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Day of Pentecost B 2015

Day of Pentecost B 2015


1. Pentecost means the 50th in Greek: the 50th day after Easter, after Jesus resurrection

According to tradition, after his resurrection Jesus remained with the disciples a few weeks, then he returned to
heaven on the 40th day (Ascension), and, on the 50th day, the Holy Spirit descended on the disciples.
Todays Gospel is the long farewell speech that Jesus gave to his disciples before he was captured and executed.
Jesus was both Divine and human. As God he had always existed and will live forever, but as a human being his
lifespan was limited in time and place: he lived 2,000 years ago for about 30 years, in Palestine.
The gospel calls Jesus Emmanuel God with us. But God has always been and will always continue to be with
us. We experience God in different ways: as creator, we call God, the Father, as redeemer we call God Jesus, and
as out leader, supporter and guide, us we call God the Holy Spirit. But he is always the same God.
In this farewell message, Jesus told his disciples that his human life was ending, but that they should not be sad
about it because they were about to receive the Holy Spirit, the Advocate to guide and help them.
Then things happened quickly: Jesus was captured and executed. The disciples went into hiding. Jesus mission
looked like a total failure, but, after 3 days, he was raised from the dead and appeared to the disciples.
The experience of Jesus resurrection gave them courage and transformed them: they came out of hiding and
begun to go to the Temple, denounced what had been done to Jesus, and proclaimed that he had risen and was
alive.

2. The first reading from the Acts of the Apostles describes the experience of receiving the Holy Spirit

It was an overwhelming experience of coming in contact with God. Luke, the writer of Acts, uses a 3 metaphors
to describe the impact of the Holy Spirit on the disciples: rush of wind, tongues of fire , and the ability to
communicate in foreign languages.
Remember that in the Old Testament wind and fire are symbols of Gods presence: in Genesis, the spirit of God
(breath of God) blew over the waters at Creation, and the world came into being. In Exodus, God spoke to
Moses from a burning bush, and also a pillar if fire guided the 12 tribes as they crossed the desert at night.
So for the disciples, who were Jews, wind and fire from were familiar metaphors for the power and the presence
of God

Day of Pentecost B 2015


In Acts, the third sign of the presence of the Holy Spirit was speaking in tongues. Nowadays,
speaking in tongues today has deteriorated into displays of inarticulate blabbering.
The book of Acts, however, tells us that Jesus disciples , were able to speak in foreign languages and to
be understood by the native speakers of those languages.
Like wind and fire, this ability to communicate in foreign languages is also a metaphor for the presence
of the Holy Spirit. Up to now the church had only spoken Aramaic, the local language. By speaking in
tongues the Church stopped being a Jewish sect and begun to bring the message of Jesus to all
cultures and all nations in their native languages. Luke wrote Acts about 50 years after the death of
Jesus, and, in that relatively short time span, Christian communities were established in every major
city of the Mediterranean world, and people of every nation heard the message of Christ proclaimed in
their native tongue. This was an astonishing success, and Luke gives credit to the Holy Spirit.
So, the wind, and fire and the ability to speak in foreign languages were used by Luke a symbols of the
transforming power of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit took a group of scared and uneducated Jewish
peasants and turned them into the Apostles who brought the message of Jesus to the whole world
and eventually gave their lives for the Gospel.
The transforming power of the Holy Spirit was particularly visible in Peter who embraced his new role as
leader and started speaking with confidence to the crowds that had come to Jerusalem in pilgrimage.
This is the man who only a few weeks before had been intimidated by a servant girl, and had denied
even knowing Jesus. Now, guided by the Spirit of God, Peter started preaching to the crowds and
interpreting a passage from the prophet Joel.

3. In his Epistle to the Romans Paul provides a different metaphor of the action of the Spirit in
the Christian community: a new birth.
The change in the disciples was so dramatic, that new birth is a good image to describe this new way of
life in which the Spirit actually takes the life of all Christians. We lend ourselves to the Spirit and the
Spirit works though us. When I consecrate bread and wine, I lend my voice to the Spirit. I cannot
perform miracles, but the Spirit of God who prays for me and through me changes bread and wine into
the body and blood of Jesus.
For Paul, we dont know how to pray, how to talk to God. The Church is far too human to ask for the
right things. So the Spirit prays for us, provides us guidance, intercedes for us, and comforts us.

Day of Pentecost B 2015


4. The original Pentecost event took place nearly 2000 years ago. It would have been nice to
be there, and experience the impact of the Holy Spirit...
But we need to remember that Luke use metaphorical language to describe what the Holy Spirit was
able to accomplish
The message of the Gospel is that the same Spirit of God is still with us and continues to get things done
through us, even though we still continue to be unsuited for the job they had been given.
Take a look at the last paragraph in todays Gospel. Jesus told his disciples, I still have many things to
say to you, but you cannot bear them now, when the Spirit comes, he will guide you into all truth.
The presence of the Holy Spirit did not fizzle out after the day of Pentecost. The Spirit is still with us and
is constantly guiding the church to the discovery of all the truth.
It takes a long time for the church to get over its prejudices and its traditional way of thinking. Look at
how much our church has changed over the past 100 years, over the past 200 years. Slavery was
accepted as Gods will, the second class status of women, the rejection of gays and lesbians were seen
as mandated by the Bible only a few years ago. And now slowly and painfully things are changing.
The changes in our church and our society are the evidence that the Spirit of Pentecost is still inspiring
the followers of Christ and guiding us to all the truth.

5. Pentecost is a commemoration of Gods action in the church, a challenge, and a reminder


of our duty
a. We are commemorating the birth of the Church: the church was born on the day of Pentecost, when the
disciples understood that Jesus was gone, and it was now up to them to continue his mission.
b. We are challenged to believe and to allow the Holy Spirit to work through us: we are Gods hands, feet
and mouth. God chooses to use us and to work in this world through what we do
c. Finally, Pentecost is a reminder of our duty to preach the Gospel to all cultures. Speaking in tongues
means conveying the message of the Gospel to people who, even though they may speak English, are
so alienated from religion that for them the message of religion is a foreign language. They may not
understand church-talk, but they understand love, and love is the message of Jesus that is understood
in every language, by every culture, in every age.