Tag Archives: Pentecost

Pentecost, cycle B

Let us pray with Hildegard of Bingen:

Holy Spirit,

Making life alive, moving in all things,

You are the source of all creation and beings.

Holy Spirit,

Cleansing the world of every impurity,

Forgiving guilt, anointing wounds, glistening,

You are commendable.  You are Life.

You awaken and reawaken everything that is.  AMEN

 

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, John Pilch, p. 88-89)

1st Reading: Acts 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.  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)

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” (Luke 3: 16). Here we see that the fire comes in tongues giving courage and 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 Spirit!  (Birmingham, W & W Wrkbk Yr A, p. 336; Celebration, May ‘02)

2nd Reading: Galatians 5: 16-25

Here are some thoughts on Paul’s Flesh and Spirit:  These terms, flesh and spirit, which are often used to translate the Greek sarx and pneuma, have caused tragic misunderstandings of Paul’s theology.  In Romans (8: 6-9), Paul says, “To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace . . . the flesh is hostile to God . . . but you are not in the flesh; you are in the Spirit.”  Because of such passages and such translations, Paul has often been blamed for seeing the body and sex as sinful, evil.  This is unfortunate for it is far from what Paul has in mind when he uses the word, sarx.  He does not mean the physical, sexual part of a human. Sarx refers to the WHOLE human as he/she is enslaved to weakness and corruption.  (Even when Paul lists sexual ‘sins’ with prominence, he is saying that sexual abuse and misuse are symptoms of the whole person’s disorientation away from God, the true source of life.)

The pneuma, or spirit, on the other hand, is the full human who is open to being influenced by God’s Spirit and charis, saving power.  Our whole being “every cell of our body, every moment of our mind is BOTH flesh and spirit.”  We are enslaved by the power of sin.  Or, we are liberated to grow into the image of God that we are intended to be.  If we allow ourselves to trust in our weak and corruptible self or other weak, corruptible selves, we miss living a life in tune with the God revealed in Jesus.  As our reading says, we are called to belong to Christ and to live in his Spirit.  (P. Tillich, Shaking of the Foundations, 133 and The Eternal Now, 48).

The Gospel: John 20: 19-23

Jesus’ words in this Gospel apply not only to priests or to all believers.  As Christians, we are to follow Jesus’ example of forgiveness.  How did He treat His friends after they deserted Him?  Jesus forgives and brings us into communion with God – Source of all life  – powerfully present in all life.  Jesus’ Way, Truth, and Life sets us free to BE Christ-in-the-world:  As disciples we are called to bear witness to His risen life by breaking the barriers of sin and division in our hearts and communities. True peace can only begin when we each begin to work with the Spirit to create situations around us of justice, dialogue, and truth – situations that lead to peace. The power of Spirit can enlarge and expand our hearts if we allow the Spirit of Jesus to grow within us – to breathe into us the power of forgiveness – the power to welcome others in his name – the power to transform the world one heart at a time – starting with our own. (Celebration, May 2002)

From John Kavaungh, “The Word Encountered,” http://liturgy.slu.edu :  If Pentecost was the start of the church, it was a birth out of frailty. The believers were huddled in fear behind closed doors. Yet Pentecost unleashed a courageous power. Driven by wind and fire, the followers of Jesus were set loose upon the world to make bold proclamation. The Spirit brought unity, not only in a shared sense of poverty and smallness, but in the common experience of one God in Jesus, one faith, and one baptism. It was a faith that also put believers in touch with their deepest humanity. They would now speak a universal tongue, in a way which could touch the hearts of people from Africa, Asia, the Middle East, and Europe.  The unity of faith in Jesus is a subversive power; it overturns any other claim to supremacy. Since Christ is our primary reality, his Spirit is a force that liberates us from any other bondage.

Let us pray, adapted from The Exsultet:

We sing the glories from this pillar of fire, our Easter candle,

The brightness of which is not diminished,

Even when its light is divided and borrowed…

May he who is the morning star find it burning –

That morning star which never sets,

That morning star which, rising again from the grave,

Faithfully sheds light on all the human race.

And on me.  AMEN

Advertisements

Pentecost Sunday, cycle A

1ST READING: ACTS 2: 1-11

Luke is 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” (Luke 3: 16). Here we see that the fire comes in tongues giving courage and 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!  (Birmingham, W&W, p. 336; Celebration, May2002)

Every essential step in Acts of how witness was borne to Christ from Jerusalem to the ends of the earth is guided by the Spirit, whose presence becomes obvious at great moments where the human agents would otherwise be hesitant or choose wrongly  (R. Brown, The Churches the Apostles Left Behind, p. 68).  Isn’t this profoundly hopeful and encouraging?

