Today we celebrate Pentecost Sunday. Pentecost celebration was held fifty days after the Passover, that is, after seven weeks had passed. The material harvest which the Jews celebrated so joyfully became, through God’s providence, the symbol of the spiritual harvest which the apostles began to reap. The feast of Pentecost marks the official beginning of the Catholic Church. On this day the Apostles, who were praying in the upper room, received the Holy Spirit, who came upon them in the form of flaming tongues. They soon went out to the Temple area and began to preach the good news to the whole world—beginning in Jerusalem.
Today’s first reading gives us a moving account of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. The effects of Pentecost can be seen very soon in the conduct of the apostles. No longer locking themselves in a room ‘for fear of the Jews’ (John 20:19), they soon were boldly confronting the Sanhedrin. “It is impossible for us not to speak about what we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:20).
Paul in the Second reading deals with the work of the Holy Spirit in the Christian community that was established about 51 AD. There were problems among Christians because they did not understand the ‘spiritual gifts.’ These spiritual gifts could be impressive prophecy, speaking in tongues, healing, and the interpretation of tongues.
Paul wants all Christians to avoid both pride in their own gifts, their charisms, and disdain for those of others. “A Charism is a gift of the spirit to someone within the community for the sake of building up the community as the body of Christ.” First Corinthians, Sacra Pagina Series, V.7, p. 472). A key aspect of charisms, therefore, is that they are for the common good, for the service of the community, not for the individual’s benefit.
The author uses the terms “the spirit of God” and “The Holy Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12:3)—“Spirit of God” teaches that the Spirit comes from God and “Holy Spirit” recognizes the Spirit’s role of making persons holy, as happens at baptism. “For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body” (12:13). Another important point is that “no one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ except by the Holy Spirit.’ (12:13). Faith that “Jesus is Lord” is essential for all Christians.
The dwelling of the Holy Spirit in each of the followers of Christ begins at baptism. This role of Spirit makes it impossible for all followers of Jesus “whether Jew or Greek, slaves of free persons” (12:13), to form the one body of Christ.
The role of the Holy Spirit is expressed very well in the Fourth Eucharistic prayer. Jesus “sent the Holy Spirit from you, Father, as his first gift to those who believe, to compete his work on earth and bring us the fullness of grace.”
Pentecost was not an isolated event in the life of the Church, something over and done with. “We have the right, duty and the joy to tell you that Pentecost is still happening. We can legitimately speak of the ‘Lasting value’ of Pentecost. It is the Christian vocation and the ability to hear that calling and follow it by living a genuinely human life, indeed a life which is not only human but holy.
Yours in Christ,
Fr. Vincent Clemente