The Hebrew word ruah, the Greek pneuma, and the Latin spiritus all basically mean “air in motion,” “breath,” or “wind.” The root word is power. Apart from human and animal power, wind was the main observable energy source in the ancient world. Wind was seen as the ‘breath of God – our own breath coming from that life-giving Breath. It is also interesting to note that in the ancient understanding of wind and water and fire – and thus spirit – we find them possessing what we consider to be properties of liquids. Thus we have the idea of the spirit being poured out. (The Cultural World of Jesus, Cycle A, J. Pilch, p.88-89)
Remember, the Jewish name for God, YHVH (yod, he, vav, he), is really an unspeakable name giving us a deep sense of God’s presence and life. It is a ‘word’ that was not spoken at all, but breathed! The one thing we do every moment of our lives is therefore to speak the name of God. Our first word and our last will be God’s name – God’s essence and Spirit.(R. Rohr, The Naked Now,p 25-26)
The Acts of the Apostles 2: 1-11
Pentecost (50 days since Passover; 7 weeks since planting time) originally was an agricultural feast of thanksgiving for the 1st grain harvest. Later, it came to be also a celebration of the gift of the Law to Moses on Sinai and the establishment of Israel as God’s people. Because it was the second of Judaism’s three major feasts, Jews from all over Palestine and the Greek territories (the Diaspora) would have traveled to Jerusalem. Luke wants us to notice how this diverse group is the perfect place for the Spirit to be present in power. (Celebration, May, 2002; R. Fuller, “Scripture in Depth” http://liturgy.slu.edu)
Luke is also telling us this Pentecost story in such a way as to remind us of the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. John the Baptist had promised that the Messiah
would baptize “with the holy Spirit and fire” (Lk 3: 16). Here we see that the fire comes in tongues giving courage, meaning and understanding to the gift of speech.
In many ways this story is the reversal of the Babel story in Genesis 11: 1-9. At Babel, sin (self-importance and false pride) had brought confusion and defeat. Now with the power of God’s Holy Spirit we see a new universal outreach characterized by mutual understanding and respect. Also where there was fear and inaction, there is now new energy and boldness that is rooted in faith in the God of Jesus. This Holy Spirit is still available today; we also need this ability to understand each other despite differences. Luke’s writing to encourage us to be open to the ongoing process of transformation that is the Spirit! (Mary Birmingham, Word and Worship- Yr. A, p. 336; Celebration, May 2002)
Romans 8: 8-17
The terms that Paul uses – flesh and spirit – can be easily misunderstood today. The word translated as ‘flesh’ is sarx, our wounded, broken, attention-seeking self (little self, trapped, insecure). ‘Spirit’ is pneuma, or God’s power within us. Living through Spirit is when we come to know and trust God’s love…our true self (John Dwyer’s Themes from Romans, p. 77). Richard Rohr says, “What you seek is what you are. The search for God and the search for our True Self are finally the same search.”
Here Paul is insisting that baptism is only a beginning. Life in the Spirit is a life of freedom, but it is always a freedom struggling with constant temptation. To live in and with the Spirit of Christ means to live under the lordship of Christ. We are no longer to be controlled by ‘the flesh’ – we undergo a death to this way of living symbolized by the ‘drowning’ of our baptism. But this ‘dying’ really leads to a fuller life – but a life of struggling freedom. We must live in such a way that we continually call out “Abba, Father” even when the full experience of this new life is not quite yet . . . (Reginald Fuller, “Scripture in Depth” http://liturgy.slu.edu
John 14: 15 – 16, 23-26
One of the main points here is that the Father’s love for the disciples and Jesus’ abiding presence with and in them is the Holy Spirit. Filled with this Spirit, the disciples are able to love as Jesus loves and to keep his commandments and word as he desires. The Spirit is the power implanted within us to remember – to understand — and to ultimately fulfill the mission entrusted to us. Another Advocate will be with us – Jesus was the first Advocate to come to us. He came in the flesh to help us, defend us and plead a cause – the cause of God’s love. This first Advocate held nothing back – not even his life. But now this Word-Made-Flesh has ascended and sits at the right hand of the Father. But our wonderful God sends us another Advocate; this indwelling Advocate will remain forever. This Spirit continues the presence and the work of Jesus – in and with us. Living this paschal mystery does mean, though, that this good gift has its cost – we still must die to ourselves in order to be the true presence of Christ for others.
(“Working with the Word” http://liturgy.slu.edu and Living Liturgy, 2004, p. 140-141)
1st Reading: Acts of the Apostles 3: 13-19
Jesus is called the “author of life” – what does that mean for you? Mary Birmingham points out that this term is a very ancient Christian term. The Greek word for ‘author’ means “captain” or “leader.” Jesus is the new leader, the new captain of life’s vessel, who leads the people, just like Moses, out of bondage into a new promised land – Jesus is the fulfillment of the liberation foreshadowed at the Exodus event – Jesus is the fulfillment of all that God has ever planned for humankind. (W&W Wrkbk Yr B, 363-364)
St. John of the Cross said, “The soul lives where it loves.” Think about that. Jesus lived here among us because of love. And that is why he died too. Are we supposed to feel this tremendous guilt that Jesus had to do this for us? I don’t know if God wants us to feel that way. Jesus only reaches out in love, only wants to repent and turn to him. He doesn’t want us wallowing in our guilt and self-loathing. He wants us to embrace the love. Let our souls live in that love. How can we be different living that way?
