Pentecost Sunday – Year A.
Commentary Theme for this Sunday:
“Recreated And Reconciled In The Spirit,
The New Law Of The Christian”.
The first reading and the Gospel tells us of the ‘Decent of the Spirit’. It is the same event presented differently. The stories of Luke and John complement each other and teach us that the Spirit is the ‘New Law’, the force that from within, leads men and women to do good. The Spirit is the source of unity (it pulls down all barriers) and wherever it enters it destroys sin.
The second reading describes a consequence of the Spirit in a community. Every member is enriched by Gifts of one and the same Spirit, Gifts that must not be a source of competition but must be put at the service of unity.
Believing in the Resurrection of Jesus, challenges us to be reconciled to God and to each other. If our ‘reconciliation is genuine’ it will show itself in new forms of relationships of love and lives of self-giving.
It is recommended that the actual readings are first studied and then meditated upon with a prayer to the Holy Spirit to grant you the gift of ‘wisdom’ to understand the meaning of the messages of Love, Forgiveness and the Offer of Salvation that the Lord has for each one of us in the Holy Bible.
These commentaries, which have been extracted and summarised for our meditation are from the published works of priests who have by their Divine inspiration become acclaimed scholars of the Scriptures and generally reflect the Church’s understanding of the readings.
These commentaries are not meant to replace the Sunday Homily at Holy Mass but are provided as an additional guide to assist and further enhance our understanding of the Sunday Liturgical Readings.
‘Daily Reflections’ and a Prayer are included to enable us to ‘Live the Word’ during the week following the Sunday Mass. We will begin to understand the meaning of gratuitous love and our life’s true purpose. Through His Word we will follow the Light to help fulfil the mission that has been given to each one of us by our Creator.
“In the Old Testament the ‘New’ is hidden.
In the New Testament the ‘Old’ is laid open”.
The first reading tells us how the Holy Spirit descended on Jesus’ followers and how they reacted. They heard a powerful wind from heaven and then “divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them.” They all “began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them the ability.” Through the Spirit they now possessed the power and the ability to share the ‘Good News’ with all the nations of the world.
The rabbis used to say that on Sinai, on Pentecost day, when God was giving the Law, his words changed into ‘seventy tongues of fire’, to signify that this law was foreordained for all the nations of the earth (thought to be seventy). The ‘Old Law’ was given among peals of thunder, flashes of lightning and fire…how else could Luke present the ‘New Law’, the Gift of the Spirit?
God decided to change the hearts of his people. The Law of the Spirit is the new heart, the life of God which, once it enters a person, transforms and changes this person into a ‘branch of the Vine’ that produces ‘good fruit’, capable now of spontaneously producing the works of God. The many languages spoken by the apostles are symbolic to teach us that the Church is truly universal. The Gospel is for all peoples of the earth; the Gospel message pulls down all language, race and tribal barriers.
On Pentecost day we have the exact opposite of what happened at Babel (Gen 11:1-9). All those who allow themselves to be transformed by the word of the Gospel and by the Spirit now speak a language that everybody can understand and that people can be united in the universal language of Love. When we are filled with the Spirit, something never heard of before takes place: we love with the same love as God loves.
Psalm 104:1, 24, 29-31, 34.
The Psalm is one of the very greatest of the Psalms; sing to God as ‘Creator’ of the universe. Here the Spirit is a slightly different phenomenon; it is the force, which gives life to us beings: ‘you take away their Spirit, and they die and return to the dust’. By way of contrast, ‘you send your Spirit, and they are created, and you renew the face of the earth’.
The psalmist reflects on God’s goodness in creation. Those who appreciate his fidelity and kindness appreciate his world. His Spirit renewed the face of the earth at Pentecost.
1 Corinthians 12:3b-7, 12-13.
In the second reading Paul explains what the Spirit does for us. First, the Spirit enables us to say, “Jesus is Lord.” Only with the Spirit’s help can we come to realize and acknowledge that Jesus is indeed God. Of ourselves we cannot arrive at such a truth.Paul goes on to say, “Now there are varieties of gifts but the same Spirit; and there are a variety of services, but the same Lord…. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.”
Paul is reminding these Christians and all of us that the many gifts and qualities each person receives were not given to cause divisions, but to foster unity. The particular way in which the Spirit is given to each person is for a good purpose because they all come from the same source: the Spirit.The Holy Spirit thus facilitates and coordinates all the activities of Christians in order that they may accomplish God’s purpose for the world.
The ‘Risen’ Jesus appears to the Apostles on the evening of his Resurrection while they are gathered together in a house. They are filled with fear but they are also, probably, praying about the events that have led to the death of Jesus and are trying to understand the meaning of it all. It is in the midst of this fear and desire to understand that Jesus appears to them, giving them his peace and also giving them a mission. They are to go and do what he did, especially to be ministers of his reconciliation of people with God and with each other. The Spirit they receive from Jesus renews them and empowers them to act in his name.
