May 24, 2015 — Pentecost Sunday
Our Easter season ends on this day, Pentecost Sunday, the 50th day after Easter. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church (#731) “On that day of Pentecost when the seven weeks of Easter had come to an end, Christ’s Passover is fulfilled in the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, manifested, given, and communicated as a divine person: of his fullness, Christ, the Lord pours out the Spirit in abundance. (#732) On that day, the Holy Trinity is fully revealed. Since that day, the Kingdom announced by Christ has been open to those who believe in him… By his coming which never ceases, the Holy Spirit causes the world to enter into the ‘last days,’ the time of the Church, the Kingdom already inherited though not yet consummated.”
These gifts of the Holy Spirit as explained and outlined in today’s readings have come to us as well. From the moment the Holy Spirit descended upon the Apostles in that upper room the Church began, and it continues in and through us today. At that time Pentecost was an already existent festival, which celebrated “the first fruits of the harvest.” “First fruits” is a term oft used in association with our understanding of stewardship. We are called to share our “first fruits,” our many gifts, before we do anything else with them.
The first reading from the Acts of the Apostles provides details as to how and to whom the Holy Spirit descended. Note that the Apostles “were all in one place together.” This is the same unity to which we are called; this is one of the reasons we gather as a community to pray and to worship. For them to receive the Holy Spirit they had to be open to it, acknowledging their own emptiness. If we are not empty, we cannot be filled. The admission and acceptance of our own emptiness is one of the means by which the Holy Spirit can fill us and make us whole.
St. Paul, in our second reading from his first letter to the Corinthians, explains further the gifts received by us through the Holy Spirit. “There are different kinds of spiritual gifts but the same Spirit.” Paul then lists the different ways we may be gifted. In doing that he says “There are different workings, but the same God.” The original Greek word translated as “workings” is energemata. A wordsmith would point out that this is also the root word of “energy” and “energize.” The gifts may be different, but the Giver, and the one Who provides the strength and ability to use those gifts is God Himself, just God. Everything we are; everything we have; everything we are able to do is from the Grace of God. Paul completes his explanation by pointing out that although each of us is different and each of us has different gifts and in different quantities, we are all “one Body” in Christ. This sense of unity is important for us to practice and understand stewardship.
In the Gospel from John Jesus appears to His Apostles and “He breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit’.” This is the same Holy Spirit with which we are to be filled. Just as the Lord empowered those first followers with authority and forgiveness, He does the same for us. Our role, as defined on this Pentecost Sunday, to many “the birthday of the Church,” is, in the words of our U.S. Bishops “to receive God’s gifts gratefully, cultivate them responsibly, share them lovingly in justice with others, and return them with increase to the Lord.” This is what we remember on this Pentecost Sunday, and it is what we must strive to continue.