Year A: Pentecost

Pentecost is the fulfilment of the promise of the Holy Spirit, now and forever poured out across the world.

A row of votive candles burning.

Acts 2: 1-11; 1 Corinthians 12:3-7. 12-13; John 20:19-23

Pentecost is par excellence the feast of the Dialogue poured out in wind and fire and water onto all the peoples of the earth. These are representatives of the whole of created matter which has been shot through with the divine since time began and are now utilised as if to affirm and ratify: ‘Listen O peoples of the earth. Your instincts were right whenever you heard, saw and felt the divine Spirit in all created things and became partners in the dialogue with God in your storytelling, music and poetry and love’. Now it is a fullness (the sound of the wind fills the whole house), it is fire directed to each, it is the tongues of each that all can understand.  The Spirit of the God of dialogue shatters all human boundaries of language and nation. So, the long ages of the dialogue barely understood by all but a few, the people of Israel, yet shielded into fulfilment by them, now come in full spate and flood of sound, fire and word.  And all can now understand the marvels of God!  The Spirit of the Word of Dialogue fills all peoples of the entire world with understanding. God loves and so must seek to be understood, not by the few but by the many.  And it is today.  We may unconsciously reduce this by talking about Pentecost as the “birthday of the Church.” It is much more than that – it is the naming day of the whole human race as partners in the Divine dialogue. All else is fulfilment of the promise of this Spirit now and forever outpoured. 

Paul cannot contain the universalism of the action of the Spirit. Dialogue now makes it possible to realise that in Christ (the Word) all (Jews, Greeks, slaves, citizens) humanity, in their glorious differences and diversities have been given the same Spirit to drink!  We are all ‘under the influence’! 

The Dialogue ends and begins its outreach, not by repeating the oh-so-worn word of revenge but with the word ‘Peace’.  The tortured Christ returns with a message of peace and of the mission to be sent out, even as the Father has sent Him. What is the response? Joy. The disciples, therefore, receive the Holy Spirit, prompted by the gift of that same Spirit. The mission to speak in the name of God has come. Until now God has ‘breathed’ his inspiration, his conversation, his word, into the hearts of members of the chosen people. Now, a living man breathes living breath of the air we all breathe literally onto his friends and they hear him say: ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.’ What is human is Divine. The Church, the followers of the Way of Jesus, consists of people who recognise they are empowered by God. As divine envoys they are sent out to the whole world to affirm that all creation and people of goodwill are partners in the divine dance.