focus of the day:

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Acts 2 : 1 - 11
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     Pentecost celebrates the power of God's holy Spirit present in the church of Christ. When the fragile circle of Jesus' earliest disciples found themselves separated from Him, they reacted with fear! The absence of Jesus from the community - whether after the crucifixion, or later, after the resurrection - threatened to become the crisis that would destroy the fledgling community.
     At the very same time that the disciples experience this separation, they also experience a showing of Jesus' continued presence. Within a relatively short time, this sense of Jesus' presence within the community of disciples, was interpreted in terms of the gift of God's holy Spirit.

the first reading:

The coming of the Spirit as an event that dramatically breaks down the formidable barriers to communion, created by different languages. The Spirit enables new speech through which the gospel may be heard.

Acts 2 : 1 - 11

     Our modern world struggles to put pluralism together with equality. At the first Christian Pentecost the group of apostles speak God's praise in their own language and are understood by people of diverse cultures. The Christian community from its very beginning, claimed to have the ability within it, to reconcile the tension between plurality and equality. Christian claimed an empowering for unity-in-diversity. This empowering reverses the confusion of language at the Tower of Babel. In Luke/Acts the writer tells of the first Christian group awaiting this impressive empowerment (vv.1-4).
      On the feast of Pentecost Hebrews remembered a tradition of the theophany at Sinai where on the mountain the voice of God, mediated by flames of fire, addressed all the peoples of the world. The world rejected the voice of God - except the Hebrews. They accepted the Torah (Law).
      The author of Acts describes the events of this Pentecost as an invasion of power "from heaven" (v.2).   The experience outruns the author's ability to describe it!   In the re-telling, the language of vision, allusion and imagination is needed.   God is praised by ecstatic speech which surprises the listeners.   The action is like wind and like fire!   The author describes span class="bold">tongues as of fire coming to rest on each member of the community-in-waiting. The the word tongue is used a second time - but now its used to make an allusion to speech. The tongues of fire result in the tongues of speech. Both - the tongues of fire and of speech are gifts of the wind of God (vv.5-11).
      In this praising of God through the ecstatic speech of the apostolic group at the beginning of the Church, the author recognises a foretaste of the preaching which was soon to carry the gospel to all the peoples of the world. The disciples of Jesus are shown to be undoing the confusion of languages that bedevilled humankind since the Tower of Babel (cf Gn.11:6-7).
      This Pentecost event features two groups of people. Both groups already know pluralism. Firstly, there are the believers in Jesus - the women and the mother of Jesus (Ac.1:12-14). Secondly, among the listeners, there are, "devout men from every nation under heaven" (v.5 NJB). Among them, thirteen different countries of origin are mentioned. That is, the whole devout world gathered at Jerusalem and the wonder is that those who were closest to Jesus speak their own language and all the other hear and discern. Believers speak and the devout hear. Barriers are broken down! This is genuine communication. In the speaking and hearing of God's Word, a community or a communion is created there and then!!
      The subject of the new speech is the apostolic group's witnessing to the transformative acts of God that turn the ordinary world on it's head. The wonder of God's life among the Hebrews and among the nations of the world, begins new speech. The new speech is followed by a series of actions which make new life possible. The nations are enabled by the power of God's spirit to hear, understand and participate in God's marvellous actions that have been recited in this event. The communication that happened on the day of Pentecost in Jerusalem defies explanation. What human beings would judge impossible, is made possible by the power of God! The narrative of Luke emphasises that the promise of empowerment given by the departing Jesus has been kept!

the response:

The speaker places the coming of the Spirit in context. The Spirit comes to us - as does every gift within life - solely by virtue of God's grace. Life is a gift from God's own hand!

