Sunday, May 31, 2020

Reflection for Today

The term ‘Pentecost’ is derivative of the Greek terminology Πεντηκοστή (Pentecoste) which simply means ‘fiftieth’. In its religious usage, it is originally the Jewish festival of Shavuot; seven weeks after the Passover celebration of which the name ‘festival of the weeks’ come from: “You shall count seven weeks…and you will celebrate the feast of the weeks (Deuteronomy 16: 9-10). It is an agricultural festival, the festival of the ‘first fruits’ and the offering of the first bunch of wheat. It however reminds us of the historical event of the gift of the law at Mount Sinai. Thus Shavuot is the conclusion, the end of the Passover festivities. It is in fact to give Israel the ‘Law’ that God made him come out of Egypt since a true law must be lived in freedom and true freedom consist in accepting to follow the Law of God (Fr. A. Kadavil).
Pentecost for Christians is the completion of the Easter season after fifty days of contemplation of the mystery of the resurrection. But it equally reveals the face of the Third Person of the Blessed Trinity (the Holy Spirit) and manifests his operative power as He initiates the third moment of the tripartite moments of the revelation of God.
It indeed happened as a strange event. It is the event of wind and fire. The sound of the wind stirred up the whole of Jerusalem and set its inhabitants in confusion and in uproar. Those who felt they were strangers to God eventually discovered they were no more strangers because the Spirit spoke their languages. They felt the heat as the fire of the Spirit was burning in the Apostles. That is Pentecost, and that is what we celebrate today.The Apostles who were in quarantine of fear have been set free. The Spirit blows again today. The situation of our world gripped by fear and living in the hiding will surely return normalcy. The Psalmist sings it as a praise. God sends his Spirit to renew the face of the earth.

FIRST READING: Acts 2:1-11

The use of natural elements such as water, fire, air and earth was very common in the cosmogony (the origin of things) of the ancient world and the conclusions were often mythological. For example, most of the Persian, Babylonian, Greek and Asian thoughts conceived those natural elements as deities or the manifestation of the deities. Meanwhile, the interaction of these cultures and philosophies with the ancient Hebrews left a traceable mark in the biblical tradition. Many passages of the Old Testament describe the revelation of God as being accompanied by fire, cloud and even breeze (Ex. 3:2-3; 13: 21; 14:24; 19:18; 40:38; Nb. 9:15-16; 14:14; Dt. 1:33; 4:12.15.30; 5:4.22; 9:10; 10:4; Neh. 9:9.22; 1 Kgs. 19:12; Ps. 10:39; 76:14; Is. 4:5). The New Testament recorded few pages of such revelation; the transfiguration of Christ at Mount Tabor (Mt.17:1-13) and in the Apocalypse of St. John (Rev.1:4-8; 10:1 etc).
Luke describes the coming of the Spirit as that of a rush of a mighty wind. What is so extraordinary about the wind since people in that environment were used to the rushing wind? It was the of the Spirit sending message to every corner of Jerusalem and to the people of the world in their own languages, summoning them to the great event of the manifestation of the Spirit in the upper room.
The people responded to the invitation. And Luke counted the number of the invitees as coming from sixteen different geographical regions representing the people on the face of the earth. The wave of the Spirit invited them to witness the miracle of tongues that set the people free from the old age confusion of tongues caused by the same God at the event of the Tower of Babel (Gen. 11). Those who were once scattered in Babel now gathered in Jerusalem. The Babel of division came to meet the Pentecost of unity whereby they no longer admire their tower of pride but instead the wonders of God. The old man of Babel, the man of pride is now intoxicated by the Spirit of God.
This outpouring of the Holy Spirit became a creation of a new world, the perfect completion of God’s creative, redemptive and sanctifying work. The Spirit hovered over the disciples whose faith at this point was still ‘shapeless’ like the shapeless world of Genesis 1:2. Yes, they received a new life in the Spirit, just like the first moment when God breathed life in man (Gen. 2:7), and their ‘bones’ which were dead in fear was fleshed up by the Spirit as in the days of Ezekiel (37:9-10).
The wine of the Pentecost made the disciples to be dazed in the Spirit. It was a new wine pressed from the ‘True Vine’ who is Christ (Jn 15:5).Those who did not taste it felt it was an alcohol. St. Cyril of Jerusalem puts it beautifully that those who thought that the Apostles were drunk at Pentecost (Acts 2:13) were correct in their observation, but they mistook their drunkenness as coming from alcoholic. This wine of the Spirit was so strong that they were uncontrollably intoxicated. It was a sober intoxication that destroyed sin and brought about new life in the Spirit. It loosened them from memory loss and made them recall all that the Lord taught them. The tongues of fire loosened their tongues of speech. The heat of the fire boiled their heart to an unimaginable degree of courage. The door that locked them away for fear of those who killed their master became an access door leading them to the people. The Spirit concluded their period of retreat and empowered them for mission. They came out well recharged. And instead of speaking incoherently in fear, they rather spoke in languages that people from every part of the world were able to understand, the language of love and faith in God made manifest in the person of Christ.

