It’s Pentecost Sunday. 50 days since Easter, when Jesus resurrected. In fact, the word pentecost comes from the Greek penhékonta, which means fifty.
Pentecost Sunday is also known as Wheat Sunday, because 50 days after Passover, Jews celebrated the Shabuot festival, to give thanks for the wheat harvest.
Later on, Shabuot was intended to celebrate the anniversary of the institution of the Law of God, received by Moses at Mount Sinai (Ex 19:3-20).
Precisely on this festival, the Holy Spirit descended upon Mary and the apostles, gathered right at the Cenacle, where Christ instituted Eucharist and Priesthood and established the Law of Love.
The Holy Spirit appeared to them as tongues of fire, and each of the apostles began to speak in different tongues. The faith of more than 3,000 people was converted.
The Solemnity of Pentecost means to us the birthday of the Church. It was on Pentecost when the Church was born by the power of the Holy Spirit.
There are two theological keys that we can’t ignore: First, the fact that the Holy Spirit descends and the Church is born. The Spirit of God descends upon the Cenacle so the Church sees its birth among Mary and the apostles. The descent of the Holy Spirit to transform a community of people into the Church, reminds us of every time when the Holy Spirit descends to transform a given element into a sacrament -bread and wine to be transubstantiated into the Eucharist, for instance. So when the Holy Spirit descends upon this community – formed by Mary and the apostles – they are transformed into a sacrament of salvation. The Church that is born in Pentecost is then, a sacrament of salvation.
The second theological key is found in the fact that this account takes place precisely during the celebration of Shabuot, when Jews celebrated the institution of the Law of God at Mount Sinai, establishing the covenant between YHWH and the people of Israel. Jesus had said that he had not come to abolish the Law, but rather to fulfill it (Mt 5,17). Hence, by seeing its birth on this day, the Church fulfills the original People of God and its Covenant with YHWH. From this point on, the People of God will not only be the Jews, but the people of every corner of the world who opens their heart to the Gospel preached by the Apostles.
From a Biblical standpoint, the account of Pentecost, as referred by Luke in his the Acts of the Apostles, is the antithesis to what happened at Babel thousands of years earlier (Gen 11:1-9). As you may recall, back then the people intended to build a tall tower, not as an architectural big endeavor but rather as the fruit of their collective arrogance. The Lord considered that by allowing them to finish their work, they would forget of Him, and decided to mix up their tongue. Babel means confusion. People at Babel, by not speaking the same words, split up into nations -The beginning of the Era of Nations.
Now at Pentecost, by the apostles speaking different tongues, they begin to gather the people who spoke other tongues into one single community, the Church, the new and eternal People of God.
In Pentecost Sunday, between the Second Reading and the Proclamation Before the Gospel, we pray a beautiful Sequence to invoke the Holy Spirit on this very special day in the History of Salvation. It is worth our while to pay attention to every verse of this sequence, and at the same time, to make these words ours:
Come, Holy spirit, come!
And from your celestial home
Shed a ray of light divine!
Come, Father of the por!
Come, source of all our store!
Come, within the bosoms shine.
You, of comforters the best;
You, the soul’s most welcome guest;
Sweet refreshment here below;
In our labor, rest most sweet;
Grateful coolness in the heat;
Solace in the midst of woe.
O most blessed Light divine,
Shine within these hearts of yours,
And our inmost being fill!
Where you are not, we have naught,
Nothing good in deed or thought,
Nothing free from taint of ill.
Heal our wounds, our strength renew;
On our dryness pour your dew;
Wash the stains of guilt away:
Bend the stubborn heart and will;
Melt the frozen, warm the chill;
Guide the steps that go astray.
On the faithful, who adore
And confess you, evermore
In your sevenfold gift descend;
Give them virtue’s sure reward;
Give them your salvation, Lord;
Give them joys that never end.
Be passionate about our faith!
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