for the Sunday of Pentecost
Acts 2:1-11 - 1 Co 12:3-7 & 12-13 - Jn 20:19-23
by Canon Dr. Daniel Meynen
The effusion of the Spirit
Acts 2:1, When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. 2, And suddenly a sound came from heaven like the rush of a mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. 3, And there appeared to them tongues as of fire, distributed and resting on each one of them. 4, And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. 5, Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. 6, And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in his own language. 7, And they were amazed and wondered, saying, «Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? 8, And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language? 9, Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, 11, Cretans and Arabians, we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.» 12, And all were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, «What does this mean?» 13, But others mocking said, «They are filled with new wine.»
Since the day of the Ascension of the Savior into Heaven, the Apostles, the disciples, and the holy women, one of whom was Mary, the Mother of Jesus, have been gathered together in the Cenacle: they pray for the Holy Spirit to come without delay. They are afraid of the Jews, and if the Strength from above would finally come to help them, they would be the happiest men and women on earth! As Jesus said: "Ask and you shall receive." (Jn 16:24) And so, ten days after the Ascension, fifty days after the Resurrection, the long-awaited Holy Spirit was sent jointly by the Father and by the Son: "The Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things." (Jn 14:26) "If I do not go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you." (Jn 16:7)
Why is the Holy Spirit sent to earth by the Father and the Son? If we are not fearful, do we too need the Strength from above, like the Apostles and the disciples? There is no answer to this question, for the problem is badly stated. Indeed, who is the Holy Spirit if not the Love of God, the infinite and overflowing Love of the Creator of all things? And the Holy Spirit is a Love that gives itself entirely, fully, without necessity, but freely! He is the Gift of God himself to man, to each particular man and woman, but only if this Gift is freely and generously accepted! If we receive this Gift with a little humility, we will see that we need it, but above all God himself will show us how much he needs us, for his Church...
1 Cor 12:3-7 & 12-13
1 Cor 12:3, Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking by the Spirit of God ever says "Jesus be cursed!" and no one can say "Jesus is Lord" except by the Holy Spirit. 4, Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; 5, and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; 6, and there are varieties of working, but it is the same God who inspires them all in every one. 7, To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. 12, For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. 13, For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body -- Jews or Greeks, slaves or free -- and all were made to drink of one Spirit.
If God gives himself to us in the Holy Spirit, if God loves us despite our weakness and our faults inherited from our past and from the consequences of original sin, it is so that we too might love him, not in our human measure, which is always limited to our own person, but rather in a manner that is quasi infinite and unlimited, freeing our being from personal limits. In a word, as Saint Paul says in today's second reading: "To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good." (1 Cor 12:7) This means that God comes into us through his Holy Spirit, who is Gift and Gift of self, in order that we too might give ourselves to God and to the Church for the good of all!
Let us not think that this effusion of the Holy Spirit for the use of the Church took place only on the day of Pentecost, about two thousand years ago. First of all, there exists a sacrament that, today, gives us this Strength from above: it is the sacrament of confirmation in the Holy Spirit, or baptism in fullness. Let us not neglect this great sacrament! Many people are baptized but not confirmed... Next, there exists the great means that is prayer: let us ask for the coming of the Holy Spirit and his gifts! But let us pray with humility and trust. Sometimes God gives beyond our meager hope! Let us not be surprised if our prayer is answered quickly: if we pray to the Holy Spirit, it is because we are already willing to give ourselves to God... Do you think that God would wait very long before accepting our gift?
Jn 20:19, 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.» 20, When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. 21, Jesus said to them again, «Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I send you.» 22, And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and said to them, «Receive the Holy Spirit. 23, If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.»
On the evening of his Resurrection, Jesus appears to his disciples gathered together in the Cenacle. Thus, this happens in the same place as Pentecost, but fifty days earlier. The Lord is already giving the Holy Spirit to his disciples. But, contrary to the day of Pentecost, this is a gift that is restrained, a gift not in fullness. Indeed, the gift of the Holy Spirit that is received by someone on Pentecost is destined for the entire Church, including he who receives the gift in question. On the other hand, on the evening of the resurrection, the gift of the Holy Spirit for the forgiveness of sins concerns the entire Church with the exception of he who received the gift in question: every priest who has the power to hear confessions can forgive, in the name of God, the sins of others, but not his own.
May the Most Blessed Virgin Mary, the faithful Spouse of the Holy Spirit, lead us into the Heart of her Divine Son, to draw from it the Father's Love for all humanity!