Throughout the Easter season, we have heard readings that highlight the role of the Holy Spirit in comforting, sustaining, inspiring and empowering believers in Christ. On Pentecost, as the Holy Spirit comes upon Jesus’ followers, the readings highlight the Spirit’s role in propelling the Christian movement forward after the resurrection.
Lord, send out your Spirit, and renew the face of the earth. (Ps 104:30)
Do you pray for guidance and support from the Holy Spirit?
In what ways can you use the gifts of the Holy Spirit to inspire your life?
How can the Holy Spirit help you to connect with your diverse community?
In the first reading from Acts, Luke situates the descent of the Spirit 50 days after Easter and 10 days after Jesus’ ascension into heaven. After Mary, other women and the apostles witness the ascension, the apostles select a new person to replace Judas. Today’s reading describes these disciples in an upper room dramatically experiencing a heavenly wind and tongues of fire descending above them. Beautifully, these tongues of fire represent the many languages they are able to speak in order to spread the Gospel. According to Luke, the Spirit enables the apostles to be understood by a variety of communities. These new believers are amazed that the apostles can connect with them—“We hear them speaking in our own tongues of the mighty acts of God.”
Luke’s account can inspire all people, especially church leaders, to communicate in ways that resonate with their communities. In Acts, the apostles do not require first-century converts to learn Aramaic in order to hear Christ’s message. Instead, they preach in a way that can be received by everyone. Today’s leaders should work intentionally to make the Gospel understandable, available and inspirational to a diverse 21st-century audience. Just as the apostles adapted to their context, modern leaders should creatively adjust to today’s circumstances. This might involve rethinking content, tone and platforms to speak to the global church. It could also require the recognition of preachers among the laity and in religious life who could address the challenges of the world more convincingly.
The Gospel reading from John is the same text we read on the Second Sunday of Easter. In John’s account, the Spirit is given by Jesus’ breathing onto his followers. The event is not described as occurring 50 days after Easter; instead, John connects it to one of Jesus’ resurrection appearances. By giving the gift of the Spirit, Jesus fulfills his promise to send the Spirit; moreover, by giving the Spirit, Jesus empowers and entrusts this group with authority.
This Pentecost Sunday we should reflect on the role of the Spirit in the missionary work of the early Christian community and in the life of the church today. This is an excellent opportunity to pray St. Augustine’s prayer to the Holy Spirit:
Breathe in me, O Holy Spirit, that my thoughts may all be holy.
Act in me, O Holy Spirit, that my work, too, may be holy.Draw my heart, O Holy Spirit, that I love but what is holy.Strengthen me, O Holy Spirit, to defend all that is holy.
Guard me, then, O Holy Spirit, that I always may be holy. Amen.