Acts 2:1-11 1 Cor 12: 3b-7; 12-13 John 20:19-23
A Dominican Sister reflects: today is Pentecost Sunday, the official end of the Easter season!
Although we may think that Pentecost is a feast exclusively celebrated in the Christian community, it had long been part of the Jewish calendar. Pentecost (meaning “fifty days”) was a Jewish festival celebrated on the fiftieth day after Passover. It commemorates the time when the first fruits were harvested and brought to the Temple, and it celebrates the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai. So, it is not surprising that in Luke’s account in Acts …there were devout Jews in Jerusalem from all over the ancient world to celebrate this feast.
In this account from Acts, the followers of Jesus, also devout Jews, are gathered together on the day of Pentecost. While in today’s gospel we hear Jesus promise that the Advocate (Holy Spirit) will come, there is no prediction of when, where, or how. The disciples of Jesus have been living 50 days filled with both confusion and fears, but also filled with remembering and experiencing the reality of a resurrected Jesus.
The book of Acts is an adventure story, the adventure of conversion and witness. The Pentecost account is filled with excitement. The disciples who are gathered together are interrupted by a loud sound, like the rush of a driving wind. In addition to the wind there appeared tongues as of fire which came to rest on each one of them. The coming of the Spirit was a profound religious experience which filled and transformed them. The disciples are now fearless, committed to mission, enticed by the message of Jesus, and desiring to proclaim it to everyone, speaking in different tongues. This is the beginning of a new existence for the Disciples. They move now into divine activity, over which the Spirit will reign.
The images of Pentecost are familiar to us. There is the flame which is a powerful image. There is also the Dove as a symbol of the Holy Spirit, a symbol of peace, which was also used by the early Christians. The wild goose, in addition to the dove, is less familiar. It is a Celtic Christian symbol for the Holy Spirit. The goose is also a more unpredictable image, suggesting that contact with the Holy Spirit can be unsettling. Although the flame image is my personal preference, I appreciate the irony that while as a country we are building a wall to insulate ourselves, yet the Holy Spirit image of a bird allows our God to fly over and beyond our foolish boundaries.
The celebration of Pentecost is a good time to recall our own relationship with the Spirit. How are we changed? Are we fearless in our proclamation of the Good News? Do we want to reach out to a global community? Perhaps, Pentecost might be a time when we celebrate a new awareness of the Spirit dwelling within each of us. Then like the Disciples, we will become committed to mission, enticed by the message of Jesus, and called to proclaim it to the everyone. Can we accept the challenge of conversion!