Pentecost Sunday (Year B)

Acts 2:1-11; 1Cor 12:3-7,12-13/Gal 5:16-25; Jn 20:19-23 (15:26-27,16;12-15)

Jesus Breathes the Holy Spirit



Jn 20:19-23

THE STORY about the descent of the Holy Spirit has quite a particular form in it. It contains some quite odd and interesting descriptions which certainly aims at making a clear and powerful impression with regard to that ‘surprise’ coming of God’s Spirit:  a sudden gust of wind, moving tongues of fire, opening of doors and of men seemingly ‘drunk’.  More so, the effect of the Spirit is also quite amazing:  the Twelve were all gathered in one place, people from all walks of life also gathered together, they heard the apostles addressing them in their own language.  All these transpired because of the one and the same Spirit.

Now there could surely be a lot to say about the theological meanings of this story.  And in any case three things struck us here:  they are inspiration, power and witness.

First, the Spirit of God became the inspiration of the first Christians.  Their existence was no longer led by human motivations.  The apostles were filled with God’s Spirit.  The circumstances of their lives would definitely remain the same, with good and bad days, with sickness and anxieties, but they knew how to bring everything in their lives in connection to our Lord.  This inspiration need not be a miraculous event by which they would totally be changed, but what is evident is that they would no longer allow themselves to be discouraged.  A new horizon has come into their lives.

Second, the Pentecost also tells about power.  The apostles were not heroes.  They had their own faults and failures.  Just like you and me, they had their fears and uncertainties.  But when it comes to choosing for the good, choosing for God, then they knew no boundaries.  An inner power drove them towards the good.  ‘We cannot do otherwise” they would say.  They courageously did what our Lord had done before them. They openly proclaimed the words of Jesus.

Finally, Pentecost also speaks of witness.  A person who lives in the spirit of Jesus brings his past and future in relation with Jesus.  He does not hide his convictions to himself.  For him, Jesus is the first and the last.  He lives out the Lord, so much so that he radiates Him, that, he then becomes a living witness of Him.  That witness happens in his silence or when he speaks, when he is at work or in suffering, but through it all, something comes out of him that points to our Lord.

Certainly, the apostles had already known Jesus for quite some time.  During those times Jesus shared much about Himself to them.  Nonetheless they needed this pouring out of the Spirit in order to come towards this experience of inspiration, be driven by a power (for the good) and become witnesses.  This may also be the case with us.  Our country has been Christianized for more than four centuries ago; individually, we have been Christians for many years, we know the words and deeds of our Lord.  And yet, the Church continues to call for a new evangelization and more than ever we have that great need of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.  Why?  Because it is the Holy Spirit who will be the one to inspire us by allowing us to recall what our Lord has said and done and be able to ask ourselves:  What would Jesus do if He were in my place.  It is the Spirit who shall pour out on us the power in order that everything that which inspires us from within, we may be able to bring out so that we ourselves would dare to witness to the truth of the Gospel against the currents of the time and the mentality of the world.



Jn 15:26-27; 16:12-15

IT HAS BEEN said that the Pentecost Sunday is the birthday of the Church. And speaking of birthdays, they are important moments of our life which deserve celebrations. Birthdays are occasions through which we can be thankful for the gift of life, and for the love we have received. They provide the opportunity for families, as well as friends to get together.

So, it is with Pentecost. We celebrate today the ‘birthday’ of the church. Down through the centuries the Holy Spirit has guided the Church, in spite of the weaknesses of its members. During these years, the Church has produced generous and heroic people who have been ‘led by the Spirit’ and whose lives have given eloquent witness to the Spirit of God at work in them.

This celebration brings us also to reflect on the mystery of God the Holy Spirit. We believe in one God in three divine Persons. But, of the three divine Persons, the most difficult one for us to think about is the Holy Spirit. We can think about God the Father as the source of all things. We can also picture him as a merciful Father. God the Son or Jesus is also easy to imagine. We find an account of his life and teaching in the gospels, and we can also use our imagination to picture him and to follow him through his early life. But this cannot be the case of the Holy Spirit. Since the Holy Spirit has not assumed any bodily form, it is impossible for us to imagine him in any concrete way.

However, in the gospel passage, we have heard of the revelation of Jesus about the Holy Spirit. These revelations can help us to think of the Holy Spirit.

Firstly, Jesus describes or calls the Holy Spirit as the Paraclete (Gk: Parakletos), which is translated in various ways: Counselor, Advocate, Helper. It means, literally, “one called alongside of” to help, exhort, and encourage. The Greek word was used in legal settings to refer to an attorney making a defense in court on behalf of someone accused. Thus, when Jesus used this to describe of the Holy Spirit, it means that the Holy Spirit strengthens those who belong to Christ, standing beside them in support as they battle temptation, endure the trials of this world, and rebut the accusations of the devil. Jesus further says that the Spirit will testify to Him. Indeed, the Spirit’s assistance or support was present in the lives of the apostles. The apostles were driven by the Spirit to testify to Jesus.

Secondly, Jesus speaks of the ‘procession’ or the origin of the Holy Spirit. He says, “When the Advocate comes whom I will send you from the Father, the Spirit of truth that proceeds from the Father.” Each time we pray the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed, we profess of the truth that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son. Or we shall say that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father through the Son. The Orthodox Church would not subscribe to this because for them, the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father alone. But, the words of Jesus in the gospel text are a basis for our belief in it.

Thirdly, Jesus describes the Spirit as the Spirit of Truth and as Guide. Jesus says, “But when he comes, the Spirit of truth, he will guide you to all truth.” The great ecumenical councils in the Church, like the Vatican Council, are a testament to this. The Holy Spirit has guided the Church through the years, particularly in the area of teaching or doctrinal truth. Doctrines have been formulated and explained, and the Church has improved her pastoral approaches with the aid of the Holy Spirit.

But the Holy Spirit is also present in every person. He is present in our life; He is at work in our day-to-day existence. What we need are proper attitudes toward the Spirit. St John Paul II speaks of docility. He says that docility to the Spirit gives man continuous opportunities for life. Pope Francis speaks of openness. He says, “Our hearts must be open, then, so that the Holy Spirit can enter, and so that we can hear the Spirit.” Indeed, when we allow ourselves to be guided by the Spirit, we become truly free. AMEN.



See Today’s Readings:  Cycle B

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