This reminds us of the ‘creation story’ when God breathed on the clay to form man and he become a living being (Gen 2:7). During the exile, when Israel ceased to be a nation the prophet Ezekiel had a vision of dry bones. God ordered him to prophesy to these dry bones so that they might receive life and when he had done so, the ‘breath of life’ entered them (Ezk 37:1-14). In the vision the prophet shows that such a radical transformation can take place if the people obey the word of God as given to them by the prophet. Where there was no hope of life, God intervenes to re-create his people and give them new life and new hope.
The disciples of today can have that same experience of a new creation happening in their own lives if they open themselves fully to the presence of Jesus and the power of his Word. Only God can transform our hearts and make out of fearful disciples, courageous witnesses.
John adds another dimension to what the Spirit gives us. Upon appearing to his followers on the “first day of the week”, Jesus says: “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” Through the Spirit the Church possesses the power to forgive sin. As Christians we too are to forgive and heal one another.
When we examine our own lives, we must admit that we commit injustice, we hate, and we do selfish and evil things… just as we did before baptism. If we expect from baptism a sudden and immediate transformation, then we will be disappointed. This is not how the Spirit acts. He develops like a small seed implanted in our hearts: it will grow slowly and silently, and if nurtured (pruned) by the Word of God and Prayer it will yield abundant fruits.
Whenever this Spirit enters a person, sin will be destroyed. Has the Church been given the power of retaining sins? No! This sentence means quite another thing: the Church must endeavour to provide favourable conditions so that the Spirit may penetrate the hearts of every person. Where the Spirit does not reach, sin continues to exist. ‘Retaining sin’ should not be equated simply to juridical act, since the Greek (kratein) can also mean ‘restrain’ or ‘hold in check’. Too often we forget we have the power. Though we are given the great challenge to bring all people to Christ, we cannot do this by ourselves. We can do it only through and with the Spirit and the Spirit will always keep us focused on our mission.
Through the gift of the Spirit, who is also the ‘Spirit of Truth and Love’, the disciples are given power to forgive sin and unmask and control the power of evil.
‘Acknowledgement and Thanks’ to ‘Recommended Source Material’ by:
Archbishop Daniel E. Pilarczyk, Fr. Fernando Armellini SCI, Peter Edmonds SJ, Richard Baawobr M.Afr, Joseph A. Slattery Ph.D, Adelmo Spagnolo MCCJ, Silvester O’Flynn OFM Cap, J.E. Spicer CSsR, John R. Donahue SJ and Alice Camille – Master’s degree in Divinity.
Reflections for each day this Week to lead us in the‘Way’:
Almighty God and Father, on the… of the week following Pentecost Sunday:
Year A, we reflect on ….
Sun. … Luke’s imagery is very rich: A powerful wind…fire from above…powerful proclamation transcending the limitations of language. We too have been given the gift of powerful proclamation when we witness our faith in Christ to others by bringing the Good News by our actions of goodwill, charity and love for our neighbour.
Mon … Luke’s calendar differs from that of John. He dates the Spirit’s outpouring as taking place fifty days after Easter, at Pentecost. Catholic teachings emphasize that this feast remains a true annual celebration of the gift of the Holy Spirit and the Christian communities lasting and hopeful presence in the modern world.
Tues … Believers often pray: Come, Holy Spirit, You can ‘renew the face of the earth’. As a community, we can assist the Spirit in revitalizing the Church by encouraging our young people to seriously consider vocations and or to take more active roles in the ‘Body of Christ’.
Wed … The second reading describes the consequences of the Spirit in a community. Each member is enriched by gifts of one and the same Spirit. To ensure that these gifts bear fruit they must be put to the service of the poor and disadvantaged in our community.
Thurs … Let us reflect upon John’s celebration on Sunday of the Holy Spirit as part of the first day of the new age of the ‘Risen’ Christ. The mission of Jesus becomes the mission of the Church and for each one of us: As the Father sent me, so am I sending you.
Frid … The breath of God bestows the divine power of the Church to forgive the sins that are repented. Let us pray to the Holy Spirit for true repentance in our hearts and minds and a strong yearning to reconcile ourselves with our Father whenever we may lose the ‘Way’.
Sat … Should we look for the Spirit in tongues of fire, inspired speech, and charisma? Or should we expect it with no fanfare, in the softness of breath, in the tender moment of forgiveness? We would be wise not to miss the small, still way that God’s Spirit is available to us, breathing new possibilities into our lives.
Prayer after the Daily Reflection.
Father, we pray that we may notice the many subtle ways in which the Spirit comes into our lives. Make us alert to the promptings of the Spirit in our daily tasks in order that we may serve You and our brothers and sisters more effectively.
This we ask through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, One God, forever and ever. Amen.