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)
The Gospel — John 6: 51-58
Three Biblical understandings of the Lord’s supper: 1) It is a memorial of Jesus’ death and resurrection, a covenant sacrifice; 2) it is a continuation of Jesus’ earthy and post-resurrection meals in which the messianic banquet is anticipated; 3) it is a ritual extension of Jesus’ Incarnation. The bread and wine become the living body and blood of Christ in those who receive him into their lives. John’s gospel is emphasizing this idea. Through this Living Bread, Christ’s ongoing presence and life continue in the community – in the world.
Raymond Brown says that this passage is a profound proclamation of sacramental and Eucharistic theology. The living bread given by Christ is his own flesh. In ancient times flesh was understood to mean the totality of the person. John’s focus is on this flesh, the Word made flesh. The totality of Christ’s person, his complete life-force (blood), is the only food that gives life, an eternal life. The coming of Christ into the world is the supreme act of redemption.
“If Baptism gives us that life which the Father shares with the Son, then the Eucharist is food nourishing it.” Jesus promises to dwell within the hearts of believers – to abide within them. A mutual indwelling happens between Jesus and his disciples. This incredible act of intimacy (INTO-ME-SEE) with Jesus opens the door to life – eternal life. Flesh (sarx) is that which of itself leads to death. In Jesus this flesh, sarx, is transformed, redeemed, set free from natural destruction by the Spirit of Jesus. (Birmingham, Word and Worship Workbook for Year A, p.607)
Life is the most precious things we have. To share one’s life, then, is to share with another our deepest “I am.” This is how we remain in each other – through self-giving and, yes, participating in the common Meal. Jesus’ gift of life to us through our participation in his Body and Blood is not simply for our own sakes, but also for the sake of others. To receive this gift of life is to be compelled to give this gift to others. Giving of one’s life-force, one’s blood, is not so beyond our own human experience either. Every time a mother gives birth, she sheds her blood. Family members readily give blood for the transfusion of a loved one. Our public blood banks are testimony to the generous giving of blood by strangers to strangers. Heroes sometimes shed their blood trying to help or protect another. Living Liturgy, 2002, p. 161
From St. Irenaeus on the sacraments, written 220AD:
“For as the bread, which comes from the earth, receives the invocation of God, and then it is no longer common bread but Eucharist, consists of 2 things, an earthly and a heavenly; so our bodies, after partaking of the Eucharist, are no longer corruptible, having the hope of the eternal resurrection.”
And Tertullian, another ancient theologian:
“The flesh feeds on the body and blood of Christ that the soul may be fattened on God.”
And St. Cyril of Jerusalem:
“And while the moisture is still on your lips, touch them with your hands, and sanctify your eyes and forehead and the rest of your organs of sense. Then wait for the prayer, and give thanks to God who has counted you worthy of admission to those great mysteries.”
From The Eucharist in the New Testament and the EasrlyChurch, Eugene LaVerdiere:
“For John, the event is viewed primarily from the point of view of Christ’s personal presence, sustaining, challenging, nourishing, and uniting the Church on its journey to the Father…(p. 113) It is as the Word made flesh that Jesus is glorified, that the Father is present in him and that he reveals the Father. It is as the Word made flesh that Jesus dies, rose again, is exalted, and is now present to us in sacrament (p. 117).”
Ideas concerning Eucharist from The Vatican II document, The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy:
We have lost nothing
for not having lived during the time of Jesus’ life on earth . . .
We have everything that the first disciples had
to help us believe in Jesus . . .
Christ is always present in the Church . . .
In the Mass Christ is really present
in the minister
in the Eucharistic bread and wine,
in the proclaimed Word of God,
and in the whole community gathered to worship and pray . . .
The Liturgy is really a celebration of eternity, here and now.
It contains the entire mystery of faith:
it is food as pilgrims,
our hymn of praise,
our hope for partnership with God.
The sacred liturgy gathers together all who have gone before us
and all who will come after us
together with Jesus Christ . . .
It is the summit toward which the Christian life is directed
and the very source of that life to begin with.
It is a fount, from which grace is poured over us,
and a place to which we go for reconciliation . . .
The faithful who come to Liturgy must be well disposed,
ready to participate, and actively engaged in the rites . . .
Because of their baptisms,
all the faithful have both a right and a duty
to full and active participation in the Liturgy . . .
The Scriptures are of greatest importance to the liturgical celebration,
so care should be taken in proclaiming them,
homilizing on them . . .
or praying inspired by them.
A warm and living love of the Scriptures is to be fostered.
(Chapter one, Art. 7, 8,10,11,14, & 24 – taken from Bill Huebsch’s Vatican II in Plain English: The Constitutions)
From Henri Nouwen in his book With Burning Hearts, p. 34-35; 80-97:
Eucharist presents us with an option: the possibility to choose in the midst of life’s mourning and pain, not resentment, but gratitude. Mourning our losses is the first step away from resentment toward gratitude. The tears of our grief can soften our hardened hearts and open us to the possibility to say ‘thanks.’ The word, “Eucharist” means literally “act of thanksgiving.” To celebrate Eucharist and to live a Eucharistic life has everything to do with gratitude. Living Eucharistically is living life as a gift . . . The great mystery we celebrate in the Eucharist is precisely that through mourning our losses we come to know life as a gift. The beauty and preciousness of life is intimately connected with its fragility and mortality.
In Eucharist we take the ‘bread and the wine’ of our lives and discover the ‘flesh and the blood’ of the Risen One: we take, bless, break and give; Jesus takes, blesses, breaks, and gives. Jesus is the fullness of the God who from the beginning of time has desired to enter into communion with us. Communion is what God wants and what we want, need. It is the deepest cry of God’s and our heart . . . and communion creates community. The God-in-us is now able to see the God-in-others. We begin to glimpse the ongoing incarnation of God – and we participate with gratitude and joy.