Reflection: Pentecost still is evolving today
By SISTER MARY McGLONE
“How manifold are your works, O Lord! The earth is full of your creatures!”
This is our Pentecost song.
As we pray Psalm 104, we celebrate all of creation as a revelation of God’s very being. In “Laudato Si’, on Care for Our Common Home,” Pope Francis tells us, “From the beginning of the world … the mystery of Christ is at work … in the natural world as a whole.”
Recently, we’ve seen some concrete signs of our growing awareness of God’s universal and inclusive presence. During Lent, NCR published an explanation that the seeming antisemitism found in the Gospel of John and other New Testament passages cannot justify rejection or the demeaning of the Jewish people at any time in history.
On March 30, the Vatican repudiated what has been called the “Doctrine of Discovery,” papal pronouncements used to justify the expropriation of Indigenous lands and policies of forced assimilation of different ethnic groups into a majority culture. We are making some progress in finding God in all things.
Nevertheless, as Pope Francis warns us in “Fratelli Tutti,” new technologies have proven incapable of eliminating the dread we imagine beyond our walls. He lamented our tendency to fall victim to ancient fears of cultures different from our own.
To wit, on April 10, The New York Times reported on proposed bills in Florida that would make it a felony to shelter, hire or transport undocumented immigrants and would require hospitals to report the immigration status of their patients. This seems like what Francis calls fear of people “from whom we must defend ourselves at all costs.”
In what sounds like a direct warning to our country, Francis says in “Fratelli Tutti,” “Those who raise walls will end up as slaves within the very walls they have built. They are left without horizons, for they lack this interchange with others.”
Today, we celebrate Pentecost, the feast of God’s Spirit filling the Earth with all her creatures and cultures. To what does this feast invite us?
Beginning with the Gospel of John, we can see the progression of the early church’s reflection on the Spirit’s effects on the Christian community.
John begins by opening a window on what looks like the room where the disciples had recently celebrated the Passover with Jesus. But now, after his death, they had locked the doors and gathered together in fear.
Without warning, Jesus stood among them and bade them shalom. Showing them the marks of his wounds, he again bade them peace. Then, summarizing what he had said during their last supper and mirroring God’s gift of life to the first humans (Genesis 2:7), Jesus breathed his Spirit into them and commissioned them to carry on his own vocation.
Luke tells a version of this same story in Acts, describing how the disciples had encountered Jesus over a period of 40 days. Then, after spending 10 days waiting and praying together, the Spirit of God shook them out of all inertia, impelling them to assume their apostleship.
Thus began an incredible, centurieslong adventure of broadening horizons. Starting with the disciples’ amazing experience of being able to tell the Jesus story to Jews “from every nation under heaven,” this adventure would continue for centuries, sending disciples to all the peoples and cultures of the world.
Although impelled by the Spirit, this evangelical adventure was never easy. At each new step of the way, Christians needed to broaden their outlook, question their dogmatic assumptions, and ask the Spirit for guidance.
That’s the process Paul describes in his first letter to the Corinthians, where he speaks of rejoicing in the Spirit’s diverse gifts. Paul teaches that every gift of an individual, a people or a culture manifests the Spirit bestowed for the benefit of the entire body.
Following Paul’s lead, Karl Rahner, the great 20th-century theologian, commented that after the events of Jesus’ life and after the Pentecost came to fruition in the “Council of Jerusalem” (Acts 15:1-31), the next major step for the Christian community did not come until the Second Vatican Council in 1962-65 opened the church to the modern world and all her cultures.
What does Pentecost mean today? In the 21st century, when no part of the world is unreachable and every language is translatable in an instant, Francis tells us that it is time to appreciate the unavoidable “and blessed awareness that we are all part of one another” and can “no longer think in terms of ‘them’ and ‘those,’ but only ‘us.’ ”
As we celebrate God’s Spirit present throughout creation, let us abandon our locked-up mentalities and venture into mind and soul-stretching interchanges with the wild and wonderful variety of the Spirit’s manifestations in our world. Pentecost is ongoing!
(Genesis 11: 1-9)
The whole world spoke the same language, using the same words.
While the people were migrating in the east,
they came upon a valley in the land of Shinar and settled there.
They said to one another,
“Come, let us mold bricks and harden them with fire.”