SECOND READING: I Cor 12:3-7, 12-13
The second reading is the message of Paul to the Christians of Corinth reminding them that faith in Christ is made possible through the power of the the Holy Spirit Who enriches the Church with varieties of gifts.These gifts are activated in every believer by the same Spirit uniquely for the service of the community and not for the glorification of the individuals.
Secondly, Paul insists that these gifts of the Spirit, ‘Charisma’ are equal and serve the same purpose which is the edification of the Church.
Evidently, this letter is meant to criticize the pride of action going on in the community of Corinth. The existing tendency was such that claims one gift as superior to the other. Those who had the gift of prophesy or gift of healing felt themselves more relevant in the community than those who probably had the gift of teaching. And using the analogy of the body, the Apostle underlines that every gift is indispensable (the body will certainly lose its complete nature if it is deprived of the hand, and the leg can never be called hand nor replace it).
Finally, St. Paul clarifies that the Spirit is never partial in the dispensation of his gifts. He blows wherever He wants and to whoever He wants. Thus, whether Jew or Gentile, they all drink from the same fountain of the Spirit.

GOSPEL: John 20:19-23

The Gospel gives us an account of what the French people call an “avant-goût”. It is a foretaste of the great event of Pentecost. The risen Lord anticipated the coming of the Holy Spirit, the completion of the three great moments of divine revelation. Standing before his Apostles who were gradually shrinking away in fear, He breathed upon them saying, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” This was meant to sustain them to see the day of Pentecost, and to remind them that the Holy Spirit that will eventually come will be the gift of the Father to them and in his name. John conjugates the power of the Spirit as indispensably linked to the mission of the disciples when he says:“Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” 
It suggests that the sacramental confession is a search for the Holy Spirit, because sin has the power to put the soul to death and it is only the breath of the Spirit that can restore this life through reconciliation with God. It is equally a reminder to the Apostles that though the redemptive work has been completed on the wood of the cross which was meant to cancel the gap between man and God, but then individual weaknesses will always crucify people on the wood of sin. However, the coming of the Holy Spirit is to keep sanctifying creation already redeemed.


The Pentecost makes us to understand that the workings of the Spirit can come like the rush of a mighty wind (Acts 2:2) that immediately produced an effect on the disciples.
We have often longed for the immediacy of the action of the Spirit in our rough situations, and instead of the cool breeze of his presence, we get hot air that keeps suffocating us. We can identify the hot air when we are weighed down by sickness and old age thinking of how to survive them. It blows real hot when we lack Job opportunities and means of survival. What of shattered relationships and divided families? What of when we watch people deny us our rights and treat us as less human and kill us? Yes it’s damn hot. It is hotter when the fear of death creeps in. The message of Pentecost is a message of hope. The Apostles were not breathing a good air. They were suffocating in fear. They faced dangers and threats, but they were hopeful. They kept the faith and their constancy in prayer activated the power from above that released the rush of a mighty wind. Let us not lose hope when it blows hot because heaven has a reservoir of refreshing wind that will restore our suffocating situation. Whichever way it has been, we can be assured that there is a life changing Spirit that blows today.

The fire of the Spirit was a new baptism received by the disciples on this day. It was a fire that purified and empowered them for the mission because they cooperated with it. We have all received the Spirit through the sacraments of baptism and its fullness in the sacrament of confirmation and it is made available to us in all the sacraments. How active is the Spirit in our lives? We must be sure of the fact that the Spirit like fire can purify and also destroy. It purifies us when we are dispose to cooperate with Him. He builts us. He empowers us and makes us ablaze with the power of God. But it becomes destructive when we abuse the grace and opportunities that God gives to us through constant submission to sin and inability to accept our faults and to change.
Let us make effort to keep the fire of the Spirit burning because that’s the only way we can be identified as the followers of Christ in the midst the world of differences. Yes people gathered because they noticed something from the disciples, they noticed miraculous tongues of fire.


Come, O Holy Spirit, come! From Your bright and blissful Home Rays of healing light impart. Come, Father of the poor, Source of gifts that will endure Light of ev’ry human heart.
You of all consolers best, Of the soul most kindly Guest, Quick’ning courage do bestow.
In hard labor You are rest, In the heat You refresh best, And solace give in our woe.
O most blessed Light divine, Let Your radiance in us shine, And our inmost being fill.
Nothing good by man is thought, Nothing right by him is wrought, When he spurns Your gracious Will.
Cleanse our souls from sinful stain, Lave our dryness with Your rain, Heal our wounds and mend our way.
Bend the stubborn heart and will, Melt the frozen, warm the chill, Guide the steps that go astray.
On the faithful who in You, Trust with childlike piety, Deign Your sevenfold gift to send.
Give them virtue’s rich increase, Saving grace to die in peace, Give them joys that never end. Amen. Alleluia.


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