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“Hear the Word!” by Bill Ayres: Pentecost Sunday


pentecostA reading from the Acts of the Apostles
(Chapter 2:1-11)
 
If you wonder why there were so many people from so many countries in Jerusalem on the occasion described in this passage, it was because Pentecost was first a Jewish feast and a time when pilgrims from all over the near world would travel to the holy city to worship. But on this particular Pentecost, Saint Luke tells us, there were strange happenings: “A noise like a strong wind” and “tongues of fire”, signs similar to those that occurred when God established the original covenant with the Jewish people. Luke wanted his audience to know that this was God confirming a new covenant with a new diverse people—thus, the people speaking many languages but still understanding one another. Luke wrote this a few decades after the actual events, and he wanted people to know that this was the beginning of something new that had its roots in a previous tradition and fulfilled that tradition. Today, we say that Pentecost is the birthday of the Church.
 
Responsorial Psalm
(Psalm 104:1, 24, 29-30, 31, 34)
 
“Lord, send out your Spirit and renew the face of the earth.” Here is a common thread between Judaism and Christianity, the Spirit of God. The difference for us Christians is that we believe that the Spirit of God is not just “out there” somewhere but rather lives in each one of us. That is one of the major breakthroughs of Christianity. God is not some distant being but absolutely close to each of us even when we might not feel that presence. We are never alone.
 
A reading from the first Letter of Saint Paul to the Corinthians
(Chapter 12:3b-7, 12-13)
 
Saint Paul tells us that we may each have different gifts and forms of service, but what unites us all together is the one Spirit. And, “To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit.”
 
You and I each have different gifts from the Spirit. Do you believe that? What are your spiritual gifts? How do you use them, share them? Can you appreciate the gifts of someone else, even though you might disagree with them on one or more issues? That is particularly important today when our country and even our Church are often divided in many ways.
 
As we read the Acts of the Apostles and the Letters of Saint Paul, it becomes clear that there were a series of major differences within the early Church with so many groups coming in and out of focus, each believing that their version of the truth about Jesus was the right one. This has continued for some two thousand years and has been the cause of wars and numerous unjust actions. It is only when we listen to the Spirit and act in the loving power of the Spirit that we have peace and true communion.
 
A reading from the holy Gospel according to John
(Chapter 20:19-23)
 
Jesus said to the Apostles, “Peace be with you. As the father has sent me, so also I send you.” Then, “He breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.”
 
John wrote these short few sentences, at the end of the first century, to validate the connection between the Church after Jesus with his words before he was no longer visibly present. Jesus conferred gifts, first the Holy Spirit and then the power to forgive sins. Remember, John wrote his Gospel during a time of persecution, and he wanted to make sure that his readers would know how blessed they were and how they were strengthened in the midst of endless trials. The Holy Spirit was with them and is with us today.
 
What are the special gifts that you have received in your life? How have you used them, especially the gifts of forgiveness and healing?
 
Excerpts from the English translation of the Lectionary for Mass © 1969, 1981, 1997, International Commission on English in the Liturgy Corporation (ICEL). All rights reserved.
 
Bill Ayres was a founder, with the late singer Harry Chapin, of WhyHunger. He has been a radio and TV broadcaster for 40 years and has two weekly Sunday-night shows on WPLJ, 95.5 FM in New York. He is a member of Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Church in Centerport, New York.

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