Homily for the Pentecost Sunday

Year A  -  John 20:19-23


by

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.»"



Homily:


"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."

The gospel was written by men:  the evangelists.  But this sacred book contains words which are not the words of man:  on the contrary, these are the very words of God, of Christ, which are recorded there in writing.  Since the event of Pentecost took place after the Lordís Ascension into Heaven, it is clear that, in the celebration of this feast, the Church must present us today with a gospel reading describing something that took place before the event in question, though nevertheless in very close relation to it.

Indeed, on the evening of Easter, the risen Jesus appeared to his disciples assembled in the Cenacle, in Jerusalem.  And the most important thing which Jesus did, with regard to himself, was to show himself to his disciples:  he wanted them to see his resurrected body!  It was not some other body, but truly his own:  that which made him Man-God in the womb of the Virgin Mary, his Mother; that body which had been transfixed by nails and by the spear of the Roman soldier.  "He showed them his hands and his side.  Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord."

This notion of the resurrected "body" of the Lord is essential for one to correctly understand and to try to fully encompass the entire Mystery of what took place on this day:  the coming of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles, as Saint Luke described it for us in the Acts of the Apostles.  He says:  "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." (Ac. 2:3-4)  This means that the Holy Spirit came to earth in order to unite each and every one of the believers in Christ with the others, just as this same Holy Spirit rests eternally on Christ, thus uniting, forever, his soul and his body.

"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.»"

Let us have a good understanding of the similarity between the Lordís Resurrection, and the event of Pentecost.  At the time of Christís Resurrection, the Holy Spirit came to stay in him, the Man-God, in such a way that, forever and ever, his soul and his body would live in a perfect and indissoluble union.  At the time of the event of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit came to stay in each one of the Lordís disciples, or at least in those who were present at the time, in such a way that, forever and ever, the Church, the mystical Body of Christ, would enjoy a perfect and indissoluble unity.  It is in this unity that we believe when we say, in the Creed:  "I believe in the one, holy, Catholic, and apostolic Church."

But there is a very great difference between the action of the Holy Spirit on the day of Jesusí Resurrection, and on the day of Pentecost.  Indeed, on the day of the Lordís Resurrection, the Holy Spirit acts only with regard to one single person:  Christ.  However, on the day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit acts with regard to an entire group, a whole community of people:  the Apostles, and the disciples, and first of all, Mary, the Mother of the Savior.  This explains the essential difference in the gift of the Holy Spirit
received on these two days:  a gift of unity, on the day of Christís Resurrection, and a gift of multiplicity, on the day of Pentecost.

We believe this:  the Spirit is one, and he is unique.  But his gifts are various.  At the time of the Saviorís Resurrection, on the evening of that day which, for the unique Son of God, has been without decline ever since, the gift of the Spirit which Jesus gave to his disciples bore in itself the mark of oneness that belongs to Christ in person:  the gift of forgiveness of sins can indeed be attributed to God alone in Christ, the unique Savior of men, he of whom the Apostles were the ministers and the representatives on earth.  And at the time of the event of Pentecost, the gift of the Holy Spirit which was communicated to the disciples bore so well in itself the mark of multiplicity which belonged to the mystical Body of Christ that, from the very first instant, those who had received this gift were miraculously understood by a crowd of people who spoke languages the disciples didn't know:  "We hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God!" (Ac. 2:11)

Let us thank the Lord for the unique and marvelous event of Pentecost!  May he grant that we worthily celebrate today the Eucharist in faith, hope, thanksgiving, and holy charity!  May Mary, who was the first to receive this gift of the Spirit, show us the way through which it is necessary for us to pass in order to go to God in the unity of faith in the Word of God of whom She became the mother for us on earth!