Homily for the feast of Pentecost - Year A - Jn. 20:19-23
Canon Dr. 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, the doors being shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them. "
The Gospel is the Good News, it is the Good Word of Salvation proclaimed by Christ to all creation: "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to the whole creation." (Mk. 16:15) Now, Christ is the incarnate Word, he is the Word of God made flesh. Thus, the Gospel speaks only of Christ, the Son of God made Man. And thus, also, the Gospel does not have as its aim to speak directly of the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Most Holy Trinity who came into the world on the day of Pentecost!
This explains why the account of the coming of the Holy Spirit appears in the Acts of the Apostles, and not in the Gospels. But this does not take away from the reality of the fact, nor from the authority of the Book of the Acts of the Apostles, in which there is even recorded a saying of Jesus that does not appear in the gospels: "It is more blessed to give than to receive!" (Acts 20:35) So let us first refer to the account found in the Book of Acts in order to try to understand a little the Mystery of Pentecost...
The Apostles, Mary the Mother of Jesus, and some other disciples "were all together in one place. 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 2:1-4)
If we had been there, with the disciples of Jesus, would we not have been afraid to hear the sound of that violent wind? Would we not have been overcome with panic when seeing our hair appear to be aflame for some mysterious reason? Maybe yes, maybe no... The answer is not simple, even if I do express it in such a vague manner!
We would not have been afraid, as was also the case for the Apostles, if, like them, we had been intimately united to Mary, the Mother of Jesus, whose spirit of faith and prayer is so communicative that it spreads out from her like a sweet perfume of roses... Now, he who has faith, he who prays to God with all his heart, fears nothing: neither the temptations of the devil, nor those of the world, nor those of the flesh!
Nothing can shake he who has the spirit of Mary! Now, as we know, ever since Jesus was conceived in the womb of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary, the Spirit of God dwelt in Her who had then become his mystical Spouse: the Spirit of God and the spirit of Mary are but one in Jesus, the Mediator between God and Men. So, he who has the spirit of Mary cannot be afraid of He who is one with Mary: the Spirit of God!
Nevertheless, how could one exclude all fear when faced with such a phenomenon? When Mary heard the salutation of the Archangel Gabriel, who said to her: "Hail, full of grace" (Lk. 1:28), the future Spouse of the Holy Spirit felt within her something akin to fear: "She was greatly troubled at the saying, and considered in her mind what sort of greeting this might be." (Lk. 1:29)
So it is normal to think that the Apostles and disciples who were present were troubled in a similar way when they heard the sound of the wind and when they saw that their hair seemed to be aflame... Moreover, what is the primary action of the Spirit of God if not the purification of our soul in order to make it as holy as at the time of the first creation?
Fear, the noise of the wind, fire, all of these elements were intended to make us enter into ourselves in order to help us to see the ugliness of our sins... Had not Saint Peter, the principal witness of the first Pentecost, proclaimed the eternal Pentecost and the Parousia to be the day when "the heavens will pass away with a loud noise, and the elements will be dissolved with fire, and the earth and the works that are upon it will be burned up" (2 Peter 3:10)?
Jesus said so: the Holy Spirit comes, first, to purify us of our sins. "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.» " Then, at almost the same instant, the Holy Spirit fills us with his Love and he confirms us in our good intention by a sweet trust in the mercy and omnipotence of God!
For the Holy Spirit never comes into us without bringing us gifts, whether these favors be common to all the faithful, or proper to such and such a person. If we have true humility, then the Spirit of God will give us the most beautiful of gifts: that of recognizing the gifts that are in others, those gifts that we often refuse to see, due to our envy...
Let us not forget Cain and Abel: Cain killed Abel, because the latter had the favor of God; Cain was envious of the gifts of God that were in his brother... Nor let us forget that, shortly after Pentecost, the Apostles were thrown into prison for having preached the Name of Jesus, thanks to the gifts of the Holy Spirit that were in them...
When we shall approach the altar of the Lord to receive the Body of Christ, let us have a very great desire for the coming of the Holy Spirit into our heart: this desire will burn away all the imperfections and faults that are still in us and that we do not see! Then, through Mary, and for Mary, we shall be able to receive the gifts of the Holy Spirit who rests upon Jesus, in the Glory of the Father!