Pentecost Sunday- Year A
For today’s Gospel reading click the link below:
(Acts 2:1-11, 1 Cor 12:3-7. 12-13, John 20:19-23)
Homily Reflection by Fr. JJ Fenelon
The reason Pentecost falls 50 days after Easter comes from a parallel Jewish holiday, Shavu`ot, which falls 50 days after the Passover. Shavu’ot is sometimes called the festival of weeks, referring to the seven weeks since Passover. (Deut.16:9; Lev.23:16; Ex.23:16 ).
Originally a harvest feast, Shavu`ot now commemorates the sealing of the Old Covenant when the Lord revealed the Torah to Moses on Mount Sinai. Every year, the Jewish people renew their acceptance of the gift of the Torah on this feast. In (Ex.19 & 20) God appeared to Moses on Mount Sinai to give the Law (Ten Commandments) to be given to the people. The Law was the mandate of God’s Will for His people and they were to follow them faithfully in order to be the Covenant-partner with Yahweh, their new identity.
In Catholic Tradition, Pentecost Sunday is the 50th Day after the Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. The Word Pentecost is derived from the Greek word Pentecoste meaning 50th.
When we celebrate the feast of Pentecost, we are celebrating the birthday of the Church. Well, it is not the birthday of the Church. As Eve was formed from the sleeping Adam’s side, so the Church was BORN from the pierced heart of Christ hanging dead on the cross (CCC 766.173). So it should be a celebration of peace and unity among believers. It should be a celebration of a Church that is full of zeal and commitment to being an authentic witness of the Lord. But is it?
Before Pentecost, the Apostles, after Temple worship would come back to the Upper Room and break bread as Jesus had commanded. But without the Spirit in them nothing much happened. Jerusalem did not notice them. In fact, they were hiding from the authorities. It was only from the moment the Holy Spirit descended on them that they were on fire. There was a radical change. They began to preach, heal, prophesy and change the world. They were not afraid anymore. These were the Apostles 2000 years ago.
When we talk about the Holy Spirit today what does it mean for us? In Confirmation we are taught about the gifts and fruits of the Spirit. When the Holy Spirit was given to us at our Baptism it gave us a new life identity in our relationship with God our Father as His sons and daughters. At Confirmation the Holy Spirit empowers us to live out this identity as witnesses to our Lord Jesus Christ through the various gifts (wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord) (Is.11:1-2). But what is the greatest preoccupation among many Catholics today? They clamour for the Gift of Tongues, Being slained in the Spirit etc…
The 1ST Reading depicts the coming of the Spirit amidst a lot of noise, heavy wind and fire. He presents “the gift of tongues” as a source of unity among humanity reversing the curse of the Tower of Babel that divided humanity by confusing communication. It shows us the power of the Word to illuminate the world. The Apostles were Galileans speaking to an international community gathered in Jerusalem and all of them could understand what the Apostles said. This is the real meaning of the gift of tongues.
We have received the same gift of the Holy Spirit at our Baptism like the Apostles. We are the Apostles of the New Millennium. But are we living like the Apostles before or after Pentecost. Before the pandemic we used to come to Church, put stickers on our cars about Jesus and praise God in worship. But now in the current situation of the pandemic are our lives any different from the unbelievers? We worry and are anxious over so many things just like everyone else. We worry about our jobs, our families, our health, our loved ones especially elderly parents.
But are we living like the Apostles before or after Pentecost?
Near the beginning of the Covid 19 pandemic, people didn’t take it seriously. That perception changed as cases and data mounted, and a sizable percentage of coronavirus hospitalizations started to take place. Beyond contraction, other impacts of the virus on the country’s generations had come clearer into view. It is apparent now that coping with feelings of loneliness and restlessness with social distancing and the effects of the economic downturn will last long after the pandemic has passed. Many people including young adults after graduation, feel scared or uncertain about the future.
Do we have the faith and the courage to believe that God is with us as He had promised? If we don’t receive the Sacraments and are not able to go to Mass can we still believe God is present in the current situation we are in, just like the early Church when she faced persecution?
We tend to be more secular in our thinking. The ways of the world seem to influence us more than the teachings of the Church. It’s a spiritual virus that eats away at the core of the Church. We are called to be witnesses to the Lord Jesus.
In the Gospel the reception of the Holy Spirit is so radically different. The Spirit comes not in noise, wind and fire but a gentle breath – Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them: “Peace be with you”. This indicates to us that God chooses to come to each one of us in a way that we can receive him according to our capacity. In the same way if we are going to be witnesses and encourage the jaded lives of believers or unbelievers, it must be done with the right attitude. If not, we will not create unity but division as we impose our spirituality on others.
This indicates to us that God chooses to come to each one of us in a way that we can receive him according to our capacity.
In the 2nd Reading, the Corinthian Christians seem to have demanded a hierarchy of spiritual gifts from Paul, as they felt they were more spiritual than others. Since they were recently pagan worshipers, they were influenced in favour of tongues and the gift was being wielded as a means of acquiring authority among them. Paul dismisses this idea and suggests that spiritual mumbling in itself is no guarantee of power of the Spirit in action. It matters in what and how it is being said. Jesus is so honoured not simply in the charismatic phrase, “Jesus is Lord” but also in works of service and models of Christian unity.
The Church of Christ the King (in Ang Mo Kio) set up a shelter for the homeless to shower and spend the night to rest before going off to work the next day almost a year before the pandemic.
Ultimately the building of God’s kingdom comes from living a life in the Holy Spirit through the development of a strong prayer life. “No one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord’ unless he is under the influence of the Holy Spirit” (1Cor.12:3). Only then will there be a celebration of peace and unity among believers and non-believers. So let us on this feast of Pentecost reflect on the Collect of today’s Mass:
“O God, who by the mystery of today’s great feast
sanctify your whole Church in every people and nation,
pour out, we pray, the gifts of the Holy Spirit
across the face of the earth and with the divine grace that was
at work when the Gospel was first proclaimed, fill now once more
the hearts of believers. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit ,
one God forever and ever.”
Let us truly make it our prayer so that we may grow to become effective witnesses of our Saviour and Lord Jesus Christ, true apostles of the new millennium witnessing to His love.