19th MAY 2024

The Feast of Pentecost - Public Orthodoxy



Acts 2: 1-11;     Ps 104:1,24,29-31,34;     1 Cor 12:3-7,12-13/ Gal 5: 16-25;    
Jn 20: 19-23/Jn 15: 26-27; 16: 12-15




Today the Church celebrates the solemnity of the Pentecost, a commemoration of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the Apostles and Mary, the disciple par excellence. Pentecost is not a new feast, nor did it come into existence after the coming of the Holy Spirit; it was one of the three Jewish festivals in which individuals were to journey to Jerusalem and offer gifts and offerings to God. Thus the feast of Pentecost takes on a new meaning; people who came to offer gifts were given gifts. God becomes the giver and the Holy Spirit becomes the gift and the people (disciples) become the receivers.


First, let us reflect a bit on the feast that we celebrate today. Pentecost means ‘Fifty’; it was a festival that comes seven weeks or fifty days after the Passover. This feast is one of Israel’s three major agricultural festivals and the second great feast of the Jewish year. It originated in the Pentateuch as an offering of first fruits, decreed for Israel on Mount Sinai.


Throughout Jewish history, it has been customary to engage in an all-night study of Torah on the first evening of shavout. It is traditionally a joyous time of giving thanks and presenting offerings for the new grain of the summer wheat harvest. The Lord commanded the Jews to observe it in order to give thanks for their harvest, which pointed to the fuller harvest to come. This pointed to the Holy Spirit and the fruits that He would give. In verse 41 of this same chapter, if we observe, we see 3000 souls getting converted, following Peter’s Sermon. These souls who entered Christ’s kingdom were the first fruits of souls who will enter from all over the earth, making up the full harvest of the Lord.


‘On Pentecost, all that was against comes to be in our favour’. In verse 2-4 we see, three phenomena connected to the pouring out of the Holy Spirit: First, there is the sound of a mighty wind. In the Old Testament, strong wind is often, connected to the judgement of God. However, here the sound of the wind is the Power of God coming to assist His Church. If one belongs to Christ, this power is what converted him and still resides in him. No wind or storms in life will be greater than the Spirit living in the Christian.


The Second Phenomenon is fire, tongues of fire as mentioned in the verse. Fire also was a Symbol of God’s judgement in the Old Testament. God is a consuming fire, that is, He is holy and there is no sin allowed in His presence. However, here the Apostles are not consumed because Christ has taken away their sin on the Cross. Therefore, this is a beneficial fire, a purifying fire. The fire points to what they will bear witness to. They will proclaim Christ, and doing so, they will be proclaiming words of life and death. Therefore, fire will be coming out of their mouth; God’s consuming or purifying fire.


The third Phenomenon is speaking in tongues. If we observe in the Old Testament, God came down to confuse the language and scatter the people, at the Tower of Babel. Nevertheless, here there is a reversal of the judgement at the ‘tower of Babel?’ The Apostles are proclaiming the ‘mighty works of God’. All the people present, can hear the preaching of the apostles, in their own mother tongues. Hence, the same God who scattered the people at the ‘tower of Babel’ unites the people in Christ through the apostles’ preaching.


So why to wonder now? Even we are filled with the same Holy Spirit, who guides us and protects us each and every moment of our life. Holy Spirit is always prompting us the ‘love of God’, ‘care of God’, ‘goodness of God’ ‘holiness of God’. Are we attentive to His voice? Do we at least pay attention to His voice? He is the mysterious music of God and through Him we can love and understand God who is a mighty God.


Let us listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit, so that, at this Pentecost, we may turn everything in favour of us, all that is against us.


Response: Lord, send forth your Spirit, and renew the face of the earth.

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