Father Donald Senior, CP

June 5: Pentecost

Wednesday, June 1, 2022

To drink of the one Spirit

Acts 2:1-11; Ps 104:1, 24, 20-30, 31, 34; 1 Cor 12:3-7, 12-13; John 14:15-16, 23-26

The feast of Pentecost, 50 days after Holy Week, is the culmination of the Easter season and, in many ways, reveals the full scope of Jesus’ mission to the world. 

Like the energy that explodes from nuclear fusion, so the dynamic power of God’s Spirit bursts upon the world. It is the full revelation of God’s reconciling love enveloping the universe.

Unlike the imagery of the Triune God that draws on human analogies — the Father, the Son — the Spirit strikes us as less defined and more ethereal. But the readings for this Sunday illustrate what the experience of God as Spirit means in powerful human images.

The first reading from Acts describes that moment in which God’s Spirit promised by Jesus takes hold of the disciples huddled in fear and confusion in Jerusalem. They are enflamed with God’s ardent love and, with Peter, begin to proclaim the Gospel to the Jewish crowds from all over the Mediterranean world who have come to Jerusalem for the harvest feast of Shavuot (also celebrated 50 days after the feast of Passover). 

It is not simply that the Spirit gives energy and purpose to the disciples, but the striking message of Acts is that people of diverse cultures and languages can understand Peter’s message (proclaimed in Hebrew by a Galilean). Right at the outset, we are reminded of the universal outreach of God’s love that the entire narrative of Acts will illustrate.

We are all created in God’s image; we are all daughters and sons of God. This is a gift of the Spirit that we must urgently remember now in a time of terrible violence directed at human lives.

The second reading from Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians points to another sign of the Spirit, this time with the focus on the interior life of the Christian community. 

Paul writes this portion of his letter in response to a serious problem reported to him about the celebration of the Lord’s Supper in some of the house churches in Corinth. Some wealthy members bring elaborate food to the celebration while some of the poor are embarrassed because they have nothing. 

This leads Paul to remind the Christians in Corinth that they have many diverse talents and gifts, but they are not to allow that to be a cause of dissension. “Many gifts; one Spirit,” working together in love and mutual respect. 

Here, too, the feast of Pentecost has an urgent message for the church today. It is contrary to the presence of God’s Spirit among us — the same Spirit of Jesus himself — to foment division and to engage in recriminatory discourse. We may have legitimate differences and concerns, but the first rule of the Spirit-driven church is to maintain the bond of charity.

The Gospel selection from Jesus’ farewell discourse in John’s Gospel lifts up another fundamental dimension of the Spirit. The Paraclete (John’s unique term for the Spirit meaning “advocacy” and “consolation”), Jesus proclaims, will help us understand all that Jesus taught his disciples. 

This is the Spirit-guided task of every Christian generation: How should we understand and live the teaching and example of Jesus in our world today? Our world is filled with beauty, but, as we are all acutely aware these days, it is also filled with violence, injustice and fear.

The Pentecost liturgy includes an ancient and exquisite poem or sequence that  reflects on the experience of God’s Spirit, and earnestly prays that the presence of the Spirit will be felt in our church and world today. 

Here are segments of this beautiful Pentecost prayer:

“Come, Holy Spirit, come…! / Shed a ray of light divine! / Come, Father of the poor! / Come, within our bosoms shine. / Heal our wounds, our strength renew; / On our dryness pour your dew; / Wash the stains of guilt away; / Bend the stubborn heart and will; / Melt the frozen, warm the chill; / Guide the steps that go away. / On the faithful, who adore / And confess you, evermore / Give them virtue’s sure reward, / Give them your salvation, Lord; / Give them joys that never end. Amen.”



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