Opening reflection (taken from Magnificat magazine, www.magnificat.com): By the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost, Christ’s paschal mystery was brought to its completion. The Holy Spirit prepares us with His grace in order to draw us to Christ. He manifests the risen Lord to us, opening our minds. He makes present the mystery of Christ. And He reconciles us, bringing us into communion with God. St. Thomas Aquinas says that the Holy Spirit interiorly perfects our spirit, communicating to it a new dynamism so that it refrains from evil for love. With the Holy Spirit within us “it is quite natural for people who had been absorbed by the things of this world to become entirely otherworldly in outlook and for cowards to become people of great courage” (St. Cyril of Alexandria).
(This weekend’s Scripture readings are available in the New American Bible translation – the one used in U.S. Catholic parishes – at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops website: http://www.usccb.org/nab/061211b.shtml)
First Reading: Acts 2:1-11 (Revised Standard Version)
A reading from the Acts of the Apostles.
When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly a sound came from heaven like the rush of a mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them tongues as of fire, distributed and resting on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.
Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in his own language. And they were amazed and wondered, saying, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language? Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians, we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.”
The word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.
Meditation: Ten days have gone by since the Ascension. The 120 or so members of the first Christian congregation are still in the Upper Room, praying. Suddenly, on the Jewish feast celebrating the harvest and the giving of the Mosaic Law on Sinai, Jesus’ promise is dramatically fulfilled.
Whereas the Eleven had received the Holy Spirit on Easter evening through the very Breath of God – the risen Christ’s own breath – now the divine Wind from heaven blows over all and makes Himself manifest. He soon will blow them across the known world. Their hearts now burn, as John the Baptist foretold, “with the Holy Spirit and with fire,” the divine Flame that begins as one, then distributes itself over each of the 120 just as the flame of one candle can be distributed to many candles. And the divine Wisdom of God speaks through their mouths. Once God confused human language at Babel, scattering the would-be tower builders across the world. Now He speaks in every language at once, with the purpose of bringing all humanity together in one Church.
All the men of Israel were expected to come together in Jerusalem three times a year for the high feasts. Pentecost was one of them. So the Jews of the Dispersion, who had settled “every nation under heaven” from east to west, are there. The sound of the wind draws them to the Cenacle. What is this they hear? That Jesus of Nazareth, crucified just 50 days before, is alive? And how can these people, these uneducated Galileans, speak each of their languages? What is going on?
St. Peter, as we know, would explain it to them. The Spirit would convince 3,000 of them that day to believe. The age that began that day and continues on this Pentecost – the age of the Church – was under way. And the same Spirit moves among us even now.
Second Reading: 1 Corinthians 12:3b-7, 12-13
Brothers and sisters: No one can say “Jesus is Lord” except by the Holy Spirit.
Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of working, but it is the same God who inspires them all in every one. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.
For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body — Jews or Greeks, slaves or free — and all were made to drink of one Spirit.
The word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.
Meditation: So, what does this Spirit do? For starters, Paul tells us, He brings us to faith in the God-Man whom only a relative handful in all of human history have seen in the flesh this side of heaven. How many people today and in the two millennia since Jesus’ brief time on Earth have scoffed at the idea of God becoming man? We would scoff, too; perhaps we have even disbelieved in the past. Truly we cannot will ourselves to faith. God, who is always here and yet veils His presence, plants the seed, waters the ground and brings our faith to full flower. Through His Spirit, and only through His Spirit, do we believe.
And once we believe – once we recognize each other as believers – the Spirit reveals to us who we now are. We are no longer alone. We are no longer to live only for ourselves; indeed, we never were meant to be. We each have different gifts, different charisms (to use the Greek term). Now we are to rejoice and marvel at how God wishes to use each of us and each of those gifts to bring more and more people home to Himself. Our soul unites the different parts of our body; now the Spirit unites each of us in the Mystical Body of Christ. We suffer as our Lord suffered; we are to love others as completely as He did. And as we do these things, Jesus indeed is with us until the end of the age. Let us drink anew of the one Spirit and make disciples of all nations. Jesus wants everyone to have what He has given us!
Gospel: John 20:19-23
A reading from the holy gospel according to John. Glory to You, Lord.
On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I send you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”
The Gospel of the Lord. Praise to You, Lord Jesus Christ.
Meditation: We read these verses, already hinted at above, as part of the Gospel reading on the Second Sunday of Easter. We return to them as a fitting way to cap our Lenten and Easter journey. Three evenings before, Jesus had commanded them to celebrate the Eucharist “in remembrance of Me.” Now He completes their commissioning.
The Eleven are confirmed, receiving the Holy Spirit from the breath of the Lord who had died but now lives forever. He already had told them to celebrate the Eucharist “in remembrance of Me”; now He gives them the power to forgive sins in His name. He soon would tell them to baptize in the one Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Fully redeemed by His blood, fully ordained as the first bishops of the Church, they would preach His Word, administer His sacraments and pass along the Spirit and the power they had received they would themselves ordain.
Come, Holy Spirit. Fill us with the fire of Your love. Strengthen us and use us to reconcile the world to the one true God who loves us and wants us to be with Him forever.
Close with individual prayer, followed by Our Father, Hail Mary and Glory Be