Throughout the Easter season, we have heard readings that highlight the role of the Holy Spirit in comforting, supporting, inspiring, and empowering believers in Christ. At Pentecost, as the Holy Spirit descends on the followers of Jesus, the readings highlight the role of the Spirit in propelling the Christian movement after the resurrection.
Lord, send your Spirit and renew the face of the earth. (Ps 104:30)
Acts 2:1-11; PS 104; 1Co 12:3-13; Jn 20:19-23
Do you pray for guidance and support from the Holy Spirit?
How can you use the gifts of the Holy Spirit to inspire your life?
How can the Holy Spirit help you connect with your diverse community?
In the first reading of Acts, Luke places the descent of the Spirit 50 days after Easter and 10 days after Jesus’ ascension into heaven. After Mary, other women and the apostles witness the ascension, the apostles choose a new person to replace Judas. Today’s reading describes these disciples in an upper room experiencing a dramatic heavenly wind and tongues of fire descending above them. Beautifully, these tongues of fire represent the many languages they are able to speak in order to spread the Gospel. According to Luke, the Spirit enables the apostles to be understood by various communities. These new believers are amazed that the apostles can come into contact with them: “We hear them speaking in our own languages about the mighty acts of God.
Luke’s story can inspire everyone, especially church leaders, to communicate in a way that resonates with their communities. In Acts, the apostles do not require first-century converts to learn Aramaic to hear the message of Christ. Instead, they preach in a way that can be received by everyone. Leaders today should work intentionally to make the gospel understandable, available, and inspiring to a diverse 21st century audience. Just as the apostles adapted to their context, modern leaders should adapt creatively to the circumstances of today. This could involve rethinking the content, tone and platforms for speaking to the global church. It could also require the recognition of preachers among the laity and in religious life who could face the challenges of the world more convincingly.
The reading from the Gospel of John is the same text that we read on the second Sunday of Easter. In John’s account, the Spirit is given by the breath of Jesus on his disciples. The event is not described as occurring 50 days after Easter; instead, John connects it to one of Jesus’ resurrection appearances. By giving the gift of the Spirit, Jesus fulfills his promise to send the Spirit; moreover, by giving the Spirit, Jesus strengthens and entrusts authority to this group.
On this Pentecost Sunday, we should reflect on the role of the Spirit in the missionary work of the early Christian community and in the life of the Church today. This is a great opportunity to pray the Saint Augustine Prayer to the Holy Spirit:
Breathe in me, O Holy Spirit, that my thoughts may be all holy.
Act in me, O Holy Spirit, so that my work may also be holy. Draw my heart, O Holy Spirit, that I only love what is holy. Strengthen me, O Holy Spirit, to defend all that is holy.
So keep me, O Holy Spirit, that I may always be holy. Amen.