Pentecost Sunday – Year C.
Commentary Theme for this Sunday:
“Empowered By The Spirit”.
The first reading and the Gospel present the descent of the Spirit. It is the same event presented differently.
The teachings of Luke and John complement each other and inform us that the Spirit is the ‘new Law’, the force that leads humankind to do good, comes from within the heart.
The Spirit is the source of unity (it pulls down all barriers) and wherever it arrives it destroys sin.
The second reading tells us that Christ is present in the Church through the Spirit. The Spirit bears witness that we are all God’s children, sharing in his sufferings, so as to share his glory.
In the Gospel reading Jesus assures his followers that he will give them “another Advocate, to be with you forever.” This Spirit, Jesus promises, “will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you.”
It is recommended that the actual readings are first studied and then meditated upon with a prayer to the Holy Spirit to grant you the gift of ‘wisdom’ to understand the meaning of the messages of Love, Forgiveness and the Offer of Salvation that the Lord has for each one of us in the Holy Bible.
These commentaries, which have been extracted and summarised for our meditation, are from the published works of priests who have, by their Divine inspiration, become acclaimed scholars of the Scriptures and generally reflect the Church’s understanding of the readings.
These commentaries are not meant to replace the Sunday Homily at Holy Mass but are provided as an additional guide to assist and further enhance our understanding of the Sunday Liturgical Readings.
‘Daily Reflections’ and a Prayer are included to enable us to ‘Live the Word’ during the week following the Sunday Mass. We will begin to understand the meaning of gratuitous love and our life’s true purpose. Through His Word, we will follow the Light to help fulfil the mission that has been given to each one of us by our Creator.
“Allow the Spirit of God to break the chains that keep us from understanding and accepting the word of God.”
Jesus promised his disciples that he would not leave them alone and that he would be sending them his Spirit (Jn. 14:16, 26). Today we celebrate the feast of Pentecost, the gift of the Holy Spirit sent by the Risen Lord. It is the birthday of the Church.
The first reading tells us how the Holy Spirit descended on Jesus’ followers and how they reacted. They heard a powerful wind from heaven and then “divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them.” They all “began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them the ability.” Through the Spirit they now possessed the power and the ability to share the ‘Good News’ with all the nations of the world.
The rabbis used to say that on Sinai, on Pentecost day, when God was giving the Law, his words changed into ‘seventy tongues of fire’, to signify that this law was foreordained for all the nations of the earth (thought to be seventy). The ‘old Law’ was given among peals of thunder, flashes of lightning and fire…how else could Luke present ‘the new Law’, the gift of the Spirit?
God decided to change the hearts of his people. The Law of the Spirit is the new heart, the ‘life of God’ which, once it enters a person, transforms and changes this person into a branch that produces ‘good fruit’, capable now of spontaneously producing the works of God. The many languages spoken by the apostles are symbolic to teach us that the Church is ‘truly universal’. The Gospel is for all peoples of the earth; the Gospel message pulls down all language, racial and tribal barriers.
On Pentecost day we have the exact opposite of what happened at Babel (Gen. 11:1-9). All those who allow themselves to be transformed by the word of the Gospel and by the Spirit now speak a language that everybody can understand and that people can be united in this language of Love. When we are filled with the Spirit, something never heard of before takes place: we love with the same love as God loves.
The events of that first Christian Pentecost took place in an exclusive context of Judaism. The people were from all over the world, but they were all Jews, Jews by birth or by conversion. This would change. There would be development in the apostles’ awareness of the Church. In fact, the whole rest of Acts is the story of how the Church grew and changed from being a Jewish sect to becoming an all-embracing community of faith.
Psalm 104:1, 24, 29-31, 34.
Today’s Psalm is one of the very greatest of the psalms; sing to God as Creator of the universe. But here the Spirit is a slightly different phenomenon; it is the force, which gives life to us beings: ‘you take away their Spirit, and they die and return to the dust’.
And, by way of contrast, ‘you send your Spirit, and they are created, and you renew the face of the earth’. The psalmist reflects on God’s goodness in creation. Those who appreciate his fidelity and kindness appreciate his world. His Spirit ‘renewed the face of the earth’ at Pentecost.
