3-4)
The biblical text narrates how the disciples shed their fear and boldly proclaimed the Gospel to those gathered in Jerusalem. There were Jews “from every nation under heaven” at the time and they all understood the disciples in their own native languages as they told of the mighty works of God. It was an amazing reversal of Babel which Peter claimed as the fulfillment of the words of the prophet Joel (Jl 3:1-5), God’s Spirit being poured out on all flesh.”
Jesus who preached the reign of God, was now proclaimed by Peter (Acts 2: 36) as both “the Lord and Messiah.”
Pentecost was the birth of the church, the community of disciples who were sent on the mission of proclaiming the Good News, the Gospel. Today’s readings from the Scriptures remind us of how God’s Spirit came upon the disciples and brought powerful gifts that go beyond this initial proclamation. After the narrative from Acts there are words of exhortation from St. Paul in the second reading and a reminder from the Gospel of John that the risen Jesus brought the Holy Spirit in fulfillment of his Passover promise.
What great gifts are brought to the church through the power of the Holy Spirit!
All these gifts are gifts of service for the good of the whole church. Paul gives a detailed list in today’s reading from Corinthians with the reminder that all these gifts are for the good of the church.
Every year at Pentecost I am reminded of my ordination on the vigil of Pentecost in 1973, but more fundamental to me are the gifts that I have received throughout my years. I reflect on the gift of my parents, my brothers and sisters, teachers, students, co-workers and friends. I also think of my Franciscan brothers and sisters with whom I have worked in service to the church.
But Pentecost is not only the time to count gifts, as important as that is. Pentecost is also the time to recall how the gifts received are used in serving the mission of the church, namely, spreading the Gospel as living witnesses of God’s loving mercy revealed in Jesus our Lord. May the Spirit stir the fire of God’s love in our hearts!
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