|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 and 35, 27-28, 29-30||Rom 8:22-27||Jn 7:37-39|
|Extended Vigil|| Gn 11:1-9
 Ex 19:3-8a, 16-20b
 Ez 37:1-14
 Jl 3:1-5
| Ps 33:10-11, 12-13, 14-15
 Dan 3:52, 53, 54, 55, 56 or Ps 19:8, 9, 10, 11
 Ps 107:2-3, 4-5, 6-7, 8-9
 Ps 104:1-2, 24 and 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||Jn 20:19-23|
|Lectionary note: Reading options based on celebration|
|The Lectionary presents two sets of readings for Pentecost: the Vigil/Extended Vigil of Pentecost or Pentecost Sunday. This commentary uses the readings for the Vigil of Pentecost.|
Pentecost: the Spirit in prophecy, in liturgical action, and abiding with us
Pentecost marks the end of the Easter season and the readings that examine the meaning of Jesus’ resurrection. The final Easter season readings present different views on how the Spirit’s coming and the new ekklesia fulfill the Hebrew prophets’ vision of a new Israel.
The Lectionary offers a choice of first readings from Hebrew scripture, all of which foreshadow the Pentecost event:
- The Tower of Babel (Gn 11:1-9). The Babel story warns us about taking too much credit for our own accomplishments while ignoring God’s role in our achievements. When placed next to Luke’s Pentecost description (Acts 2: 6-11), we see the Spirit reverses Babel’s language confusion so all can hear the Eleven’s message of God’s salvation.
- The Mosaic covenant (Ex 19:3-8a, 16-20b). The Jewish feast of Pentecost, or Shavuot, is both a harvest festival and the anniversary of God giving the Torah to Israelites at Sinai. Both Paul and Luke highlight Pentecost’s agricultural and covenantal aspects. Paul describes the gift of the Spirit as the firstfruits of our inheritance (Rom 8:23). Luke’s Pentecost description (Acts 2:1-11) suggests the inauguration of the new covenant, as promised by the prophet Jeremiah (Jer 31:33).
- God’s Spirit enlivens dry bones (Ez 37:1-14). The prophet Ezekiel foretells that God will raise a new Israel out of the dry bones of the exiles. Christians understand that the ekklesia, the believing community the Spirit institutes at Pentecost, fulfills God’s promise to raise up a new Israel.
- God pours out the Spirit on all (Jl 3:1-5). The prophet Joel promises that on the day of the Lord, God will pour out the Spirit on Jews and gentiles. Christians understand that the Spirit’s coming at Pentecost fulfills Joel’s prophecy.
In the second reading from the letter to the Romans, Paul connects the Spirit’s coming in baptism with the Spirit’s firstfruits in each of us as we await Jesus’ return. The Spirit teaches us how to pray and intercedes for us; all actions visible in the Eleven at the Pentecost event (Acts 2:1-11).
In John’s gospel, Jesus reveals that those who believe in him will find rivers of living water flowing from them. To understand the context of Jesus’ pronouncement, we need to know about the Feast of Booths and its liturgical and eschatological meanings:
- Water and the Feast of Booths (Sukkot). During this seven-day harvest feast, a Jewish priest would go daily to the Pool of Siloam and fill a gold vessel with water. He and the Levites processed this water to the Temple, where the priest poured the water, along with wine, over the altar as an offering to God. For the Jewish people, water flowing from the Temple was a messianic sign (Ez 47:3-6, Zech 14:8).
- Jesus and living water. Jesus has spoken of living water earlier (Jn 4:10-15), but here John associates this living water with Jesus’ gift of the Spirit. This living water is eternal life, present in believers because the Father and a disciple abide (remain-in-relationship) with each other. Just as the Jewish priest pouring water over the altar is a liturgical sign of purification and the coming messianic age, pouring water over a person at Christian baptism is a liturgical sign of purification and the coming of the Spirit.
- Jesus’ glorification and the Spirit. John tells his hearers that the coming of the Spirit must wait for Jesus’ glorification (his transformative death and resurrection). Jesus’ death and resurrection saves all humans and initiates the messianic age. Through liturgical sacramental actions, God abides (remains-in-relationship) with those who believe.
Jesus’ resurrection has many meanings and many implications. The Easter season has given us time to reflect on this cosmos-changing event. The Lectionary 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 ekklesia‘s birth through the Spirit’s coming. The liturgical symbol of water incorporates us into the believing community and its mission to tell everyone the good news. How do we use our living water? How do our lives proclaim the Spirit’s presence? How do we experience the sacraments to abide in God?