Acts 2:1-11; 1 Cor. 12:3-7, 12-13. Jn. 20:19-23.
A. Invoking the Holy Spirit
We invoke the Holy Spirit using the words of St. Augustine.
Come, Holy Spirit, by whom every devout soul, who believes in Christ, is sanctified to become a citizen of the City of God! (en. Ps. 45:8) Come, Holy Spirit, grant that we receive the motions of God, put in us your flame, enlighten us and raise us up to God (s. 128,4).
With heart well disposed, with serenity, read slowly the following words, savoring them and allowing yourself to be touched by them.
On the evening of that first day of the week, when the doors were locked, where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.” When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.”
Acts 1:13-14 gives us the location of the eleven apostles gathered around Mary the Mother of Jesus: the “upper room”; and they were engaged “in prayer.” It is also known as “Cenacle” because the Last Supper –‘cena’- was held there. Now that Jesus has already ascended and was no longer with them, they were more fearful than ever and kept the doors locked. The Holy Spirit coming as a “driving wind” reminds us of the “ruach Elohim” that swept over the waters in the beginning of creation, making us conscious that on this day the Lord “makes all things new.” Fire had already been seen in Exodus as the “burning bush” and the “pillar of fire” and the “cloud and fire” on top of Mt. Sinai, manifesting the majestic presence of God. On this day, this fire is one of gentleness and love and “power from on high.” The flame is first a light for the mind giving them all the truth about Jesus, reminding them of what he did and taught; second it is the warmth of love for God, and for mankind for whom Jesus shed his blood and to whom they were to be witnesses for Jesus. The presence of the Holy Spirit was first manifested by the speaking in tongues. The people that gathered around them were from different regions of the known world where Israel was scattered during the many exiles they suffered in the past. Each one heard and understood in his native tongue the proclamation of the apostles. At Babel, they were scattered because they could not understand one another. At Pentecost all these languages were understood and gathered the peoples together to hear the mighty works of God. Send forth your Spirit and renew the face of the earth. That is Pentecost. The person of Mary in the midst of the Apostles receiving the flames of fire is the image of the Church being born. Mary is shown as Mother of the Church. Mary was there at the human birth of Jesus, now she is here at the birth of the Church, the Mystical Body of Jesus. In Babel the people were scattered each to his own, at Pentecost the one Spirit gives out different gifts, varied services and functions that keep the Body of Christ one and whole (1 Cor. 12:3b-7, 12-13). Though they are many individuals, races, and tongues with varied gifts and functions, the One Spirit makes all of them build up the One Body of Christ. Let us be discerning to perceive the dividing spirit of satan and the uniting Spirit of God.
The Gospels narrate the life of Jesus up to the Ascension. The Pentecost event, therefore, is beyond the Gospel narratives, and we are grateful to St. Luke for writing the Acts of the Apostles where the Pentecost event is narrated early on. The Gospel of St. John alone gives an incident when Jesus transmits the Holy Spirit to the apostles after the resurrection. Jn.17:18, “As you sent me into the world, so I send them into the world.” Jn. 20:21, “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” Matthew quotes Jesus before ascending to heaven, “Go and make disciples of all nations,” using the language of God to Abraham “Go forth from the land…” John on the other hand uses the language of God to Moses, “Come now, I will send you to Pharaoh…” In all cases the authority comes from God to be sent or to go to fulfill a mission for God. When Jesus sends, it is the Father who sends.
“He breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit’.” The concept of wind and breath is made clear as in creation and in Pentecost. There immediately follow the conferment of the power to forgive sins. Here we see that the Holy Spirit is the Sanctifier, making us holy by forgiving our sins. While in Mt. 16:19 it was said “Whatever you bind”, “whatever you loosed”, here it is specified “Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them and whose sins you retain are retained.” It clearly refers to forgiveness of sins. Jesus came to save us from our sins and so long as there are human beings who sin, there will be need of forgiveness. Therefore, the power to forgive sins must exist and be exercised in the Church founded by Christ.
Confession of sin was already prescribed in Leviticus 5:5-6 as we read, “When a man is guilty in any of these, he shall confess the sin he has committed, and he shall bring his guilt offering to the Lord for the sin he has committed, a female from the flock, a lamb or a goat, for a sin offering; and the priest shall make atonement for him for his sin.” Three elements are clear: confess, bring offering, and the priest; there must be reparation for sin and the intervention of the priest. This intervention of the priest for the act of atonement for sin is mentioned five more times in this chapter: vv. 10, 13, 16, 18, and 26. The phrase is almost monotonous, “the priest shall make atonement for him for the sin he has committed… and he shall be forgiven.” Confession of sin to a priest is a most profitable sacrament wherein the sins committed are confessed and forgiven with penance attached as act of reparation. With the forgiveness of sins, the shalom that Jesus gives is made full and complete. A most fitting gift from the Holy Spirit.
Let us not pray from the depths of our heart, asking the Holy Spirit to shower
on us his seven gifts of Wisdom, Understanding, Counsel, Fortitude, Knowledge, Piety and Fear of the Lord.
Let us also pray that the Holy Spirit grant us his Twelve Fruits: Charity, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Generosity, Gentleness, Faithfulness, Modesty, Self-control, and Chastity.
Contemplate that you are in the Cenacle with Mother Mary and the Apostles,
and the Tongue of Fire also hovers upon you. In all humility adore, worship, give thanks and praise the Almighty for the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Contemplate that together with them you also are praying in tongues, proclaiming the marvels that God is doing in the Church and in the world making all things new.
How can I apply this text of Scripture at this moment of my life? What lights does it give me? What challenges does it put before me?
What concrete commitment does this text of Scripture ask of me in my spiritual life, in my community life?
G. Final Prayer of St. Augustine
Turning towards the Lord: Lord God, Father Almighty, with pure heart, as far as our littleness permits, allow us to give you our most devoted and sincere thanks, begging with all our strength from your particular goodness, that by your power you may drive away the enemy from all our thoughts and actions; that you may increase our faith, govern our mind, give us spiritual thoughts, and bring us to your happiness, through your Son Jesus Christ, our Lord, who with you lives and reigns, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen (en. Ps.150:8).