Reflection for Pentecost Sunday – Year C

by Fr. Dumisani Vilakati

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First reading: Acts 2:1-11
Responsorial: psalm Psalm 104
Second reading: Romans 8:8-17
Gospel: John 14:15-16, 23b-26

On Pentecost Sunday we celebrate the descent of the Holy Spirit upon Mary and the disciples as well as the “birthday” of the new community of God’s people, the Church. Among the gifts of the Holy Spirit can be counted the following: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, trustfulness, gentleness and self-control (Gal 5:22-23). If we practise these things we will be on the sure path of righteousness.

The feast of Pentecost has Jewish origins and was initially a harvest festival. Later on it became a celebration of the gift of the law and the covenant with God at the foot of Mount Sinai (Ex. 19-24). This experience of Israel at the foot of the mountain marks the beginnings of Israel as a nation with its own laws and enjoying a relationship of love and trust with God. Pentecost is celebrated on the fiftieth day after Passover (Easter) and is simply the Greek manner of saying fiftieth.

The first reading recalls the fact of the descent of the Holy Spirit. The disciples, together with Mary, are gathered in the room and there is the rush of a mighty wind which fills the house. This rush of wind subsequently has the appearance of tongues as of fire which rests on each of them. Whilst in the book of Exodus the flames of fire only rest upon the mountain we note that in this case they rest upon Mary and the disciples. As such we see a God who has come closer and does not inspire fear. This gives them special gifts. Paramount among these gifts is the ability to speak in tongues so that the message of Christ may be heard by people of different nations. The message of Christ is the proclamation of the mighty works of God. The first mighty work of God is that God loves us.

Indeed, when we receive the Spirit of God we have to be aware that this is first of all a Spirit of love. St. Paul gives a prominent position to love when he lists the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Love is a language of universal significance.

The message of the responsorial psalm is probably captured in the refrain: Lord, send forth your Spirit and renew the face of the earth. As we celebrate the birthday of the Church, let us pray for a renewal of hearts, especially of the members of the Church.

The second reading reminds us of what it means to be a Christian. St. Paul speaks of it as having the Spirit of Christ. An ancient tradition tells us that Christians are called alter Christus, another Christ. St. Paul speaks of this matter so boldly by saying we have received the spirit of sonship with God as our Father. What belongs to Christ therefore is also ours. As children of God we inherit all of God’s goods and the greatest of these is God’s righteousness.

The gospel presents one of the final speeches that Jesus makes prior to his passion and death. It is on the keeping of his commandments. Jesus’ commandment is “love one another as I have loved you”. If we stay in love, then the Counsellor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father sends, teaches us all things and brings to our remembrance all that Jesus has taught us. Remembrance is an important word here as it speaks of the great mighty works of God, especially his love for us.

Whenever we celebrate mass we also remember God’s mighty works. This is not simply a memorial or remembrance of what happened in the past. On the contrary, it is a realisation of God’s plan for us as he destined us in love (Cf. Eph 1:5). It is in the mass that God becomes present and infuses upon us the Spirit of love. May we be worthy recipients of this love and furthermore be worthy proclaimers of God’s mighty works.