Pentecost, 5 Jun 22
The word Pentecost simply means 50! That is to say it is the fiftieth day of Eastertide thus completing the Season of the Lord`s Resurrection and Glorification as Jesus sends His Holy Spirit on His followers in order that they and we, we who likewise follow Jesus, can grow to maturity through the Gifts of the Holy Spirit and the continual outpouring of His grace. That maturity indicating that we and all members of His Body the Church may continue the work of the Jesus who is our Head and inspiration.
The first reading, verses 1 to 11 of chapter 2 of the Acts of the Apostles sets the scene for us as it describes what is effectively the Birthday of the Church describing how the apostles were gathered together in one place obeying Our Lord`s command as he ascended into Heaven on that first Ascension Day. They had been bidden to return to Jerusalem to await the gift of the Holy Spirit.
It certainly was all bells and whistles when the great day came for the praying apostles, who had been in a kind of retreat waiting upon the Lord`s promise, experienced what seemed like a mighty rushing wind from heaven the noise of which filled the whole house and something appeared on them like tongues of flame resting on the heads of each one of them. They were each filled with the Holy Spirit and given the ability to preach to the gathered crowds from all over the Jewish diaspora – from every nation under heaven! And it was witnessed by the crowds that everyone understood what the apostles were preaching about the marvels of God.
St. Paul in chapter 12 of his first letter to the Christians at Corinth makes the statement that, `No one can say, “Jesus is Lord” unless he is under the influence of the Holy Spirit.` Paul goes on to describe how that through the Holy Spirit gift will be given that vary from individual to individual so that all sorts of different workings will be working in all sorts of difference ways in different people. But he writes too that the particular way each person receives a gift or gifts if for a good purpose. Indeed he emphasises that the People of God, the Body of Christ, like a human body is made up of many parts which together become a single unit. He states: `In the one Spirit we were all baptised, Jews as well as Greeks, slaves as well as citizens, and one Spirit was given to us all to drink.`
Pentecost shows the fulfilment of Our Lord` promise to His disciples that they would have a Comforter or Advocate who would lead them into all truth!
The short Gospel reading from John chapter 20 takes us back 50 days to the evening of the first Easter Sunday when Jesus give his gift of Peace to those gathered in the Upper Room when he uses that traditional Jewish greeting: `Shalom` `Peace be with you` as He shows them his hands and his side. The greeting is given twice and Jesus then follows with a commission: `As the Father sent me, so am I sending you.` The sending is then given an authority in the gift of the Holy Spirit when Jesus continues by breathing on them and saying : `Receive the Holy Spirit. For those whose sins you forgive, thy are forgiven; for those whose sins you retain, they are retained.`
Jesus reveals how he desires reconciliation by offering forgiveness of sins and, particularly, through the Sacrament of Penance or Confession. Sadly, there are too many who do not take advantage of this sacrament of encouragement for the spiritual journey we live through when we seek to follow our Lord`s teaching.
This gift is for such time until the Lord Jesus Himself will return in all His glory with His angel train for the Great Judgement when we shall all be called to account.
The great meaning of Pentecost is that all that is necessary for Humanity`s salvation is provided through the life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus and the gift of His Holy Spirit. We have no need to be afraid but rather to take Jesus at His Word for He is the Word of God made Flesh and in whose life we share through Word and Sacrament every time we come the Mass – the Supper of the Lord where Heaven and earth become one.
The lovely account of the First Pentecost that we heard from The Acts of The Apostles in the first reading when we find these words: “The were amazed and astonished. `Surely` they said, `all these men speaking are Galileans ? How does it happen that each of us hears them in his own native language ? Parthians and Medes and Elamites, people form Mesopotamia, Judeaea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, an the parts of Libya round Cyrene, as well as visitors from Rome – Jews and proselytes alike – Cretans and Arabs; we hear them preaching in our own language about the marvels of God`. In my last parish, not long before I retired, one of our Brownies of about ten years of age had been asked to read the passage and she got a bit muddled, nor surprisingly, with some of the difficult words so instead of `Elamites` she said, `Elthamites` - not too surprising since Eltham was the neighbouring district to Chislehurst and then, instead of `proselytes` she said `prostitutes`. Well, you can imagine there were one or two giggles from some of those who were listening intently. When giving out the notices at the end of the Mass I congratulated her on reading so well and then, of course she asked why some people were giggling during her reading. So I explained that she had mispronounced two words and then said, `If Eltham has existed in those days there would certainly have been some Elthamites there and it was likely that there were some prostitutes in the crowd who were anxious to hear what the Apostle had to say.”
The message of Pentecost is for all who will accept it! Such is the love of God for all people that through the Sacrifice of Jesus and the power and gifts of the Holy Spirit salvation is available for all.