Homily for Pentecost Sunday - Jn. 20:19-23
Father Daniel Meynen
" On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, 'Peace be with you.' When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, 'Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I send you.' And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and said to them, 'Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.' "
" On the evening of that day, the first day of the week..."
Today is Pentecost Sunday! It is fifty days after Easter - but not exactly fifty. No, between Easter and Pentecost there are only forty-nine days, that is, exactly seven complete weeks. Thus, Easter and Pentecost are two feasts that are celebrated on Sunday; and this is not without significance. Indeed, Sunday is the first day of the week, the day that corresponds to the first of the six days during which God created the world and the entire universe. This means that the feast of Pentecost is celebrated as a memorial of the first creation: it is like a celebration of a new creation! The Holy Spirit whom the Lord sends to us on this day enters the Church in order to realize in us a new creation, to make us new creatures, renewed and restored in the Resurrection of Christ!
" ...the doors being shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews."
The disciples are gathered together in the Cenacle. This is what Saint Luke tells us in the Acts of the Apostles; he says that, after the Ascension, the disciples "returned to Jerusalem" and "went up to the upper room, where they were staying" (Acts 1:12-13). And later he adds: "When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place." (Acts 2:1) So it was in the Cenacle that the Apostles and disciples were to be found on the day of Pentecost. Saint Luke continues: "And suddenly a sound came from heaven like the rush of a mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them tongues as of fire, distributed and resting on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit." (Acts 2:2-4) So it was in the same place, in the same house in which the Last Supper took place, that the Holy Spirit came to rest upon the Apostles and the disciples.
" Jesus said to them again, 'Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I send you.' And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and said to them, 'Receive the Holy Spirit.' "
On the day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit comes upon the Apostles in the very place where they were invested with their priestly charge by Christ in person. There is a very close link between the Sacrifice of Christ and the coming of the Holy Spirit. When the Spirit enters the Church, it is to fortify us in the witness that we are to give to the Truth that is Christ in person: the Holy Spirit is given to us in order that we might be affirmed in our faith in the Truth to which we are to testify, following Christ. If the mission of Christ continues and is accomplished daily in the Church, it is thanks to the aid and the strength of the Spirit who was given to us! This is why, after saying, "As the Father has sent me, even so I send you," the Lord blew upon the Apostles to give them the Holy Spirit: "He breathed on them, and said to them, 'Receive the Holy Spirit.' "
" All these with one accord devoted themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers." (Acts of the Apostles 1:14)
When the Spirit of God came on the day of Pentecost, Mary, the Mother of Jesus, was there with all the Apostles, the disciples, and the holy women who had followed the Lord throughout his apostolate. It was in the presence of Mary, and united with her in prayer, that the Apostles received the Holy Spirit. How can we deny this action of the Spirit of God who renews on this day his coming at the creation of the universe, when, as Scripture says, "the Spirit of God was moving over the face of the waters" (Gen. 1:2)? How can we not associate Mary - or, in Latin, "Maria", which means "the sea", that expanse of water which is surrounded by the lands of the world - with the mysterious waters spoken of in the book of Genesis, which constitute what we can call the first aspect of creation?
When the Spirit of God came on the day of Pentecost, the first person he looked at was Mary, who was not an Apostle, but who was, as his spouse, even dearer to his heart; indeed, the Holy Spirit had taken Mary as his spouse on the day of the Incarnation of the Word: by the very fact that Mary had become the Mother of God and of Christ, she also became the Spouse of the Holy Spirit. So, on this most holy day of Pentecost, as we prepare to celebrate the Eucharist of the Lord, let us have recourse to Mary, the Mother of Jesus and of us all: let us ask her to prepare us to receive her Son in the Eucharist, let us ask her that the Holy Spirit may always be ever more present throughout the Church of God and throughout the world!