They used bricks for stone, and bitumen for mortar.
Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city
and a tower with its top in the sky,
and so make a name for ourselves;
otherwise we shall be scattered all over the earth.”
The LORD came down to see the city and the tower
that the people had built.
Then the LORD said: “If now, while they are one people,
all speaking the same language,
they have started to do this,
nothing will later stop them from doing whatever they presume to do.
Let us then go down there and confuse their language,
so that one will not understand what another says.”
Thus the LORD scattered them from there all over the earth,
and they stopped building the city.
That is why it was called Babel,
because there the LORD confused the speech of all the world.
It was from that place that he scattered them all over the earth.
(Exodus 19: 3-8a, 16-20b)
Moses went up the mountain to God.
Then the LORD called to him and said,
“Thus shall you say to the house of Jacob; tell the Israelites:
You have seen for yourselves how I treated the Egyptians
and how I bore you up on eagle wings
and brought you here to myself.
Therefore, if you hearken to my voice and keep my covenant,
you shall be my special possession,
dearer to me than all other people,
though all the earth is mine.
You shall be to me a kingdom of priests, a holy nation.
That is what you must tell the Israelites.”
So Moses went and summoned the elders of the people.
When he set before them
all that the LORD had ordered him to tell them,
the people all answered together,
“Everything the LORD has said, we will do.”
On the morning of the third day
there were peals of thunder and lightning,
and a heavy cloud over the mountain,
and a very loud trumpet blast,
so that all the people in the camp trembled.
But Moses led the people out of the camp to meet God,
and they stationed themselves at the foot of the mountain.
Mount Sinai was all wrapped in smoke,
for the LORD came down upon it in fire.
The smoke rose from it as though from a furnace,
and the whole mountain trembled violently.
The trumpet blast grew louder and louder, while Moses was speaking,
and God answering him with thunder.
When the LORD came down to the top of Mount Sinai,
he summoned Moses to the top of the mountain.
(Ezekiel 37: 1-14)
The hand of the LORD came upon me,
and he led me out in the spirit of the LORD
and set me in the center of the plain,
which was now filled with bones.
He made me walk among the bones in every direction
so that I saw how many they were on the surface of the plain.
How dry they were!
He asked me:
Son of man, can these bones come to life?
I answered, “Lord GOD, you alone know that.”
Then he said to me:
Prophesy over these bones, and say to them:
Dry bones, hear the word of the LORD!
Thus says the Lord GOD to these bones:
See! I will bring spirit into you, that you may come to life.
I will put sinews upon you, make flesh grow over you,
cover you with skin, and put spirit in you
so that you may come to life and know that I am the LORD.
I, Ezekiel, prophesied as I had been told,
and even as I was prophesying I heard a noise;
it was a rattling as the bones came together, bone joining bone.
I saw the sinews and the flesh come upon them,
and the skin cover them, but there was no spirit in them.
Then the LORD said to me:
Prophesy to the spirit, prophesy, son of man,
and say to the spirit: Thus says the Lord GOD:
From the four winds come, O spirit,
and breathe into these slain that they may come to life.
I prophesied as he told me, and the spirit came into them;
they came alive and stood upright, a vast army.
Then he said to me:
Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel.
They have been saying,
“Our bones are dried up,
our hope is lost, and we are cut off.”
Therefore, prophesy and say to them: Thus says the Lord GOD:
O my people, I will open your graves
and have you rise from them,
and bring you back to the land of Israel.
Then you shall know that I am the LORD,
when I open your graves and have you rise from them,
O my people!
I will put my spirit in you that you may live,
and I will settle you upon your land;
thus you shall know that I am the LORD.
I have promised, and I will do it, says the LORD.
(Joel 3: 1-5)
Thus says the LORD:
I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh.
Your sons and daughters shall prophesy,
your old men shall dream dreams,
your young men shall see visions;
even upon the servants and the handmaids,
in those days, I will pour out my spirit.
And I will work wonders in the heavens and on the earth,
blood, fire, and columns of smoke;
the sun will be turned to darkness,
and the moon to blood,
at the coming of the day of the LORD,
the great and terrible day.
Then everyone shall be rescued
who calls on the name of the LORD;
for on Mount Zion there shall be a remnant,
as the LORD has said,
and in Jerusalem survivors
whom the LORD shall call.
