The Feast of Pentecost - The Spirit, Here and Now

The readings for the feast of Pentecost - in this liturgical cycle - present us with two different perspectives of the Spirit event.  They aren’t meant to be reconciled, but rather offer different theological insights about how the early Christian community experienced this life-changing gift of the Spirit to the early church. 

pentecostspiritFor Luke in the Acts of the Apostles, the Spirit’s arrival is exuberant.  The Spirit seems to explode out all over the place with the tongues of fire and the sound of a strong driving wind.  Pentecost celebrates the special permanent union between God and the church and it is not reserved to only a special few.  The Spirit comes to rest “on each of them” - all were gathered and each receives the gift – leaders and ordinary folks as well. This is a new kind of community, showing new life and a new kind unity shared with one another.  Even the crowd outside gets special favors as “each one heard” the disciples speaking  to them “in his/her own language.” 

But the Spirit doesn’t always work with such spectacular special effects.  In fact, we don’t often, if ever, experience such displays.  Some never see such signs that clearly indicate the creative force of God at work.  Maybe that’s why we have John’s account of the giving of the Spirit.

There is definitely a quieter tone in John’s account of the gathering of the disciples.  They are afraid as they think about the hostile world outside their little group and the absence of their usual supportive Jesus.  But suddenly he is among them and breathes on them and wishes them his peace.  And this reassurance of peace must have been consoling to them.  If the Risen Lord could forgive and forget their transgressions and betrayals, then his Spirit will enable them to do the same for others.

This Spirit, whether in Luke’s interpretation or John’s, touches a common theme. The Spirit is here and now, urging us to work at building community, peace and justice, love and reconciliation; helping us overcome destructive addictions, opening our eyes to God, so present in the world around us - in others, nature and in the wonders of our own beings. 

The first Pentecost brought excitement, passion, and courage to the Christian community. It completed their sense of identity and clarified their mission. Most importantly, it filled them with power, assured them of the strength they would need to witness to the Gospel, to overcome the spirit of the world, to drive away the darkness of sin and evil.
But the passionate enthusiasm brought about by the Spirit did not remove human frailty or weakness.
Discerning where the Spirit leads us has always been a difficult task - from our Church's earliest beginnings right up to the present time - especially for a pilgrim people in a pilgrim Church.   

The Spirit we celebrate today is the Spirit of the risen Christ, for whom closed doors are not an impassable barrier; nor are they part of a fortress to keep us in.  The Christian community has always been seen as the Spirit-guided bearer of the Word of Salvation. We must know that for us as a people of faith, Easter/Pentecost is now.  It is the continuing invitation from our God to an ongoing, ever new encounter with Him and with others.

Above all, we must not fear the movements of the Spirit, but embrace them with trust, with generosity and with courage. It is only by becoming fully a part of the Easter/Pentecost miracle that we will overcome our own personal weaknesses and become instruments of the Spirit, to continue to create a new church and a new world of unity and peace, happiness and holiness.


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pentecostWhen you really come down to it, the seed is being sown everywhere. Faith is a gift; but there is no genuine faith unless it is translated into decisive action. We have to ask, then, what happens to this gift. Does it come to maturity and bear fruit? Does it enrich and change our lives and the world we live in? Where are the signs of a rich harvest? I guess it all depends on what do we do with the gift. "Blessed are your eyes, because they see, and your ears, because they hear."