Acts 2: 1 – 11, I Cor 12: 3B – 7, 12 – 13, John 20 – 19 – 23
The name and timing of the Feast of Pentecost has its’ roots deep in Jewish tradition. The Jewish Feast of Pentecost is the feast of the harvest of the first fruits, also the end of the feast of weeks. In Leviticus 23:11 we are told that Pentecost fell fifty days after the Sabbath following the Passover. It was a fifty day festival celebrating the harvest and thanking God for providing them with food. The Jewish Feast of Pentecost marked the end of the festival and was a time of celebration in which crowds would flock to Jerusalem and the Temple to take part in the Feast.
It was on this Jewish Feast of Pentecost that God did something totally unexpected and new for the followers of Jesus. On the day of the Ascension Jesus instructed the Apostles to go back to Jerusalem and wait and pray. In Luke’s Gospel he tells them to go to Jerusalem where they will “be clothed with power from on high,” and in Acts, they are told that they will receive the Holy Spirit. In these instructions Jesus didn’t tell them how long they were to wait and pray, just to do it. I wonder what thoughts they had as they gathered each day in the upper room to pray, and nothing extraordinary seemed to happen. Most likely there was some uncertainty, but their experience of being with the risen and glorified Lord that past forty days, no doubt strengthened their faith and gave them a new confidence in listening to the Lord’s words.
And so it came to pass that on Pentecost when they gathered for their tenth day of prayer, and as their fellow Jews were completing their celebration of the harvest, the apostles experienced something more powerful and lasting in that upper room. The Holy Spirit came to them just as Jesus had told them, and with tongues of fire they received “power from on high.” They celebrated the gifts and fruits of the Holy Spirit. This was a harvest far beyond their expectation, and one that we continue to reap. It is the gift of the Holy Spirit that united them in love with Christ and each other that filled them that day. It is the presence of the Holy Spirit that blessed them with the various and particular gifts each needed to carry out the mission Christ had given them. They found the boldness to leave the upper room and to go out and proclaim the message of Jesus, to heal the sick, cast out demons, stand up to the authorities who tried to silence them, and many other mighty deed.
When we look at the readings that describe Pentecost it is easy to view this Feast as one of remembering something that occurred millenniums ago, but are no longer present today. This is a view that shortchanges us in receiving what the Lord gives to us. He never recalled the Holy Spirit from the Church, and that same Holy Spirit continues to be given to us, and present to us. The Holy Spirit that we celebrate at Baptism and Confirmation is the same spirit. Pentecost is a time for us to open our hearts and souls to this great gift to the church, and to how the Spirit desires to work in each one of our lives. This Pentecost, pray with new fervor the Pentecost Sequence that is a part of the Pentecost Mass. “Come, Holy Spirit, come! … O most blessed Light divine, shine within these hearts of yours, and our inmost being fill!… In your sevenfold gift descend.”
Father Killian Loch, O.S.B.