(Psalm 104: 1-2, 24, 25, 27-28, 29-30)
(Romans 8: 22-27)
Brothers and sisters:
We know that all creation is groaning in labor pains even until now;
and not only that, but we ourselves,
who have the first fruits of the Spirit,
we also groan within ourselves
as we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies.
For in hope we were saved.
Now hope that sees is not hope.
For who hopes for what one sees?
But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait with endurance.
In the same way, the Spirit too comes to the aid of our weakness;
for we do not know how to pray as we ought,
but the Spirit himself intercedes with inexpressible groanings.
And the one who searches hearts
knows what is the intention of the Spirit,
because he intercedes for the holy ones
according to God’s will.
(John 7: 37-39)
On the last and greatest day of the feast,
Jesus stood up and exclaimed,
“Let anyone who thirsts come to me and drink.
As Scripture says:
Rivers of living water will flow from within him who believes in me.”
He said this in reference to the Spirit
that those who came to believe in him were to receive.
There was, of course, no Spirit yet,
because Jesus had not yet been glorified.
Mass during the day
(Acts 2: 1-11)
When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled,
they were all in one place together.
And suddenly there came from the sky
a noise like a strong driving wind,
and it filled the entire house in which they were.
Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire,
which parted and came to rest on each one of them.
And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit
and began to speak in different tongues,
as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim.
Now there were devout Jews from every nation
under heaven staying in Jerusalem.
At this sound, they gathered in a large crowd,
but they were confused
because each one heard them speaking in his own language.
They were astounded, and in amazement they asked,
“Are not all these people who are speaking Galileans?
Then how does each of us hear them in his native language?
We are Parthians, Medes, and Elamites,
inhabitants of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia,
Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia,
Egypt and the districts of Libya near Cyrene,
as well as travelers from Rome,
both Jews and converts to Judaism, Cretans and Arabs,
yet we hear them speaking in our own tongues
of the mighty acts of God.”
(Psalm 104: 1-2, 24, 25, 27-28, 29-30)
(I Corinthians 12: 3v-7, 12-13)
Brothers and sisters:
No one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit.
There are different kinds of spiritual gifts but the same Spirit;
there are different forms of service but the same Lord;
there are different workings but the same God
who produces all of them in everyone.
To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit
is given for some benefit.
As a body is one though it has many parts,
and all the parts of the body, though many, are one body,
so also Christ.
For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body,
whether Jews or Greeks, slaves or free persons,
and we were all given to drink of one Spirit.
(Galations 5: 16-25)
Brothers and sisters, live by the Spirit
and you will certainly not gratify the desire of the flesh.
For the flesh has desires against the Spirit,
and the Spirit against the flesh;
these are opposed to each other,
so that you may not do what you want.
But if you are guided by the Spirit, you are not under the law.
Now the works of the flesh are obvious:
immorality, impurity, lust, idolatry,
sorcery, hatreds, rivalry, jealousy,
outbursts of fury, acts of selfishness,
dissensions, factions, occasions of envy,
drinking bouts, orgies, and the like.
I warn you, as I warned you before,
that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
In contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace,
patience, kindness, generosity,
faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.
Against such there is no law.
Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified their flesh
with its passions and desires.
If we live in the Spirit, let us also follow the Spirit.
(John 20: 19-23)
On the evening of that first day of the week,
when the doors were locked, where the disciples were,
for fear of the Jews,
Jesus came and stood in their midst
and said to them, “Peace be with you.”
When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side.
The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.
Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you.
As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”
And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them,
“Receive the Holy Spirit.
Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them,
and whose sins you retain are retained.”
(John 15: 26-27, 16: 12-15)
Jesus said to his disciples:
“When the Advocate comes whom I will send you from the Father,
the Spirit of truth that proceeds from the Father,
he will testify to me.
And you also testify,
because you have been with me from the beginning.
“I have much more to tell you, but you cannot bear it now.
But when he comes, the Spirit of truth,
he will guide you to all truth.
He will not speak on his own,
but he will speak what he hears,
and will declare to you the things that are coming.
He will glorify me,
because he will take from what is mine and declare it to you.
Everything that the Father has is mine;
for this reason I told you that he will take from what is mine
and declare it to you.”