for Sunday, June 4, 2017
None of the followers of Jesus, not even His mother, knew what would happen as they prayed for the coming of the Spirit. This is a new experience in the life of the followers of Jesus. Jesus had promised the Spirit but no one knew what that might mean. When the Spirit did appear and manifest His presence in their midst, they were taken by surprise. We actually have two accounts of the giving of the Spirit in today's readings.
One account of the giving of the Holy Spirit is the Pentecost account after the Ascension. The other comes from the Gospel of John, after the Resurrection, and Jesus breathes on His followers and breathes on them and tells them "Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained."
Although most of us associate the Holy Spirit only with Pentecost or at least primarily with Pentecost, it is clear in the New Testament that the Holy Spirit is also given in connection with the forgiveness of sins. The Spirit on Pentecost is kind of flashy and bright and causes people to take notice. The Spirit who forgives sins is kind of quiet and unnoticed but very important.
Today the readings keep us aware of both of these manifestations of the Holy Spirit, showing us that even though the gift of tongues is important, it is not the only way in which the Spirit is given and manifested. This is why the second reading today, from the First Letter to the Corinthians, is so important. In this letter, in today's reading, we hear this: "No one can say, "Jesus is Lord," except by the Holy Spirit. There are different kinds of spiritual gifts but the same Spirit; there are different forms of service but the same Lord; there are different workings but the same God who produces all of them in everyone. To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit."
As we look at this part of First Corinthians, we can see that just to proclaim Jesus as Lord is a gift of the Spirit. And this letter makes very clear that there are all kinds of gifts of the Holy Spirit, but they are forms of service for the Christian community, not means of attracting attention to one self. It is also clear that the gift of the Spirit is for some benefit, not just to show off.
So as we celebrate Pentecost today, we can speak together about the Holy Spirit and recognize that this Spirit is given to each one of us in a particular way, for the good of the Christian community, for some benefit, to help us be aware of the forgiveness of sins and to draw people to follow Jesus as Lord. May we be filled with that Spirit!
Readings of the day:
First Reading: Acts 2.1-11
Second Reading: 1 Corinthians 12.3b-7, 12-13
Gospel: John 20.19-23
Reflections are available for the following Sundays: