Pentecost Sunday – Year B.
Commentary Theme for this Sunday:
“The Spirit, New Law of the Christian”.
The First Reading tells us of the descent of the Spirit. It is the same event as in the Gospel presented differently.
The second reading is a consequence of the Spirit in a community. We are all enriched by the gifts of the same Spirit, gifts that must not be a source of competition between us.
The Gospel Reading brings us the Holy Spirit that will continue the communication of the Truth in his function as illuminator and make operative in the Church what Christ, the definitive truth of the Father, has already effected through his life and saving death.
The Spirit is the ‘New Law’, the power that leads humankind to do good, and this from within the heart. The Spirit is the source of unity (it pulls down all barriers) and wherever it establishes itself, it destroys sin.
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.
“Ignorance of the Scriptures is ‘Ignorance of Christ’.”
Jesus promised his disciples that he would not leave them alone and that he would be sending them his Spirit (Jn. 14:16, 26). Today we celebrate the feast of Pentecost, the gift of the Holy Spirit sent by the Risen Lord, the powerful manifestation of the Spirit to the first Christians.
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.”
The people in the crowd, who were from various cultures in the Mediterranean area, each heard the apostles speak in their own native tongue. Out of the babble of noise came order. 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 Mount 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 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). When God’s Spirit comes down upon them, divisions are broken down. This remains a particular mandate for the contemporary Church in an increasingly fragmented world. 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. The Spirit gives us understanding, wisdom and power. With this gift of understanding, we see that the rights of others are rooted in the fact that they are made in the image and likeness of God. The gift of wisdom helps us to deal with the most difficult issues. The gift of power is the very grace of God, feeding our courage and determination as we pray, “Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful; kindle them in the fire of your love…[and] renew the face of the earth.”
The events of that first Christian Pentecost took place in an exclusive context of Judaism. The people were from all over the world, but they were all Jews, Jews by birth or by conversion. This would change. There would be development in the apostles’ awareness of the Church. In fact, the whole rest of Acts is the story of how the Church grew and changed from being a Jewish sect to becoming an ‘all-embracing community’.
Psalm 104:1ab, 24ac, 29bc-31, 30, 31 and 34.
The Psalm is one of the very greatest of the psalms; sing to God as Creator of the universe. But 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’. And, 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.
Concluding Galatians, Paul gives his list of the ‘Fruits of the Spirit’ produced in the life of Christians. The fruits of the Spirit are a reproduction of what the Spirit has produced in Jesus. Here fruit describes a divine, luminous quality making God visible to the world, and is used as a rule for detecting the work and presence of the Spirit in a person, activity and way of life. The first is love, the gift so eloquently described in (1 Corinthians 13).
The other fruits in Paul’s catalogue such as joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control are all consequences of the first fruit ‘love’. Paul helps us to see that the Holy Spirit is more than the external force found in Acts, but a vital principle, which indwells in the true believer.
John 15:26-27; 16:12-15.
Today we celebrate the great beginning of the Church. John tells how the mission of Jesus becomes the mission of the Church / community of disciples, “As the Father sent me, so am I sending you.”
Luke links the coming of the Spirit with the Jewish feast of the Fiftieth Day, seven weeks after the first offering of the season to celebrate the completion of the grain harvest. The future harvest of the Church is expressed by the presence in Jerusalem of people from every nation under heaven. Set aflame with the ‘tongues of fire’ from heaven, the apostles preached about the marvels of God in the languages of all the nations.
Our Gospel reading consists of two passages taken from Jesus’ supper discourse in which he speaks about the Spirit who is to come. The hardships that the disciples will encounter must not cause them to give up. They themselves will be able to testify, thanks to the gift that they will soon receive; the gift of the Spirit of God. He gave this Spirit a special name, one difficult to translate, namely Paraclete. The basic idea in the Greek word is one of who ‘stands alongside’. Just as Jesus was never alone, since the Father was always with him, neither would the disciples be alone, though he would be physically absent.
Jesus had come from the Father; so would the Paraclete. Among his roles would be that of witness. During Jesus’ ministry, the Father has borne witness about Jesus; in future the Paraclete would do the same. The Baptist bore witness about Jesus because of the word of the One who sent him; when the disciples were sent into the world to ‘witness’ they would be accompanied by the Paraclete.
The Paraclete is also the ‘Spirit of Truth’, who would interpret in the future the ‘words’ of the One who was the Way and the Truth. “Our Lord doesn’t need to make use of books or teachers in the instruction of souls; isn’t he himself the Teacher of all teachers, conveying knowledge with never a word spoken? For myself, I never heard the sound of his voice, but I know that he dwells within me all the time, guiding and inspiring me whenever I do or say anything. A light, of which I’d caught no glimmer before, comes to me at the very moment when it’s needed” (St Therese de Lissieux).
Before the glorification of Jesus in the death and Resurrection, the disciples failed to understand the meaning of all that Jesus has said and done; they did not understand his words. As their teacher, the Paraclete would make clear to them what they could not understand before. He would follow-on the guiding and loving role of Jesus, who had taught them what he had heard from his Father. Thanks to the Paraclete, they would not be bereaved by the earthly departure of Jesus.
Jesus promises his followers that when the Spirit comes, “… he will guide you into all the truth…. He will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you.”
The same Holy Spirit continues to be with us today: within us, bringing us love, peace and joy in difficult times, and with the whole Church, guiding it through the turmoil of a broken world. The Holy Spirit will never leave us – never! With the Holy Spirit, we can triumph.
Set aflame with the ‘tongues of fire’ from heaven, the apostles preached about the marvels of God in the languages of all the nations.
‘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, the Truth and the Life’:
Almighty God and Father, on the … of the week following the Feast of Pentecost, Year B, we reflect on …
Sun. … Today on the Feast of Pentecost, the anniversary of the great beginnings of our Church, let us reflect on our baptism into the New Covenant of God. The ‘Law of the Spirit’ is a new heart of love that transforms us to produce ‘Good Fruit’. Do we still have that love in our hearts? Are we able to love one another with the same love that God loves?
Mon. … The Spirit gives us the Gifts of understanding, wisdom and power. Do we use the gift of ‘understanding’ to respect others, their values, their opinions and their rights? Do we use the gift of ‘wisdom’ to make the correct choices for the cause of good and justice and not just for our own personal benefit? God gives us a special grace, his gift of ‘power’. Do we use this grace to strengthen our faith and courage to do his will, and not ours?
Tues. … The Psalm tells us that the Spirit will renew the face of the earth. We as God’s children are enkindled in the fire of God’s love. When we love each other with that love, we will help to renew the face of our suffering world.
Wed. … Paul lists eight of the ‘Twelve Fruits of the Holy Spirit’ that are a direct consequence of ‘to love’. Are we able to provide that ‘luminous’ quality in our lives that makes God visible to the world? Paul tells us that we cannot belong to Christ unless we crucify all self-indulgent passions and desires. We need to pray for God’s grace to achieve this; we cannot do it alone!
Thurs. … The many languages spoken by the apostles are symbolic and show that Jesus created his Church to be universal. Are we universal in our thoughts and actions? Have we pulled down all the barriers and removed obstacles that have separated us from each other and God? Do we realize that these barriers and obstacles we create to keep others out, will keep God out as well?
Frid. … The Apostles were able to testify and to give witness to the Risen Lord by fearlessly preaching the Gospel when they had received the Gift of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. Each day the Holy Spirit comes to us not just as individuals, but also as members of Christ’s community. How well do we know the Gospel word? Do we understand its message? Are we able to bear witness to the teachings of the Gospel and to Christ?
Sat. … Let us pray to the Holy Spirit to make clear the teaching of Jesus and to guide us in his ‘Way’ through the turmoil of a broken world, and to bring us love, peace, joy and courage in these difficult times.
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Prayer after the Daily Reflection.
Lord, today we celebrate the great beginning of Your Church. You set aflame the apostles with the tongues of fire from heaven, which enabled them to preach about the marvels of God in the languages of all the nations. We rejoice that in our own day there is great and ever-growing awareness of the presence and power of the Holy Spirit who adorns the Church with His marvellous variety of gifts, virtues and supports. We pray that the Holy Spirit may dwell in our hearts so that we may be true to Your will.
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.