2ND READING:  1 CORINTHIANS 12: 3-13

In Corinth, they seemed to feel that ‘spectacular’ gifts such as speaking in strange tongues were more impressive gifts. Those who did not display such wonder-filled gifts were seen as inferior. Paul is trying to help them set their priorities straight. He wants to ground them in the reality that it is Jesus, the crucified one, who is called Lord. The Spirit of this Jesus gives us gifts that are for the good of all. No one gift is to be prized over another – except perhaps love (1 Cor. 13). Through baptism, we are one body – the body of Christ. Through Eucharist we “drink of the one Spirit” — together we are to nourish and build up the entire body that is the very presence of Jesus in the world.  (Birmingham, W&W, p. 336)

The term ‘body’ (soma, in Greek) means the whole person – the whole human being as he lives in relationship with and for others – the way we are REAL for each other.  Paul is using the metaphor in 2 ways:

  1. As a body has different parts yet is one body, so are we.
  2. We, as church, are a living organism: Christ’s body in the world. We derive our life from Jesus; and, it is the way Jesus remains involved in our history, relating to us – to each other.

As we experience and LIVE Jesus’ presence in His Word and Eucharist, we are to BE that presence in the world.  The Spirit is both the source of our unity AND our diversity.  Our hope, our consolation, our strength and challenge is in the Spirit who is God-with-us. (from notes taken from John Dwyer’s talks on this subject)

Martin Luther’s teaching on the priesthood of all believers emphasizes that each Christian has a vocation, a calling, by virtue of their standing or office in the world.  It is through faith, for Luther, that one accepts one’s divinely appointed standing and lives out that faith through the good works of daily life, whether as a cobbler, painter, spouse, or son.  Each of these paths gives glory to God…For work to be a calling means it is recognized as both a gift and a response.  It is more than a desire to do something for others; it is felt as an imperative that I must do this, regardless of how difficult.  In that sense work is experienced as a calling that brings both joy and fulfillment.  (Cahalan, K., Introducing the Practice of Ministry, p. 27).

THE GOSPEL: JOHN 20: 19-23

From The Vatican II Constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium, (translated by Bill Huebsch, chapter one):

‘This Spirit is a fountain of living water springing up to life eternal! . . .

Working through the ordinary lives of us all,

the Spirit gives the Church everything it needs . . .

Praying through the heart of the faithful and dwelling in us as in a temple,

The Spirit unifies us all in love . . .

Life in this church is sometimes messy because the Church includes everyone

with all their various talents and desires.

We would end up in a mess with all this if we did not have Christ to lead us. . .

Christ wants us to love each other, to endure sorrow with one another,

to share happiness, to forgive each other freely,

all in a family-like lifestyle.

Therefore, whoever leads us as the Church toward a community of love . . .

real love lived out in everyday life, that person speaks for Christ.’

Pentecost, cycle C

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)

Approaching Pentecost, by Kris Rooney

shine like the sun

Thomas Merton described in Conjecture of a Guilty Bystander his epiphany on March 18, 1958: In Louisville, at the corner of Fourth and Walnut, in the center of the shopping district, I was suddenly overwhelmed with the realization that I loved all those people, that they were mine and I theirs, that we could not be alien to one another even though we were total strangers … There is no way of telling people that they are all walking around shining like the sun.

We are all walking around shining like the sun.  Just look at the sun today.  Feel the warmth on the back of your neck.  When you close your eyes to it, you can still see the brightness under your eyelids.  It penetrates through the skin.  There is a strength in that sunlight.  It can even lift our mood.  What is it like to walk around, shining like that?  Yet Merton says we are.  I am convinced very few people truly know they are walking stars.

As a matter of fact, we are quite literally, stardust.  If the universe began with a big bang in space, we were originally made from the dust of stars.  Thinking about the human race made in this cosmic way, it connects all of us.  Merton felt that connection sitting on a bench in Louisville, KY.  He felt a great love for the uniqueness in each person he saw.  There was an instantaneous desire to share it.  Once you catch that deep feeling of love, it cannot be contained.

It seems like most people are very hard on themselves.  They want to do better.  They see who they want to be and it is so far from who they are now.  Our culture doesn’t help.  More is the goal.  Always strive beyond.  We are never enough.  It is impossible to shine when our heads are down.

This is not what God wants.  God doesn’t want our perfection.  God wants us to be the most of who we are.  That is how we shine.  What is more beautiful than a person being exactly who they are called to be?  It is breath-taking.  It is strong.  It is brilliant.  And it is fire-producing.  It exudes the love God wants us to have for ourselves and for one another.

This Pentecost, dare to be the most you.  God sent God’s Spirit to help.  And you will shine like the sun.