SOLEMNITY OF THE PENTECOST – A
John 20: 19-23
The Pentecost in the Christian tradition has always been the celebration of the birthday of the Church. As a birthday celebration we look back to where and how it all began and appreciate its meaning in the present age. Originally it was a Jewish harvest festival where the people would offer on the fiftieth day a new cereal offering to the Lord (Lev. 23:16). Later on the feast was used to commemorate the Old Covenant fifty days after the Exodus from Egypt.
The Christian Pentecost comes from two biblical traditions namely the Lukan in the Acts of the Apostles which was based from the charismatic and prophetic tradition (the First Reading) and the Johannine in the Gospel of St. John which was based from the wisdom tradition (the Gospel Reading). Although different in their presentation of details, genre and theology, both traditions pertain to the same descent of the Holy Spirit.
In the Old Testament, the Holy Spirit has always been depicted and understood as the breath of God (ruah in Hebrew, pneuma in Greek and spiritus in Latin). It was the divine breath that animated the clay which became the man and woman and also vivified the rest of creation. Sin destroyed that divine breath hence the spiritual death of humankind.
In the New Testament, God re-created creation by breathing anew his divine breath hence the new life for humankind. The resurrected Body of Christ has the power to regenerate in an act of self-giving therefore God the Father gave birth to the New Humanity through the gift of the Holy Spirit as the fruit of the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. That is why the Pentecost is a Trinitarian event!
So what is the Pentecost to us today? It is the celebration of our spiritual birthday, of the day when we received the gift of the Holy Spirit in our lives during our Baptism and Confirmation. It is the acknowledgement of our membership in the Body of Christ, the Church which was born on the day of the Pentecost. When we were grafted into this spiritual body, we became children of God and our lives were conformed to the life of Christ. To be a Christian is to bear the name of Christ and to live it as long as we breathe in and out the divine breath that was loaned to us. It is in the participation in this Trinitarian life that we become being-for-others with a mission to share that divine breath by making a difference in the world we live in.
Prayer for the Spirit
“Pour into our hearts the sentiment of Your love, become Yourself a flowing current for us, for our own current does not carry us all the way to you. Be rainfall upon our parchedness, be a river through our landscape, that it might find in you a defining middle and a cause of its increasing and bearing fruit. And should Your water bring forth blossoms and fruit in us, then let us not regard these as our own sproutings and produce, for they stem from You; and let us lay them up in advance with you, adding to the store of invisible goods that You can dispose of as You wish. They are fruits from our land, but brought forth by You, which are Yours to use for You or for us, or to reserve for another who has nothing.”
Hans Urs von Balthasar