The day of Pentecost, seven weeks after Passover, was important in the Jewish tradition because a tradition had it that the Law was given at that time. Here we have the phenomenon of the Christian Pentecost when a mighty wind filled the whole house where the apostles, the women, and Mary the Mother of Jesus were staying. (Acts 1:14; 2:1)
John the Baptist had spoken of a baptism with the Holy Spirit and with fire. (Lk 3:16) In this event we have the two powerful symbols that reach back into the biblical tradition and emphasize the presence of God at work: wind and fire. In creation there was a wind moving over the face of the waters. (Gen 1:2) Some interpret the word as breath, and others as Spirit. (Gen 1:2, n.b, NRSV) In our passage there was a mighty wind. Then there were tongues of fire that rested on each one of them assembled there, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit. (Acts 2:2-4)
They began to speak in other tongues, and the foreigners who were in Jerusalem for the festival marveled that each of them heard the apostles in his own language. (Acts 2:6) It was as if the story of the tower of Babel were reversed here. Instead of the peoples’ languages being confused, the apostles were now speaking understandably to each nationality. This combination of remarkable occurrences both amazed and perplexed the bystanders. On the one hand we see that some of the listeners came to baptism (Acts 4:41), while on the other hand some rejected these mighty works and mocked then. (Acts 2:13)
Our second reading is a passage from Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians concerning the spiritual gifts that can be given by the Spirit of Jesus to those who profess Jesus as Lord. (1 Cor 12:3b) These gifts are given by the one Spirit for the common good. Thus, all the gifts are important for the good of the Church, since they are bestowed on individuals according as the Spirit wills so that everything works for the wellbeing of the community.
We notice here Paul’s beautiful Trinitarian reference. “Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of working, but it is the same God who inspires them all in everyone.” (1 Cor 12:4-6) The text goes on to remind the faithful that though the body has many members we are all baptized into one body, the body of Christ, through the one Spirit.
Our Gospel text is taken from Jesus’ Farewell Discourse and Prayer at the Last Supper. (Jn 14:1-17:26) Jesus situated the fellowship of his apostles in the love they will have for him, and that love would be worked out in their obedience to the Commandments. There he promised that his Counselor/Advocate/Spirit would abide with them and be with them forever.
The Spirit dwelling in the Church would bring Jesus’ teaching to the apostles’ remembrance and guide the Church in the interpretation of them. The Spirit is the Spirit of Jesus, and by his Spirit Jesus remains with the Church until the end of time. (Mt 28:20)
With the Psalmist we pray, “Bless the Lord, O my soul! O Lord my God, thou art very great!” (Ps 104)
Betty Jane Lillie, S.C.