Gospel Reflections

Feast of Pentecost

John 20:19-31

Sunday Gospel Reflection by Sister Barbara Thiella

Published: May 24, 2015

Read John 20:19-31

On the evening of that first day of the week, when the doors were locked, where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood... Read More…


In the Jewish tradition, Pentecost celebrates the beginning of harvest, a time when the first fruits of the year are gathered up and shared. In the Christian tradition, Pentecost remembers a similar moment, the harvest of Jesus’ life, death and Resurrection, received as the gift of the Spirit. The fruits of Jesus’ life pour into his closest followers. The Spirit arrives to breathe new life into the one body which Jesus now has on earth. Jesus had promised, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you.” He follows up on his promise when he greets his disciples in the upper room, breathes on them and says, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”

In a more vivid account of the Pentecost event, Luke uses strong images and dramatic actions to paint how the Spirit breathes new life like “a strong wind,” and “tongues of fire.” 57 examples of the Spirit’s action enrich the story of the early Church. Through the presence of the Spirit, Jesus’ followers can speak simply and act openly in his name.

Words like harvest, fire, wind and breath of God flavor these early stories. Today, the extinguishing of the Easter candle proclaims anew that the light of Christ is now inside and among us. If the Church is faithful to the Spirit of Jesus, always present, then her followers are known for their joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. To summarize this refreshing action of the Holy Spirit, Benedict XVI states “Pentecost is the effect of union, comprehension and human communion, open to all things and capable of listening and sharing in the ‘we’ of the Church.”

I was a Sister of Notre Dame de Namur for 40 years before I understood how the Spirit forms us into this “we,” the body of Christ today. It was the end of a 30 day retreat. For four days, I imagined and prayed about how the Risen Jesus became present to his mother and close followers. I kept waiting for a way for me to see Jesus, raised and awaiting my response. While I was praying, one retreatant ran through the living room and said, “Eucharist has started.” I followed him into the full chapel. There, the presence of Jesus was so tangible that I cried: I “know him in the gathered community – the Word – the actions of the liturgy.” I heard, “Here I am. Why are you looking elsewhere? Rest in my Spirit then speak about me.” Perhaps his early followers had a similar experience. In his Spirit, they did more than ever seemed possible.

May each of our lives proclaim, too, how we have received “the harvest,” breathing with Jesus’ Spirit and proclaiming by our lives more than our words that God is good. Breathe softly on and in us, Spirit of God. Come, Holy Spirit of God.

 

 

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