Sunday, May 30, 2004

First Reading: Acts 2:1-11
Responsorial Psalm: Psalms 104:1, 24, 29-30, 31, 34
Second Reading: First Corinthians 12:3-7, 12-13
Gospel: John 20:19-23

Here at the end of the Easter season, the Church's liturgy celebrates the dramatic coming of the Holy Spirit upon the apostles, our Lady, and the other disciples gathered in Jerusalem. In the first reading, St. Luke records how the Holy Spirit came upon the room in which they were gathered as a mighty wind. It filled the room. And they saw tongues of fire which rested upon them. And they were filled with the Holy Spirit.

The Hebrew word ruah can mean spirit, breath, and wind. In this new re-creation, the Spirit rushes down upon them even as the Spirit had moved over the face of the earth in Genesis 1:2. Indeed, even as God breathed life into Adam in order that he become a living being (Genesis 2:7), the Holy Spirit is breathing new life into the apostles. As the Gospel for today recounts, our Lord breathed on the disciples in order that they might receive the Holy Spirit. It is through the breath or the Spirit of God, that we become truly living beings with new life that comes from above.

Because of the feast of Pentecost which was one of the major three feasts of the Jews, there were gathered in Jerusalem Jews from throughout the Dispersion. At this feast, the Jews were to bring the first fruits of the harvest. By a miracle of the Holy Spirit, those gathered together are suddenly able speak in tongues which are not their own in order to proclaim the mighty works of God. The crowds hears the Galileans speaking in the various languages of the crowd, and initially they are confused. This word for confused is the very same word which is used in the Greek Old Testament for what happened at the tower of Babel (Genesis 11:1-9) when the languages of men became confused. Here at the coming of the Holy Spirit, the confusion of Babel is being reversed as through the one Holy Spirit, men are hearing about the one, true God.

Finally, this account brings to fulfillment what Isaiah had prophesied about the Lord's gathering of all nations (66:15-20). Isaiah noted that God's judgment would come in fire. And now the Holy Spirit has come in tongues of fire pronouncing the mighty works of God through the apostles. Isaiah prophesied that all nations and tongues would be gathered. And now the beginning of the proclamation of the Gospel to all nations has begun with Pentecost. This is emphasized by St. Luke's listing of the countries in the account in Acts. He lists them geographically from east to west, then singles out Rome, perhaps as the center of the empire and eventual center of St. Peter's and St. Paul's ministry, and finally notes western and eastern extremes in Cretans and Arabians. In other words, St. Luke wants to make clear the universality of what occurred at Pentecost. He also wants to not how Jesus' words to the disciples at His Ascension are already being fulfilled ten days later, "And you shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and the end of the earth" (Acts 1:8).

Posted by David at 9:27 AM  |  Comments (0)  | 


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