Cycle B Pentecost

 Acts 2:1-11; 1 Cor. 12:3b-7, 12-13 (Or Gal. 5:16-25); Jn. 20:19-23

The Feast of Pentecost, also known as Shavuot in Hebrew, has its origins deeply rooted in the Old Testament scriptures and Jewish tradition. The word "Pentecost" is derived from the Greek word "pentekoste," meaning "fiftieth," as it falls on the fiftieth day after the Passover Sabbath. This feast holds significant theological and historical importance for both Jews and Christians alike.

In Old Testament it was originally celebrated as a harvest festival, marking the end of the wheat harvest and the beginning of the fruit harvest in ancient Israel. It was a time of thanksgiving to God for His provision and bounty.

One of the central events associated with Shavuot is the giving of the Law (the Torah) to Moses on Mount Sinai. According to Jewish tradition, this momentous event occurred fifty days after the Israelites' exodus from Egypt.

Exodus 19:1 recount how the Israelites arrived at Mount Sinai in the third month after leaving Egypt, and in Exodus 19:16-19, we read about the thunder, lightning, and the sound of a trumpet that accompanied God's descent upon the mountain to give the Law.

The giving of the Law at Sinai established the covenant relationship between God and the people of Israel. It outlined the moral, ethical, and religious guidelines by which they were to live as God's chosen people. Thus, Shavuot became a commemoration not only of the harvest but also of the covenantal relationship between God and Israel mediated through the Torah.

Furthermore, the prophet Joel prophesied about the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, declaring, "I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions" (Joel 2:28). This prophecy found its fulfillment on the day of Pentecost, as the Spirit descended upon believers of all ages, genders, and backgrounds, empowering them for God's work.

In the Christian tradition, Pentecost took on new significance following the events recorded in the New Testament book of Acts (Acts 2:1-13). On the day of Pentecost, following Jesus' resurrection and ascension, the disciples were gathered together in Jerusalem when suddenly there came a sound from heaven like a mighty rushing wind, and tongues of fire appeared and rested on each of them. They were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.

This event marked the birth of the Christian Church and the fulfillment of Jesus' promise to send the Holy Spirit to empower His followers for the mission of proclaiming the Gospel to all nations (Acts 1:8). Just as the Law was given at Sinai, so too was the Spirit poured out on the day of Pentecost, inaugurating a new covenant relationship between God and humanity, not based on the letter of the Law, but on the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit.

After the crucifixion the disciples had been afraid for their lives and locked the door of the upper room when they met together. Now they were afraid no longer. The coming of the Holy Spirit transformed the disciples from fear to confidence. The Holy Spirit gave them the courage to go out into Jerusalem and to declare the resurrection of Jesus to a city whose people had so recently called for his death.

When Jesus of Nazareth left this earth, he bequeathed a legacy to his followers. He left his Holy Spirit - to comfort, to guide, to empower them to be all that God had called them to be.

Pentecost serves as a reminder of the diversity of languages and cultures present among God's people, yet unified in the common experience of the Spirit's empowering presence. The Spirit transformed the Apostles. The Spirit transformed the early Christians. And through out history the Spirit continues its mission of transformation.

One compelling example of an individual whose life was transformed after encountering the Holy Spirit is the story of the Apostle Paul, formerly known as Saul of Tarsus. Paul's conversion experience is one of the most dramatic and well-known accounts in the New Testament, illustrating the transformative power of encountering the Spirit of God.

Before his encounter with the Spirit, Saul was a fervent persecutor of the early Christian church. He zealously opposed the followers of Jesus, imprisoning believers and even consenting to their executions. Saul's reputation as a relentless persecutor struck fear into the hearts of many Christians, who knew him as a formidable adversary.

However, everything changed one fateful day as Saul was traveling to Damascus with the intent of arresting Christians and bringing them back to Jerusalem for trial. Suddenly, a bright light from heaven flashed around him, and he fell to the ground, hearing a voice saying, "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?" (Acts 9:4). Trembling and astonished, Saul asked, "Who are you, Lord?" The voice replied, "I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do" (Acts 9:5-6).

Saul, blinded by the encounter, was led into Damascus by his companions. For three days, he remained blind and without food or drink, grappling with the enormity of what had transpired. During this time, a disciple named Ananias received a vision from the Lord instructing him to go to Saul and restore his sight. Ananias obeyed, despite his initial apprehension, and laid hands on Saul, saying, "Brother Saul, the Lord—Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here—has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit" (Acts 9:17).

Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul's eyes, and he regained his sight. He was baptized, and filled with the Holy Spirit, Saul's life was utterly transformed. He who once persecuted the church now became one of its most fervent advocates and prolific missionaries. Saul, now known as Paul, went on to become a key figure in the spread of Christianity throughout the Roman Empire, planting churches, preaching the Gospel, and enduring great hardships for the sake of Christ.

Paul's encounter with the Spirit on the road to Damascus serves as a powerful testimony to the radical transformation that can occur when one encounters the living God. From a persecutor to a preacher, from darkness to light, Paul's life was forever changed by the power of the Holy Spirit. 

One way to receive the power of the Holy Spirit is to pray to the Holy Spirit with an open mind.

On one particular day, two miners working deep in the mine, did lose their way out of the mine. Their lights finally went out, and they were in danger of losing their lives. After wandering around in the darkness for a long time, they sat down, and one of them said: “Let us sit perfectly still and see if we can feel the way in which the air is moving because it always moves toward the shaft.”

There they sat for a long time, when suddenly one of them felt a slight touch of air on his cheek. Up he sprang to his feet, exclaiming, “I felt it!” They went in the direction in which the air was moving and reached the central shaft and freedom from their dark captivity.

When we feel overwhelmed by the circumstances of life, we ask the Holy Spirit to show us what He’s doing. He will not allow us to be defeated by our enemies or our own wayward human impulses.

As someone has said: "God doesn't ask if we're able. God asks if we're available."  Make available and God will transform us.