Psalm 104(103) : 1, 24, 29 - 31, 34

     A song that celebrates the goodness and awesomeness of God's creation and humankind's proper function - that of a co-operative worker with the Creator working within that creation!
      Such co-operative work is not a curse nor a particular burden, according to the speaker. Rather - human work is proper for the proper function of creation. Telling conclusions are drawn from this reflection on humankind's place in YHWH's ordered world (vv.29-30).
      According to the speaker the whole world is daily dependent on YHWH's sustenance, presence and breath! This world is impressive. The world is to be celebrated - but it has no independent existence! The world is well-ordered and reliable but on its own, it has no possibility of survival or well-being! All that is a daily gift! YHWH is named by those capable of gratitude and spontaneous surrender. The poet ends by affirming that in YHWH, the created world has a caring Parent (v.31).

the second reading:

Years after the original Pentecost when the Christian community was struggling to keep the fire of the spirit of Jesus alive, the apostle Paul spells out the principles by which the holy Spirit acts in a community.

1 Corinthians 12 : 3 - 7, 12 - 13

     Paul is addressing a community that is in deep tension (1 Co.1:10-17). The Christian community in Corinth was beset both by factions and by competition among different forms of leadership. The problem which most concerned Paul is the link between the one Spirit who gives gifts and many gifts that may not seem related to each other.
      For Paul the skills and gifts that exist in the Christian community are given for the service of God (1 Co.12:7). For that reason the community has priority over the individual person in the use of gifts. The initiative for the use of gifts belongs not to the individual but to the community to which the individual owes allegiance and is bound to respond. The Spirit gathers the Christian community to be united and engaged in a mutual sharing of the gifts (vv.12-13).
      Even early on the community of Jesus' disciples which we call "church" seemed plagued by the same tiredness and divisions - the same lack of communication that sometimes prevail today! But there was a moment and a memory that inspired the first disciples and those who heard their message. Communication of the message of Jesus' love transformed and enlivened the early Christian community. It is the communication of that same moment and memory we celebrate this Pentecost when we cry out, "Come, holy Spirit".

the Gospel:

The gospel author stresses the continuity between the risen Jesus and the emerging church.

John 20 : 19 - 23

     Peace and joy were the signs of the time when God would intervene to bring harmony into human life in the world. John sees this era has come, as Jesus returns to the disciples on the evening of the first day of the week (vv.18-20).
     The word shalom (peace) includes the notion of singing and dancing - the joy of people free from everything that would enslave them. The prophets had announced that the Messiah would bring such a peace, permanently! With the Messiah harmony would be established throughout the world. People would be at harmony with God. Jesus says it again: "Peace be with you. As the Father sent me, so am I sending you" (v.21). The disciples are "sent" to become Jesus' presence and word in the world. God was present and active in Jesus' word - so the disciples are to be God's presence and action in the world in the new era. Jesus gives his spirit/Spirit to them for this purpose. The spirit/Spirit of Jesus, transforms them to become the life-giving "word" in the world.
     Jesus breathed on His disciples and said: "Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone's sins, they are forgiven; if you retain anyone's sins, they are retained:" (vv.22-23). For John the breathing of the Spirit on the disciples is the climax of the actions of the risen Jesus. The "breathing" seems to echo Genesis (Gn.2:7). In the creation scene "YHWH shaped humanity (`adam) from the soil of the ground (`adamah) and blew the breath of life into what became living beings." John says that just as in the first creation, God breathed a living spirit/Spirit into humanity, so now in the moment of the new creation, Jesus breathes his own holy spirit/Spirit into the disciples, giving them eternal life! John's gospel open with the theme of creation (Jn.1:1-5). The theme of creation returns now at the end of the gospel of John.
     The disciples can forgive and hold peoples' sins, because the risen Jesus has sent them (as the Father sent him). Jesus says that he came into the world for judgement; to enable some to see; to cause blindness for others (Jn.9:39ff). Deliberate blindness also implied that any willingness to open one's eyes results in being delivered from sin. Working through the disciples, the Holy Spirit (like Jesus in his public ministry) divides people into those who believe and receive the Spirit, and "the world" which does not believe or recognize the Holy Spirit. The latter will be proved wrong. But the main emphasis of the giving of the Spirit in John's gospel concerns the new world, the new creation that wipes out the Evil One.
     The Holy Spirit consecrates people and gives them the power to make others holy in turn. This power to isolate, repel, and negate evil and sin is given by God to Jesus. This same power is given in turn by Jesus through the Spirit to those whom he sends. John does not tell us how or who exercised this power in the community for whom he wrote. The fact that he mentions it show that is was exercised.

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