|Pentecost||Reading 1||Response||Reading 2||Gospel|
|Vigil:|| Gn 11:1-9 or
Ex 19:3-8a, 16-20b or
Ez 37:1-14 or
|Ps 104:1-2, 24, 35, 27-28, 29, 30||Rom 8:22-27||Jn 7:37-39|
|Sunday:||Acts 2:1-11||Ps 104:1, 24, 29-30, 31, 34||1 Cor 12:3b-7, 12-13 or
|Jn 20:19-23 or
Jn 14:15-16, 23b-26
|The Lectionary presents two sets of readings for Pentecost Sunday: the Vigil of Pentecost or Pentecost Sunday. This commentary uses the readings for Pentecost Sunday.|
Creating and sending the believing community
Pentecost marks the end of the Easter season and the readings that examine the meaning of Jesus’ resurrection. These final Easter readings give us three different views on how the Spirit abides with the ekklesia and empowers us to continue Jesus’ work.
The first reading from Acts gives us Luke’s version of the Spirit’s coming to the believing community on the Jewish feast of Pentecost, fifty days after Passover. Originally a harvest feast, by Jesus’ time Pentecost had acquired a religious meaning as well: the day when God gave the covenant to the Hebrews at Sinai (Ex 19). Luke reinterprets Pentecost as God’s covenant renewal with a new people. Using wind and fire images, Luke connects God’s presence at Sinai with the Spirit’s presence at Pentecost. Through the Spirit’s action, everyone is able to hear the disciples’ message “in his own language.” The Spirit reverses the Tower of Babel’s confusion of language (Gen 11), enabling the disciples to invite everyone (Medes, Parthians, Elamites, …) into God’s kingdom.
The second reading from Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians describes the Spirit’s work in the believing community. Paul describes the Spirit’s actions as spiritual gifts, functions, or workings. Some Corinthians thought that a spiritual gift indicated the recipient’s importance. Paul tells them that a gift benefits the whole believing community. All share the same body and Spirit through baptism; baptism removes all cultural and social distinctions. All share in one Body of Christ and the kingdom.
John’s gospel gives us his account of the Spirit’s coming to the believing community on the evening of Jesus’ resurrection. John highlights three actions:
- Blessing: Jesus’ blessing–“Peace be with you”–brings the disciples into communion with the Father and drives out the disciples’ fear.
- Sending: Jesus tells the disciples to continue his mission (“As the Father sent me, I send you”). Jesus incorporates the disciples into Jesus’ own saving mission: to free humans from sin’s slavery (Jn 8:34-36).
- Receiving the Spirit: Just as God breathes life into the first human (Gen 2:7), so Jesus breathes the Holy Spirit into the disciples, giving them his power over sin. The Spirit unites the disciples to the risen Jesus, and the Spirit’s indwelling gives the disciples a share in the Father’s kingdom. Through the Spirit, Jesus gives the disciples authority to take away sin. Through the Spirit’s power, the ekklesia administers God’s mercy, continuing Jesus’ mission to the world.
Jesus’ resurrection has many meanings and many implications. The Easter season has given us time to reflect on this cosmos-changing event; the Lectionary’s readings have presented stories, poems, songs, and visions to help us understand Easter from many viewpoints–lived human experience, mystery, faith, sacraments, theology. This week we celebrate the birth of the ekklesia, our believing community, through the Spirit’s coming. Baptism’s water incorporates us into the ekklesia and we promise to complete Jesus’ mission. Confirmation’s coming of the Spirit strengthens us and gives us the gifts we need to bring Jesus’ message of salvation to the whole world. The Spirit’s coming completed Jesus’ mission. Are we using the Spirit’s gifts to continue Easter’s message?