2nd Reading: 1 John 2: 1-5
What does it mean to you to call Jesus an “Advocate” – a parakletos ? An advocate is someone who pleads our case before a court of law – one who intercedes for us. It is someone whom we call to be by our side as our helper and counselor. It is someone who “lends his presence to his friends.” Jesus is this kind of friend. (Wm Barclay, The Letters of John and Jude, 36-38)
Jesus is also called our ‘expiation’ for sin – here we must be careful of the meaning. In the Jewish sense, sacrifice was used to restore our relationship with God. It was God forgiving us and providing the means of restoring our relationship with God. Scholars also point out that the word could be translated as ‘disinfection’: Jesus shows us what God is like and disinfects us from the taint of sin – from the darkness and bondage of sin. Jesus is the reconciliation, the means, by which God reassures us of His love. And as this writer, John, sees it – this work of Jesus is carried out not just for us, but for the whole world.
The love of God is broader than the measures of our human mind. God’s salvation has wide enough arms for all. (Wm Barclay, The Letters of John and Jude, 39-40))
The Gospel: Luke 24: 35-48
From Living Liturgy, 2003, 120:
Jesus “was made known” in the breaking of the bread and in repentance and forgiveness. Forgiveness, then, is an encounter with the risen Christ . . . it is our witness to the resurrection: “I forgive you.” Our belief is not some elite intellectual exercise but an embodied faith expressed in actions. We need to walk and talk like a forgiven people. Repentance-and-forgiveness is not just for Lent; it is Easter-activity! Forgiveness is a virtue that enables us not to allow past hurts to determine our decisions and actions in the here and now. Forgiveness opens up the space for creating together with the one forgiven a new future . . . It allows for new life – calls for new life and new possibilities.
Think of all this and pray for God’s Spirit to enliven and guide us as we are sent out at the end of our Eucharist “to love and serve the Lord.” (Birmingham, W&W Yr B, 365-373)
The gospels struggle with expressing the risen reality. It was not just another phase in the history of Jesus of Nazareth. In a real sense he was totally “other”, living now the indescribable life of God. And yet he was the same person and in some ways objectively identifiable. However, the resurrection was known principally by its fruits, the faith proclamation of unlettered fishermen. It changed people’s lives and continues to do so. To watch people move from a state of alienation to conversion and a new direction in life is the clearest proof of the risen Christ (Faley, R. Footprints on the Mountain, p, 309).
1st Reading – The Acts of the Apostles 15: 1-2, 22-29
Compare this with Galatians 2: 1-15. This is Paul’s account of what happened. Remember, Paul is writing about what he himself had experienced, while Luke is writing many years later about things that happened to others.
- Why Paul attended the Council: Luke (author of Acts) says he was send by the community in Antioch, while Paul says he went on his own initiative.
- The Discussions at the Council: Luke implies that the meeting was calm and serene with Peter and James making the decision, while Paul makes the discussions sound more lively and that there was a common agreement.
- The Decision: In Luke, a selection was made from elements of dietary, ritual, and marital law, and this selection was to be imposed on the Gentile congregations. Paul is very clear that the Gospel is the good news, freely given, and that we are saved without the works of the Law.
In the end, it was Paul’s view that prevailed. But at this time of the early church, perhaps it was necessary to have these few rules for Jewish/Gentile Christians to feel united, (Dwyer, John, Church History, p. 40-43). What can we learn about the early church in all this? What do you see of how the Lord’s Spirit works?
2nd Reading – Revelation 21: 10– 14, 22- 23
By the time this was written, Jerusalem and its temple had been destroyed by Rome. The mention of the twelve tribes suggests that the city represents the gathering of a people, like church. But there is no temple in this vision…meaning God and God alone who continues the relationship with his people face to face. God dwells WITH us!
How does this vision speak of the fullness of God’s presence for you?
From William Barclay, The Revelation of John, p. 212:
Consider the dimensions of the heavenly Jerusalem – each side was 1,500 miles long and the total area of the city was 2,250,000 square miles! A city with that area would stretch from London to New York. Surely we are meant to see that in the holy city there is room for everyone. Then when we come to the wall it is only 266 feet high – not very high by ancient standards (the walls of Babylon were 300 feet high). Certainly, there is no comparison between the walls and the size of this city—here again is symbolism. It is not meant to keep people out – it is perhaps simply a delineation. God is much more eager to bring people in – to let them know they are safe within his peace – than to shut them out . . .
The Gospel: John 14: 23– 29
The Spirit that filled Jesus of Nazareth throughout his life, death, and resurrection is the same Spirit that is now available to us as a free gift. Jesus made this Spirit an historical reality for us. What means the most to you in this reading? How do you find Jesus’ Word and love and peace connected?
When does God dwell among us? The gospel says it is when we love, keep Jesus’ word, and believe. Rather than three different tasks, these are really three descriptions of the same action – giving of one’s self – a self-sacrifice that leads to life. And, what does God bring when God dwells among us? God brings us his Holy Spirit to enlighten us, to empower us, to put our troubled, fearful hearts at peace. This is the Paschal Mystery again – a dying and rising experience . . . It is both challenging and life-giving as we respond to God’s indwelling as an intimate Friend who is always with us, never forsakes us, and offers us unending care and strength. From “Working with the Word”, http://liturgy.slu.edu
The word, “Advocate,” is sometimes translated “paraclete,” “counselor” or “comforter” – the Greek word used basically means “advocate,” a legal term that is for the “one who stands by the side of a defendant.” From its use in the gospel it seems that it has three functions or activities. 1) It is the continued presence of Jesus on earth after his life/death/resurrection/ascension experience. 2) It is a truth-telling Spirit (14:17; 16:13) assuring us that Jesus is not a shameful failure, but the beloved of God. 3) It reminds them of things that Jesus said (14:26) and reveals things Jesus was unable to convey (16: 12-14). In other words, this Advocate represents divine presence and guidance. It is all we need!