Psalm 104: 26-end, Acts 2: 1-21, Romans 8: 22-27, John 15: 26-27, 16: 4b-15
Pentecost literally means 50th. It is a feast celebrated on the 50th day after the Passover feast by the Jews and a feast celebrated on the 50th day after the feast of the Resurrection of Jesus by Christians. The Jewish Pentecost was originally a post-harvest thanksgiving feast. Later, the Jews included in it the remembrance of God’s Covenants with Noah after the flood and with Moses at Mt. Sinai.
Peter in addressing the crowd, in our reading from Acts, is quoting directly from the prophet Joel, chapter 2 verses 28 to 32, starting, “In the last days God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people”.
As I have often said, to truly understand and appreciate the New Testament, you need to have some knowledge and understanding of the Old Testament, the Hebrew Bible. Peter is talking to…”Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem”. People whom since the earliest of years had been steeped in the writings from that Old Testament. These Jews, whom Peter was addressing, had been awaiting, since the time of King David and before, for the arrival of the Messiah, promised to them, by God, through His prophets; Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Joel and many more, foretelling the coming of a ‘great deliverer’ for the Nation of Israel, greater than King David or King Solomon, one who would ‘free My people Israel’.
Those people of Jerusalem, and others, to whom Peter was speaking, knew their Hebrew Bible, but they were unwilling to recognise or accept Jesus as the Messiah that God had sent to them. Yet this Messiah, sent by God, had come not only to be the saviour of the Jews, but had come for all people.
“And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved”
In today’s reading from Romans we pick up on a theme dear to St. Paul’s heart, our writer of the letter to the church in Rome, as well as in much of the Gospel writings.
Over and over again, God chooses as his messengers those who seem inadequate and often unsuited for their great task. How often did Peter and the other disciples stumble on the path following Jesus?… “but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption….for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words.”
Jesus in his turn, in our Gospel reading, promises to send his disciples, the Advocate, “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth;”. It is this Holy Spirit that enters into the disciples at Pentecost, and the purpose of this power from the Spirit is to point to the Son, Jesus, whom the Jews crucified, and through the Son to His Father, who he has joined in Heaven.
The Spirit at Pentecost enables Peter and the disciples to communicate to all peoples; it enables them to show the common threads running throughout the history of God’s dealings with his people the Jews; and it makes the disciples missionaries longing to share a common life in God, the common life of Father, Son and Holy Spirit with all the people, from every nation, that they meet.
That is also our calling today, to be empowered by that same Holy Spirit of Pentecost, to share the love and Good News of the Gospel with all and any that we meet, today and always.
A short homily:
An old beggar lay on his deathbed. His last words were to his young son who had been his constant companion during his begging trips. “Dear son,” he said, “I have nothing to give you except a cotton bag and a dirty bronze bowl which I got in my younger days from the junk yard of a rich lady.” After his father’s death, the boy continued begging, using the bowl his father had given him. One day a gold merchant dropped a coin in the boy’s bowl and he was surprised to hear a familiar ring. “Let me check your bowl,” the merchant said. To his great surprise, he found that the beggar’s bowl was made of pure gold. “My dear young man,” he said, “why do you waste your time begging? You are a rich man. That bowl of yours is worth at least thirty thousand dollars.”
We Christians are often like this beggar boy who failed to recognise and appreciate the value of his bowl. We fail to appreciate the infinite worth of the Holy Spirit living within each of us, sharing His gifts and fruits and truths with us.
On this major feast day, we are invited to experience and appreciate the transforming, sanctifying, and strengthening presence of the Holy Spirit within us. This is also a day for us to renew the promises made to God during our Baptism and Confirmation, to profess our Faith, and to practice it.
Amen Michael Tonkin
Cover image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay