31st May 2020
Year A – Psalter week 4
The name of today’s feast comes from the Greek word meaning “fiftieth.” As with Easter, the Christian celebration of Pentecost is tied to the Jewish “Feast of Weeks” which occurs fifty days after Passover. While Passover commemorates the freeing of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt, the Feast of Weeks celebrates the giving of the Jewish Law, the Torah, on Mount Sinai. Built upon these feasts and completing them with the coming of the Messiah, the Christian feast of Easter commemorates Jesus’ death and resurrection and the freeing of the human race from slavery to sin and death, while the feast of Pentecost celebrates the giving of the new law, the law of the Spirit. The outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the church at Pentecost is a fulfilment of the Old Testament prophecies that spoke of a new law being written not on tablets of stone like the Old Testament Law, but on human hearts (see, for example, Jeremiah 31:31-34 and Ezekiel 36:26-27). As St. Paul said to the Christians at Corinth: “… you show that you are a letter of Christ, prepared by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts” (2 Corinthians 3:3).
This link between the giving of the old and new laws is highlighted to us by the Church in its choice of readings for this feast. At the Vigil, Exodus 19 describes how, as Moses led the people to meet God, there were “peals of thunder on the mountain and lightning flashes, a dense cloud, and a loud trumpet blast… The mountain of Sinai was entirely wrapped in smoke, because the Lord had descended on it in the form of fire. Like smoke from a furnace the smoke went up, and the whole mountain shook violently.” Compare this account with the first reading for the day from Acts 2:1-11: “When Pentecost day came round, they had all met in one room, when suddenly they heard what sounded like a powerful wind from heaven, the noise of which filled the entire house in which they were sitting; and something appeared to them that seemed like tongues of fire.” In both accounts then, there is an obvious manifestation of the power of God, with fire being a common theme.
Another parallel drawn from the Old and New Testaments on this feast, is the account of the Tower of Babel (Genesis 11:1-9) and the bestowing of the gift of tongues at Pentecost. At the Tower of Babel, we hear how mankind spoke a common language, but in an act of defiance and independence from God, decided to build “a tower with its top reaching heaven.” The motivation for doing this was not, however, to glorify God’s name, but rather, to “make a name for ourselves.” In response, God confused their language and, “it was from there that the Lord scattered them over the whole face of the earth”. In contrast, on the feast of Pentecost, the apostles “began to speak foreign languages as the Spirit gave them the gift of speech”, and the devout people living in Jerusalem “from every nation under heaven”, were “bewildered to hear these men speaking his own language” as the apostles preached not themselves, but “the marvels of God.” So the giving of the Spirit at Pentecost was, in effect, a reversal of the effects of Babel.
So as we celebrate this feast once again, let us pray for a fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit, particularly within our hearts, in order that we be empowered to live the Lord’s commandments of loving God and neighbour evermore faithfully. Let us also pray for deeper unity within ourselves, within our families, within our parish family, within the church, and within our society and world. As the apostles went out to bear witness to the life of the Spirit within them, let us pray for the power of God’s Spirit to overflow to others, and for the gifts of the Spirit we need in order to bear witness to our faith and to the marvels of God that we experience. And as we hear in today’s Gospel account from John, may we experience evermore powerfully, and communicate to our neighbour evermore effectively, the peace, joy and forgiveness of the Risen Christ.
God bless, Fr Andy
1 Corinthians 12:3-7,12-12
Sunday Message and Look
Download this weeks Sunday Message and Look (for our younger parishioners) by clicking on the images, for all the readings for this week, as well as the prayers during mass and the usual weekly thoughts and reflections.
Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love.