May 31: Pentecost Sunday. Readings: 1. Acts 2:1-11; Psalm: 104; 2. 1 Corinthians 12:3-7,12-13; Gospel: John 20:19-23.
Each of these readings plays a special role in this Pentecost day celebration. For it is in each author’s words that we hear the extraordinary testimony members of the early Church give to a power of presence in their midst. And that presence, of course, is the Holy Spirit who breathes life into everyone in the wake of the Resurrection and ascension.
In Acts, Luke’s depiction of the disciples assembled inside a house reveals the great outreach that the Spirit enables. The phenomenon that suddenly envelops those present makes it possible for them to preach everywhere in every language. The Spirit is therefore capable of receiving an instant welcome in order to let the world hear of God’s great power working through a few for the good of all.
Paul, a talented speaker and charismatic member of that early Church, shows us in 1 Corinthians that the Holy Spirit is a singularly powerful gift of divine presence. And at work for the common good, the Spirit is in complete union with God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Paul thus bears witness to the universal benefits of being spiritually empowered by our God.
Like Luke’s account, John’s house scene also recounts a memorable post-Resurrection moment for the disciples. The risen Christ’s appearance explains why Jesus’ return to the Father is necessary. It takes place to announce that the Holy Spirit is the Church’s life force for future mission and ministry. And Jesus’ peace greeting signals the Spirit’s imminent arrival, that is the offer of well-being for all people.
Because of these readings, our Pentecost celebration becomes a jubilant and profound expression of confidence in our God. For they invite great trust in the Holy Spirit to support us wherever we are in the world.
First reading: Acts 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 own 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 travellers 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 12:3-7,12-13.
Therefore, I tell you that nobody speaking by the spirit of God says, “Jesus be accursed”. And 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 baptised into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, slaves or free persons, and we were all given to drink of one Spirit.
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.”