May 19, 2024



Pentecost: 19 May 2024
Readings: Acts 2. 1-21; Rms. 8. 22-27; Jn. 15. 26-27; 16. 4b-15
Theme: Pentecost

This great feast of the sending of the Holy Spirit has its roots in the ancient Jewish harvest festival of Weeks. The harvest festival followed fifty days of celebration, hence the name ‘Pentecost’ which is Greek for ‘fiftieth’ (Pentekoste) being the fiftieth day after the festival of Passover. In the Christian adoption of this Jewish tradition it is used to celebrate God’s sending of the Holy Spirit to empower the church to fulfil the mission that has been entrusted to it by the risen Christ. So, it also marks the end of the season of Easter and with the celebration of Trinity Sunday next week, the return to ordinary time.

As we reflect on the coming of the Holy Spirit it is important for us to realize that this is the coming of God as the Holy Spirit, and for this reason our Gospel reminds us that ‘he will guide you into all the truth’. In other words, the message and mission of the risen Christ that we have been exploring over this Easter time now moves into a new phase. It will now be the church, empowered by the Holy Spirit which will continue the work of proclaiming the gospel and its message of the kingdom of God throughout human history and in all language and places. The earthly mission of Jesus is now complete. It is the work of the church empowered by the Holy Spirit which is charged with the mission of preparing the soil for the return of Christ at the end of time, so that when he comes, Jesus will find us ready and waiting.

You might think of it like this. If the incarnation of Jesus was an event in human history which lasted around thirty-three years at a specific time and a specific place, the coming of the Holy Spirit represents the process nature of the history of our salvation, as now God the Holy Spirit sows the seeds of the message of Jesus in the hearts and minds of all peoples. Human history is now the theatre of God’s action. The original scene of the Palestine at the time of Jesus has now been enlarged to encompass the whole world and this enlargement is made possible by the coming of the Holy Spirit.

The scene of the day of Pentecost recounted to us in the first reading from the Acts of the Apostles also draws on the Jewish history. Its narrative is a reversal of that wonderful story of the Old Testament, the story of the tower of Babel recounted in the Book of Genesis, in which the origin of the languages of the world is explained and as a result, the divisions between peoples occur due to a failure to understand one another. The tower of Babel had been built as a result of the arrogance of humanity who wanted to reach up to heaven by its own efforts. The new tower which the disciples of the risen Christ will now build will not be through their own efforts, but rather through the work of the Holy Spirit building the church on earth and opening the doors of the kingdom of God to all peoples.

In other words, the day of Pentecost celebrates the laying of a foundation stone to a new building project, a new tower will be built that this time will truly reach up to heaven. It will be the tower of the church, built throughout human history on the foundation stone of the messiah, the Christ, who was crucified, died, was buried and rose again and who now sits at the right hand of the Father in heaven. This building project will go on throughout human history and it will only be consummated at the end of time when the risen Christ returns in person to resurrect the dead and to act as judge of all peoples.

Now if you have ever embarked on a building project, you will probably know that it usually takes longer and is more costly than you originally envisaged. And, so it is with the church in history. The project of the church has taken many twists and turns. It has gone through persecutions, divisions and reformations and is still in the process of shaping itself into a truly universal, catholic church in history. Yes, as we say in the creed, ‘we believe in one, holy, catholic and apostolic church’, we believe in this as in process of becoming as much as we believe it is here already. This both/and nature of the coming of the church is the way in which the Holy Spirit works through us in history. The Holy Spirit leads us to the fullness of Christ through penetrating all of human history with the witness of the presence of God made manifest in the church. The new language of this community of disciples, the church, is the language of love. A language not only spoken for all to understand but also embodied in a new way of living, a new law of love, a fellowship which united us into one community under God. It is this which is the new building project initiated by the Holy Spirit on this day of Pentecost, fifty days after we have celebrated the resurrection. We might think of it as a new form of harvest festival in which the seeds sown by the Christ are now in the process of being harvested. The flowering of these seeds has come in the advent of the Holy Spirit and it is this coming which allows us to pray as God wills us to pray. It is this same Spirit which prays in us to the Father that the message of the Son may be heard and lived.

May the Holy Spirit breathe in our community here on the Costa del Sol and enflame us with the fire of God’s love. Happy Feast of Pentecost.

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.