The second reading for today is in a section of the Letter to the Romans where Paul is giving his audience their grounds for confidence as a Church. The Church, he tells them, are those who are ‘not in flesh, but in Spirit, given that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst’. What does this mean? It is to say that Christ is present in the Church and that the Church has the Spirit’s ‘life because of justification’.
It is also the place of resurrection, ‘the Spirit of the One who raised Christ from the dead’, the place of life ‘for those who are led by the Spirit of God are God’s children’. So we are not slaves, but cry out ‘Abba, Father’, sharing Jesus’ bleak Gethsemane prayer, because ‘the Spirit himself bears witness along with our spirit that we are God’s children’. So it does not matter if the Church goes into Gethsemane, and onto Calvary, because ‘we suffer with Christ in order to be glorified with Christ’.
John 14:15-16, 23-26.
Today’s Gospel reading takes us back to the Last Supper in which Jesus makes a long farewell speech to his disciples before his death. In the selection for today’s readings, he promises the Spirit to help them. He will continue to be with them but in this new form of presence: ‘in the Spirit’, on condition that they ‘keep his Word’ and live the ‘commandment of love’.
It was because of the Spirit of God that the prophets could speak authoritatively even when they had difficult messages to communicate. Through the Spirit, it is God himself who is present and active. This Spirit could even be passed on from master to disciple, as was in the case with Moses and the seventy (two) elders who share in his responsibility (Nm. 11:16-29) and with the prophets Elijah and Elisha (2 Kings 2:9-15).
In the Gospel of Luke the action of the Spirit plays an important role. Jesus was conceived through the power of the Holy Spirit and carried out his mission under the influence of this Spirit. Earlier on Jesus had already foretold that all who believe in him would receive the Spirit. In the ‘farewell speech’, Jesus promises again the ‘Spirit of Truth’ to come to stay with the disciples. This promise is fulfilled before the end of the Gospel when Jesus ‘dies on the Cross’ and breathes his Spirit into the world. When he appears to the disciples as the ‘Risen Christ’ he breathes on them to give them his Spirit and send them out to reconcile all people to God (Jn. 20:19-23).
There is continuity between Jesus and the community of believers, the Church. As Jesus was guided throughout his ministry by the Spirit, so the apostles and the first Christian community felt strongly that the Spirit of Jesus was present in them and among them. The Acts of the Apostles describe beautifully how the Spirit made them understand the deep meaning of the message of Jesus and gave them the courage to proclaim it openly without fear.
Whenever there were new situations that needed creativity, they felt the Spirit of Jesus was there to enlighten them and guide them in the ‘Way’. They finally realized that Jesus was truly present among them through his Spirit. The Church today, still lives in the faith that the Spirit will continue to show it how to pursue the mission of Jesus until the ‘end of time’.
How does the Spirit of Jesus show his Spirit in the Church? Jesus in his farewell speech had stressed so much the importance of love as a distinctive mark of a disciple of Jesus (Jn. 15:9-17). God, who is love, has loved us first so that we might love each other. The source of that love is the Spirit who has been given to us (1 Jn. 4:13).
The visible signs of the outpouring of God’s Spirit into our hearts are the sacraments. In ‘Baptism’ we all receive the Spirit and become children of God. The ‘Sacrament of Confirmation’ makes us conscious of this gift and of the mission Jesus has entrusted to us to evangelize the world around us. The ‘Sacrament of Reconciliation’ allows us to repent for our sinfulness and through His grace, forgiveness and love, continue to be part of the family of God.
Jesus’ Spirit gives us the strength to stand up for the truth, to be honest even when it is costly and to fight for justice whenever we see people abused and humiliated, just as Jesus did. Some Christians, Catholics and Protestants have had a powerful experience of the Spirit in their lives through the Charismatic Renewal. Through it, some have discovered the power of the ‘Word of God’, and the grace given in the sacraments.
