Pentecost Sunday (Year A, B, C) – 20th May 2018

Theme: THE HOLY SPIRIT EMPOWERS US TO PROCLAIM THE GOOD NEWS TO RENEW THE EARTH IN LOVE AND UNITY   

  • Acts 2:1-11;
  • Psalm 103: 1. 24. 29-31. 34. R. cf v. 30;
  • 1 Corinthians 12:3-7. 12-13
  • John 20:19-23 

Today we celebrate the feast of Pentecost, that is, the descend of the Holy Spirit. Pentecost was originally a harvest festival which began at the Passover. The word Pentecost means fifty. Just as our Kadazandusun brothers and sisters celebrate harvest festival for the whole month of May climaxing at the end of May, the Jews also celebrated their harvest festival for fifty days climaxing on the day of Pentecost. Later the feast of Pentecost became a celebration of the giving of the Law to Moses at Mount Sinai. In the New Testament Pentecost became a celebration of the giving of the Holy Spirit! (Fuller) As creatures we need food, as human beings we need the law, and as children of God we need the Holy Spirit of God!

Another important point to note is that there are two different accounts of Pentecost in today’s readings. The gospel of John tells us that Pentecost happened on Easter Sunday, but the first reading from the Acts of the Apostles tells us that Pentecost happened fifty days after Easter Sunday. The Acts of the Apostles also tell us that the Ascension happened forty days after the Resurrection, but the gospel of Luke also written by Luke tells us that the Ascension happened on the day of the Resurrection. Again, in the gospel of John there is no “speaking in tongues” on the day of Pentecost, but in the Acts of the Apostles there is “speaking in tongues” on the day of Pentecost. The details are not as important as the essentials. The essentials are these: Jesus Christ died, rose from the dead, and gave the Holy Spirit!

The gospel today tells us that on the day of His resurrection the Lord gave the Holy Spirit to the disciples and sent them out to proclaim the good news so that those who believe and are baptized will have their sins forgiven, but those who do not believe and are not baptized will not have their sins forgiven. Thus we read in the gospel:

“And he said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father sent me, so am I sending you.’ After saying this he breathed on them and said: ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. For those whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven; for those whose sins you retain, they are retained.’” (Jn 20:21-23)

The first reading follows the theme of the gospel. The first reading also tells us that after receiving the Holy Spirit the Apostles spoke in foreign languages. Note that Luke changed the words “speaking in tongues” to “speaking in foreign languages” to indicate the universal mission of the Church to proclaim the good news of the Resurrection! The universal mission of the Church is symbolized by the Jews from all the nations!

The first reading also tells us that the Holy Spirit is a Spirit of unity. The Holy Spirit unites all the languages and nations of the world. Pentecost undoes and reverses the Tower of Babel (Gn 11:1-9) where and when the people were confused in their language and were divided and scattered all over the world! Thus we read in the first reading:

“They were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to speak foreign languages as the Spirit gave them the gift of speech.

Now there were devout men living in Jerusalem from every nation under heaven, and at this sound they all assembled, each one bewildered to hear these men speaking his own language.” (Ac 2: 4-6)

The responsorial psalm follows the theme of the first reading. The responsorial psalm tells us that the Holy Spirit does not only create the earth, but the Holy Spirit also sustains the earth. More importantly, the responsorial psalm tells us that the Holy Spirit does not only sustain the earth, but the Holy Spirit also renews the earth! Thus the second stanza of the responsorial psalm:

“You take back your spirit, they die, returning to the dust from which they came. You send forth your spirit, they are created; and you renew the face of the earth.” (Ps 103 (104): 29-30)

And thus the response of the responsorial psalm:

“Send forth your Spirit, O Lord, and renew the face of the earth.” (Ps 103 (104): 30)

Like the first reading, the second reading also tells us that the Holy Spirit is a Spirit of unity. Thus we read in the second reading:

“Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.

For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body – Jews or Greeks, slaves or free – and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.” (1 Co 12: 4-7. 12-13/HCSB)

Today in the Eucharist, we celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and we eat his body and drink his blood, and the Risen Lord will give us the Holy Spirit, and send us forth to proclaim the good news of his resurrection to renew the earth in love and unity!   Amen!

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