Pentecost Sunday
26 May 2020
Rev. Gilbert Ostdiek, OFM

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

Lord, send out your Spirit, and renew the face of the earth.

What is the renewal we seek from the Lord today? A simple face-lift for our world? Or is something deeper than that needed?

The face of our world has changed these past few months in ways we never expected. We know it well ‒ people sheltering at home, silent streets and bare store shelves, empty spaces between people and worried faces hidden behind masks, shuttered shops, and silent factories, daily news updates of positive texts for Covid-19 and hospital admissions and deaths due to the virus. But there have been other reports as well ‒ a remarkable tidal swell of concern for one another, a spontaneous spread of mask-making industry in those home shelters, efforts to make and distribute food, hotels converted to hospital extensions, heroic first responders and medical care-givers being cheered. These uplifting stories have almost muted the news reports of political and international squabbles. Are these stories glimmers of hope that this new outbreak of human kindness will survive in whatever the new normal will be? Or will it subside, as it has after other disasters?

The disciples of Jesus had suffered a devastating loss when he was crucified. The world they knew was gone, too. But their world was renewed far beyond what they could have imagined. Acts tells us the story. Gathered in Jerusalem for the pilgrimage feast of Pentecost (Shavuot) with people “from every nation under heaven,” the disciples were overtaken by the Spirit Jesus had promised to send them. In the mighty wind (ruach – wind /breath/spirit) they felt the Spirit’s full power and in the tongues of fire that came to rest on them, their own tongues were set ablaze with the energy of the Spirit. They found the courage to leave their place of shelter, to go out and boldly proclaim the gospel of Jesus. And as today’s preface tells us, their hearers were “brought together from the many languages of the earth in the profession of one faith.” Three thousand were added to the community that day!

In the gospel reading, we heard that Jesus had already breathed the Spirit on the disciples when he appeared to them as they huddled in their locked room on Easter day. The gift of the Spirit was part and parcel of what John calls the “hour” of Jesus’ glorification. The gospel tells us three important things about that scene. First, the risen Lord wished the disciples peace (shalom) not once but twice. This was no ordinary “hello.” He wished them wholeness and peace of a different kind. In effect, he forgave them for abandoning him just three nights earlier and took them back as his disciples. Second, he reaffirmed the mission he had given them at the Last Supper: “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” They are to carry on his work of spreading God’s love and mercy. And third, breathing on them, he gave them the gift of the Holy Spirit and full authority to carry on that work of proclaiming God’s forgiveness and merciful love that renews people’s lives.

So what hope, and charge, does that give us for the renewal of our world now? Can we Christians not fan into full flames the sparks of renewed human kindness we now see around us and make that our life-long mission? At the Easter Vigil, as we light tapers from the candle that represents Christ, the light of the world, the darkened church in which we gather gradually comes aglow. And why not the whole world? At every Eucharist, we pray that having received Christ in communion, we will receive his Spirit and become one body, one spirit in Christ. And then we are sent to be his silent witnesses in our world, setting it ablaze with loving-kindness.

Today let our prayer, and pledge, be that we will truly be instruments of Christ and his Holy Spirit in renewing the face of the earth.

Rev. Gilbert Ostdiek, OFM
Professor of Liturgy

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Departments: Word and Worship
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