Today we draw our Easter season to a close with our celebration of Pentecost. As our first reading begins, “When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled, there were all in one place together.” For the Jews, it was the time for Pentecost as they celebrated it. For Jesus’ disciples, Jesus had told them to wait for the coming of the Holy Spirit who, as Jesus says is “another Advocate to be with you always” (from the second option for today’s gospel). Today is that day.
As the disciples were gathering together, the Holy Spirit came “like a strong driving wind” and appeared to them as “tongues of fire.” The wind reminds us of how God breathed life into Adam at the beginning (Genesis 2:7). The tongues of fire lead us to think of God appearing to Moses in the burning bush (Exodus 3). The tongues of fire point to how the disciples will be heard in every language (tongue). The tongues of fire “came to rest on each one of them” as the Holy Spirit is for everyone.
In enabling the disciples to be heard in every tongue, the Holy Spirit undoes what happened at the Tower of Babel when the Lord confused their speech because of their sinful pride (Genesis 11:1-9).
The Holy Spirit comes to unite the people. There “were devout Jews from every nation” and converts too. “They were confused because each one heard them speaking in his own language.” They had never experienced this before. Our Christian faith transcends all languages and all lands. We call ourselves “Catholics.” The word “catholic” means universal. God offers the gift of faith to everyone, for as Paul says, “whether Jews or Greeks, slaves or free persons, and we were given to drink of one Spirit.“
The Holy Spirit came for the first time at Pentecost. This is seen as the birth of the Church as it is from here the first disciples would go out on mission to spread the faith. They will boldly proclaim, no longer hiding in a locked room for “fear of the Jews.” In receiving the Holy Spirit, they have received the gift of the Holy Spirit.
We first receive the Holy Spirit at Baptism and are sealed in the Holy Spirit at Confirmation. The Holy Spirit gives us gifts like courage. Through the Holy Spirit we all receive “different kinds of spiritual gifts but the same Spirit.” We are each individuals called to “different forms of service but the same Lord.” We are giving different gifts “for some benefit.” The gifts we are given are not solely for our own individual benefit. We are called to use our gifts together to build the kingdom of God. We are many parts but we are all one body.
From the Holy Spirit at work in us we also enjoy the fruits of the Holy Spirit like “peace.“ This is not simply peace as in the sense of no wars. The fruit of peace is something deep in our hearts that transcends the sufferings of this world.
Jesus tells us, “The Advocate, the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything and remind you of all that I told you” (from the second option for today’s gospel). The Holy Spirit gives us gifts of knowledge, wisdom, and understanding.
God breathed life into Adam (Genesis 2:7). God gives us life. Without God we would perish. God is our creator and through the Holy Spirit God renews the face of the earth.
I will end with these words of Paul to the Romans, “For if you live according to the flesh, you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live” (from the second option for today’s second reading).