The experience has made many more courageous enough to witness Jesus through their words and through their lives. However when we experience the presence and power of God’s Spirit in us, we must be careful not to become proud and despise others. The Spirit is given not for our own glory, but to build up ‘Christ’s Body’, the Church (1 Cor. 12). The Spirit comes as the gift of the Father and the Son to those who believe and welcome the Word of Jesus.
This Pentecost day identify and celebrate the signs of the Spirit’s vitality in our parish community … prayerfulness, works of service, heroic courage, family stability, generosity, forgiveness and love.
There are a variety of gifts but always the same Spirit. “The Holy Spirit is the Lord, the Giver of Life.”
‘Acknowledgement and Thanks’ to ‘Recommended Source Material’ by:
Archbishop Daniel E. Pilarczyk, Fr. Fernando Armellini SCI, Peter Edmonds SJ, Richard Baawobr M.Afr, Joseph A. Slattery Ph.D, Adelmo Spagnolo MCCJ, Silvester O’Flynn OFM Cap, J.E. Spicer CSsR, John R. Donahue SJ and Alice Camille – Master’s degree in Divinity.
Reflections for each day this Week to lead us in the ‘Way, the Truth and the Life’.
Almighty God and Father, on the … of the week following Pentecost Sunday
Year C, we reflect on …
Sun. … Today on Pentecost Sunday we celebrate the Church’s birthday, and the descent of the Holy Spirit in the form of ‘tongues of fire’. The Spirit unites us all with the Blessed Virgin Mary, in unity with our One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit would teach the Church all truths and would abide by it forever. Jesus promised that he, himself, would be with his Church until the end of time. Jesus is with us today through the presence of his Spirit.
Mon. … The ‘Law of the Spirit’ is the ‘new heart’, the new life in God, which transforms and changes persons into branches of the vine that will produce ‘good fruit’. Let us today pray for that transformation to take place in our hearts that we may spontaneously perform and produce the works of God according to his will.
Tues. … On Pentecost day we have the exact opposite of what happened at Babel (Gen. 11:1-9). Let allow ourselves to be transformed by the Spirit through the words of the Gospel to now speak a language that all can understand, a language of compassion, a language of tenderness and mercy, all united as one, in a language of love. Let us pray to learn to love as God loves.
Wed. … The second reading tells us that Christ is present in the Church and that the Church has the Spirit’s life because of justification. The Church is also a place of ‘resurrection’ for many ‘die to self and sin’, and rise to ‘new life’ in our Lord. The Spirit in the Church guides us through the Gethsemane’s of our lives and helps us when our cross becomes too heavy. As Christians we are blessed to suffer with Christ that by his grace we may be glorified with him.
Thur. … The apostles believed and trusted that whenever they needed help in new situations that the Spirit of Jesus was with them to guide them in the ‘way’. They knew that Jesus was truly present among them through his Spirit. Do we live in faith and truly believe that Jesus’ Spirit will continue to guide us in fulfilling the will of God and the plan that he has for each one of us.
Frid. … The Spirit gives us the strength to stand up for the truth and to fight for justice whenever we see people being treated unfairly, abused, humiliated and marginalized. Do we make good use of this power and strength given to us by the Spirit to spread the ‘Good News’ and strive for the rights of those oppressed or do we look the other way?
Sat. … Let us constantly seek for the graces and signs of the ‘Outpouring of the Holy Spirit’. Visible signs are given to us in the form of the sacraments. Let us make full use of these ‘visible signs’, these gifts of love from our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.
Prayer after the Daily Reflection.
Father, today we celebrate the great beginning of Your Church. On Pentecost, You set aflame the hearts of the apostles with the tongues of fire from heaven, which enabled them to preach the truth about the marvels of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, in the languages of all the nations. We rejoice that in our own day there is great and ever-growing awareness of the presence and power of the Holy Spirit, who adorns the Church with His marvellous variety of gifts, virtues and supports. We pray that the Holy Spirit may dwell in our hearts so that we may be true to Your will.
This we ask through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, One God, forever and ever. Amen.
Compliments: Bible Discussion Group.
Our Lady of the Wayside, Maryvale.
“Discovering the Truth through God’s living Word”.