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:
- As a body has different parts yet is one body, so are we.
- 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.’
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 — Habakkuk 1:2-3; 2:2-4
From Celebration, October 2004:
If scholars are right, Habakkuk might have been a contemporary of Jeremiah. He is probably here lamenting the destruction of Judah by King Nebuchadnezzar’s Babylonian army. He is probably also lamenting the corruption that took place in Judah before the fall. Yet, he is told that he must trust in a vision that can yet come to be. With this vision comes an assurance of God’s love and care even though there is destruction and suffering. He was told to write down this vision; in other words to make it permanent. And, it is to be in large, legible letters so that all the people may see it, read it, hold on to it – a public display of faith in the midst of tragedy. This is faith that gives life.
From Exploring the Sunday Readings, October, 2007:
Have you ever met someone with vision? What do we mean when we use that word in that way? Part of the ‘vision thing’ is to be able to see farther down the road than the rest of us. It also means perhaps that this person with vision can see the ‘big picture’ – how things go together and what the focus should be. Most importantly this idea also means a person who has a creative instinct for the future. Tomorrow does not have to be a rerun of yesterday. Visionaries imagine what doesn’t yet exist, but perhaps should. Without such visionary thinking, hope can come to a standstill along with our faith and loving actions.
2nd Reading – 2 Timothy 1: 6-8, 13-14
By the time of this writing, many have given their lives for the faith in Christ; others have endured increasing difficulties and hardships. (Some have also fallen away or fallen into heresy –see 1:15, 2:17-18 and 4:9) This writer wants to use the example of Paul’s imprisonment and suffering along with some of perhaps Paul’s own words to encourage others to use their faith to live with courage, power, love and self control. (Celebration, October 2004)
From Exploring the Sunday Readings, October, 2007:
Fear is not the stuff of Christian living; love is. We are realists; we know that life, even the life of a Christian can and will have difficulties. But God provides us a gift of his Spirit that will enable us to act with courage and power and love despite our fears.
Does this reading stir you into flame?
The Gospel – Luke 17: 5-10
This passage sort of starts in the middle of things. Because the lectionary does not include the first part of this chapter, we do not understand why the disciples are asking for an increase in faith. Jesus had just warned them about not causing anyone to sin. In no uncertain terms Jesus tells them it would be better for the one who leads another into sin to have millstone around his neck and be thrown into the sea. Quite a vivid picture of the outcome of evil! He then goes on to say that they must be willing to forgive seven times a day. (Seven was the number symbolic of wholeness, completeness) It is no wonder that the poor disciples walking with Jesus toward Jerusalem would ask for a little more faith. But Jesus does not lessen the demands. Even a tiny bit of faith (a mustard seed) will be enough to uproot deeply rooted problems evil and hard-heartedness. (Celebration, October, 2004)
This whole chapter in Luke’s gospel is about “the decisiveness and urgency of discipleship.” We cannot just wait (or even pray) until we have enough faith, for then we may never begin living as the servants we are called to be. A seed is small, but it is filled with potential ‘power’ for growth. Jesus wants to convince us that our faith is like this. We must ‘burst open’ like a planted seed allowing growth and new life to begin.
“We must use what we have.” Jesus then shows us what the faithful disciple looks like – one who not only works the fields, but also serves at table. In fact, as we put this all together we see that serving at table is as great as moving trees – and other more amazing feats of faith! Jesus like many good preachers of his time loved to use hyperbole and humor to get his point across. (Living Liturgy, Cycle C, p.220)
What do you think of the phrase “unprofitable servants”? The Greek adjective that is used here actually means “without need.” Although it is translated here as ‘unprofitable’ it seems to mean more that this servant is without the need for ‘pay.’ He is not motivated by reward or recompense. As servants of an all-merciful and loving God we need to do everything with gratitude that we have been called to serve such a ‘master.’ We are servants that are ‘due nothing,’ because all we have has been given to us with love. (John Pilch, “Historical Cultural Context, liturgy.slu.edu)