A reading from the Acts of the Apostles
Among the ancient Jewish people, Pentecost was a harvest festival but was also associated with the occasion when God gave the Law to Moses on Mount Sinai—in a sense, the birth of Judaism.
Pentecost is also considered the birth of the Church, because it was during that feast that the Holy Spirit came down upon the apostles as we read in this passage. Did you ever wonder how the apostles had the courage to preach this new faith when everyone else seemed to be against it, and they were in constant danger of a violent death? The Pentecost event made the difference. The apostles and everyone with them were changed and found a new courage. Something powerful happened that bound them together in a new way in the power of the Holy Spirit. That same Spirit is in each of us personally and with all of us together now.
Imagine that! The very Spirit of God lives within you—right now and always. The Holy Spirit of God is your life-long partner, forever. Have you been aware of that? Do you talk to the Holy Spirit in your prayer times? In your times of distress and anxiety? In moments of great joy or accomplishment? The Spirit is always there within you.
“Lord, send out your Spirit and renew the face of the earth.” This is a continuing process of the power of the Spirit renewing our wonderful planet. Right now, we really need that presence.
A reading from the first letter of St. Paul to the Corinthians
Saint Paul tells the Corinthians, “For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, slaves or free persons.” There are many different kinds of people in Corinth, and Paul wants them to know that this new Church is inclusive. Even slaves were welcomed. It is one of the great tragedies in the history of our Church that Paul’s policy of welcome to all has not always been followed. Pope Francis is trying to lead us back to our true roots. All are welcome.
A reading from the Holy Gospel according to John
John focuses on three essential dimensions of our faith:
“As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” John wants to make sure that people understand the connection the disciples had with Jesus. The Father sent Jesus, and now Jesus is sending them. This authenticates their authority and mission.
“Receive the Holy Spirit.” By this time, John had spent decades as a leading follower of Jesus. He was very young when he met Jesus, and now he is much older, perhaps the last living apostle. He wants the world to know that before Jesus finally left the earth, he gave the Holy Spirit to the disciples, and he gave them the power to forgive sins. These are unique and defining gifts that have been passed down from the original apostles to leaders throughout the ages, even to many who were unworthy of them. Despite the weakness and fallibility of many church leaders throughout the centuries, the presence of the Holy Spirit remains and seems to reawaken from time to time. Let us pray that it is happening once again in our own time. Come, Holy Spirit!
Painting: The Holy Spirit of Pentecost, fresco at the Karlskirche in Vienna by Johann Michael Rottmayr (1656-1730)
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 Ayers was a founder, with the late singer Harry Chapin, of WhyHunger. Bill was a radio and TV broadcaster for 40 years. He is a member of Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Church in Centerport, New York.