PentA. In Judaism on Passover, the people of Israel were freed from their enslavement to Pharaoh; on Shavuot, they were given the Torah and became a nation committed to serving God. The word Shavuot means weeks, and the festival of Shavuot marks the completion of the seven-week counting period between Passover and Shavuot. (Wikipedia under Shavuot) For Christians, Passover becomes Easter when we pass from slavery to our sinfulness to freedom because we have been redeemed by Christ death on the Cross. For Christians Shavuot, which is also the feast of harvest of barley & wheat, is Pentecost or the giving of the Holy Spirit who is our living, i.e. not written, guide and enabling force in the spiritual life, and the harvesting of Jesus’ work with his Apostles.
Genesis 11:1-9 & Acts of the Apostles 2:1-11. I wish to look at the first readings for the Vigil and the Feast of Pentecost together because it seems to me that they meant to be contrasting and in that sense complementary as left to right arms. In the Genesis reading the people already speak the same language but God confuses their language because their unity of language was being used to try to accomplish things without God; whereas in the Acts reading, they are being united in the one Holy Spirit by understanding each in one’s own language “of the mighty acts of God.” God brings about unity with God as the center but without God there is only division and chaos. If we try to reach to the sky on our own, no good will come of it; but being united with God who comes down from the sky to earth, all is well.
In Genesis 1:1-2 “a mighty wind swept over the waters” as a sign that God creative powers were about to work. In the Acts reading with the coming of the Spirit he appears “like a strong driving wind.” The Spirit comes as “tongues of fire” that gave the Apostles an intensity of desire to speak “of the mighty acts of God.”
John7:37-39 & John 20:19-23. The reading of the Vigil states that there had been “no Spirit yet;” nevertheless, Luke’s Gospel speaks of the Spirit working long before Pentecost (Lk. 1:35, 41; 2: 25-26; 3: 22; 4:1, 14). I believe John’s gospel means to say that the Holy Spirit of Pentecost, that was to give the spiritual gifts necessary to initiate the Church after Jesus had been glorified in the Ascension, was to arrive at the proper time later. Jesus “exclaimed, ‘Let anyone who thirsts come to me and drink. As the Scripture says: Rivers of living water will flow from within him who believes in me.’ He said this in reference to the Spirit that those who came to believe in him were to receive.” The ‘rivers of living water’ that are to flow from the Christian believers perhaps are the graced workings of the Holy Spirit who dwell within them. In John’s Gospel the Holy Spirit is given on Easter Sunday (first of the week). Jesus said, “’Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.’ And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.’” With Jesus present to them physically as he walked the surface of the earth, God’s grace or life flow into them externally. When Jesus breathed on them the Holy Spirit, the breathe of God’s spiritual life was within them. They no longer needed the external, physical presence of Jesus as a source of God’s grace or spiritual life.
Jesus said, “Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.” He was also ordaining them as priests (Grk. presbyteroi) so that the Church then had the power to forgive sins so to renew spiritual life within the faithful. Spiritual life was what Jesus had come to bring, the gift that gives eternally. Miracles, that give or renew physical life, are only a sign that Jesus and the Church, Body of Christ, (that exists physically after Jesus had left the world physically when he ascended into heaven) have the power to give the spiritual life that is for all eternity. With the forgiveness of sins, the spiritual life of each one of the members of the Church is reborn and renewed and so the Church has the Spirit’s life as its driving force.
On Easter Sunday, Jesus said, “Peace be with you” to give a type of resurrection to the Apostles who had locked themselves “for fear of the Jews” in the upper room which had become a sort of tomb for them.
Romans 8:22-27. The lifelong labor or struggle for holiness leads us to a groaning because we cannot just go out and do it and it’s done. Rather it is a never-ending- till- death struggle because the opposition does not give up until we have breathed our last breathe and are in the firm grip of the Lord, adopted into heaven as his son and daughters. The Holy Spirit groans along with us in our struggle, interceding for us “with inexpressible groanings.” It is like the groaning of those who are in a tug-of-war, or pushing on something or pulling on something we cannot move. We do not want to give up but, no matter how hard we try, we cannot get the job done. The forces that oppose the Lord never give up because they know, that as long as we have free will, they still have the chance to turn the tide. Nevertheless, we will have the victory as long as we stay united to the Spirit who never ceases to intercede “for the holy ones according to God’s will.”
“As we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies” Paul writes. I have always heard of redemption of our souls but as a whole person, our bodies need to be redeemed too. Paul wrote, “He will change our lowly bodies to conform with his glorified body by the power that enables him also to bring all things into subjection to himself.” (Philippians 3:21) Paul continues, “But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait with endurance.” Paul is encouraging Jesus’ followers to endure through difficulties. “For this momentary light affliction is producing for us an eternal weigh of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to what is seen but to what is unseen; for what is seen is transitory, but what is unseen is eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4: 17-18)
1 Corinthians 12:3b-7, 12-13. Paul wrote, “None can say, ‘Jesus is Lord’, except by the Holy Spirit. Jesus said to St. Peter who had professed to Jesus, “You are the Messiah, the son of the living God,” “For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father.” (Matthew 16:16-17) We can nothing good, unless we are graced by God to do it, even if we deny the existence of God or do not even know or care that there is a God.
The Church is a community of believers who receive many, differing gifts so that, as a whole its tasks work a unified result. There are many parts of the whole body but all the parts are to work together for the benefit of the whole entity. There is one Spirit to work together through all the baptized to achieve God’s will. “To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit.” God’s gifts, God’s will differs for each individual, but we work as a cohesive whole and so we, though many, are one. “We were all given to drink of the one Spirit;” but, if we do not, we will die on the vine and be fruitless.