Jaime L. WatersApril 22, 2021
Pavel Lozovikov (Unsplash)

Fifty days after Easter we celebrate the feast of Pentecost, which commemorates the coming of the Holy Spirit. Today’s readings focus on the role of the Spirit in sustaining the community after Jesus’ death and resurrection, reminding us how the Spirit continues to empower believers today.

And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim. (Acts 2:4)

Liturgical day
PENTECOST SUNDAY (B)
Readings
Acts 2:1-11; Ps 104; 1 Cor 12:3-13 or Gal 5:16-25; Jn 20:19-23 or Jn 15:26-16:15
Prayer

How does the Holy Spirit inspire your work?

What can you do to spread the Gospel?

Do you look for ways to increase your knowledge and
understanding?

In the first reading, from Acts, the Spirit symbolically comes in the form of tongues of fire representing the many tongues (languages) the disciples are able to speak in order to spread the Gospel to people from different regions. Often this scene is interpreted as showing the apostles receiving the Spirit, but Luke does not explicitly say who “they” are in the house. The previous chapter describes men and women disciples praying together with a crowd of 120 people (Lk 1:14-15), so Luke may envision all of these believers receiving the Spirit and sharing the Gospel with the larger world. The Spirit enables “the mighty acts of God” to be communicated to and be understood by diverse groups.

There are two options for the second reading, each highlighting how the Spirit empowers believers. In the First Letter to the Corinthians, Paul speaks of spiritual gifts like wisdom, understanding, healing and prophecy. Like the first reading, Paul affirms the Spirit’s role in helping people to gain knowledge and insight. In the reading from Galatians, Paul discusses acts that are opposed to the Spirit, including idolatry, jealousy, anger and drunkenness. He highlights actions that hamper a community and instead calls on people to “live by the Spirit” in order to foster fruitful relationships with one another.

Both options for the Gospel reading are from John. Before his death, Jesus promises the disciples that he will send the Holy Spirit to them as an advocate, a helper, especially on the difficult road ahead. Jesus offers comfort, reassurance and guidance for the community to thrive, even after his departure. After the resurrection, Jesus appears to his followers and breathes on them saying, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” John invokes the powerful imagery of God breathing life into the first human in the Garden of Eden (Gn 2:7), with Jesus now animating the Christian movement by the power of the Spirit.

Especially on Pentecost, we remember the important role of the Spirit in guiding and sustaining faith after Jesus’ resurrection. The sacraments of baptism and confirmation are also occasions when we receive the Spirit and spiritual gifts are affirmed and strengthened within us. We should deepen those graces by praying for the guidance of the Spirit to permeate our lives. Just as the early Christians understood the Spirit as a powerful force that inspired their work, we too should pray for the Spirit’s presence and influence in our lives.

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