• Rev. Lawrence E. Polansky

Pentecost (A)

"As the Father sent Me, so I send you: Receive the Holy Spirit."

At the Vigil Mass:

Entrance Antiphon: Rom 5:5; cf. 8:11 — “The love of God has been poured into our hearts through the Spirit of God dwelling within us, alleluia.”

First Reading: Gen 11:1-9 — “It was called Babel because there the Lord confused the speech of all the world.”

Responsorial Psalm: Ps 33(32):10-11, 12-13, 14-15 — “Blessed the people the Lord has chosen to be His own.”

Second Reading: Ex 19:3-8a, 16-20b — “The Lord came down upon Mount Sinai before all the people.”

Responsorial Psalm: Ps 19(18):8, 9, 10, 11 — “Lord, You have the words of everlasting life.”

Third Reading: Ez 37:1-14 — “Dry bones of Israel, I will bring spirit into you, that you may come to life.”

Responsorial Psalm: Ps 107(106):2-3, 4-5, 6-7, 8-9 — “Give thanks to the Lord; His love is everlasting”

Fourth Reading: Jl 3:1-5 — “I will pour out My spirit upon the servants and handmaids.”

Responsorial Psalm: Ps 104:1-2, 24, 35, 27-28, 29, 30 — “Lord, send out Your Spirit, and renew the face of the earth.”

Epistle: Rom 8:22-27 — “The Spirit intercedes with inexpressible groanings.”

Alleluia: “Alleluia, alleluia. Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of the faithful and kindle in them the fire of Your love. Alleluia, alleluia.”

Gospel: Jn 7:37-39 — “Rivers of living water will flow”

Communion Antiphon: Jn 7:37 — “On the last day of the festival, Jesus stood and cried out: ‘If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink,’ alleluia.”

Pentecost Sunday:

Entrance Antiphon: Rom 5:5; cf. 8:11 — “The love of God has been poured into our hearts through the Spirit of God dwelling within us, alleluia.”

First Reading: Acts 2:1-11 — “They were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to speak.”

Responsorial Psalm: Ps 104:1, 24, 29-30, 31, 34 — “Lord, send out Your Spirit, and renew the face of the earth.”

Second Reading: 1 Cor 12:3b-7, 12-13 — “In one Spirit we were all baptized into one body.”

Sequence: “Veni, Sancte Spiritus … Come, Holy Spirit, come!”

Alleluia: “Alleluia, alleluia. Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of the faithful and kindle in them the fire of Your love. Alleluia, alleluia.”

Gospel: Jn 20:19-23 — “As the Father sent Me, so I send you; Receive the Holy Spirit.”

Communion Antiphon: Acts 2:4, 11 — “They were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke of the marvels of God, alleluia.”

Do you remember where you were on January 28, 1986? I do. I was just coming out of my class and headed for lunch during our January term at Albright College. I can still remember those images from 34 years ago, almost as if it were yesterday.The space shuttle Challenger exploded shortly after takeoff ... killing all seven astronauts aboard. I remember all of the inquiries and investigations and inspections that followed. And I remember, that it was determined that the cause was the failure of a simple O-ring seal in the right solid-rocket booster. A little circle of black rubber ... just a small part of a complicated whole that failed ... dooming the entire project and an entire mission.

The Second Reading for Pentecost Sunday talks about the one Spirit we share. It talks about the variety of gifts given each of us for the sake of the Body of Christ. We as individuals ... gifted by God ... are meant to use the gifts we have been given ... to bless others with the gifts we have been given and in turn each becoming a blessing ... each one of us proclaiming the Good News by word and by deed ... each one of us forming part of the collective whole. Now, by saying that I’m not suggesting that the failure of one of us to use our gifts will destroy the mission of the Church. However, I am saying that each one of us ... no matter what we might think ... has an important part to play in that mission.

In Saint John’s Gospel, Jesus gives His spirit on Resurrection night. The first gift He gives us is peace. Consider this ... you cannot give what you do not have, right? Well, in Jesus, there is no room for bitterness, unforgiveness, revenge. Peace beyond all understanding is first His to have and His to give. He offers peace despite the disciples’ guilt ... He offers peace despite their fear. Jesus repeats, “Peace be with you.” Then He assigns the disciples the same mission He received from His Father ... to proclaim the kingdom of God. They are to be peace bearers ... peace makers. Jesus breathes on them and says: “Receive the Holy Spirit.” At creation, we read that a mighty wind swept over the waters. That wind was the Holy Spirit ... Ru’ah Elohim ... the creative breath of God, the Spirit of God that brings life. On Resurrection night, Jesus is creating His church. Something new is being born. And it is the Holy Spirit that will be with the Church until the end of time. The gifts that the disciples receive on that first Pentecost are just as much ours as they were theirs. Jesus tells the disciples to forgive. As Jesus has forgiven them, so they are to forgive. Jesus knows firsthand that you cannot be at peace or give peace with unforgiveness in your heart.

In Acts of the Apostles, the Holy Spirit comes 50 days after Easter, accompanied by a strong, driving wind and tongues of fire ... Pentecost ... which literally means 50 days. We have all seen images of that first Pentecost ... of Mary and of the Disciples with tongues of fire above their heads. When Saint Luke wrote the Acts of the Apostles, the Feast of Weeks, which is celebrated fifty days after Passover, was probably already associated with the giving of the law to the people of Israel at Mount Sinai. In the First Reading, the significance of Pentecost takes on new meaning. It now includes the giving of the Holy Spirit to the renewed Israel ... to the Church. Wind and fire ... Saint Luke begins the account by noting that the time for Pentecost was fulfilled, his formula for marking a significant event in God’s plan of salvation. Wind and fire were present on Sinai as a sign of God doing a mighty work. The Holy Spirit comes with wind and fire on Pentecost. The results are dramatic. The fear of the disciples is gone. The Gospel is preached to pilgrims from many nations, speaking many different languages. Yet each hears in his own tongue what is spoken. People are united in one Spirit, with one Lord and one God. The Church is born.

God continues to breathe His Spirit into us today. At Confirmation which approximately 30 young men and women experienced at the Parish of Saint Michael the Archangel on March 8th, they received the Holy Spirit and the gifts of the Holy Spirit in a fuller way. I hope that they realized, as all of here us should, that we take on the responsibility to make Christ’s kingdom visible on earth by using the gifts of the Spirit ... by what we say, by what we do, and by how we act. We are renewed in the Spirit ... daily ... every day ... not just at Pentecost or at Confirmation. When you have a quiet moment, imagine Jesus breathing His Spirit into you, inspiring you ... inhale His breath of peace, forgiveness, calm, compassion, love, and much more ... exhale any anxiety, worry, fear, bitterness ... whatever is robbing you of peace. Ask the Holy Spirit to give you the wisdom and discernment to recognize your gifts and the opportunities today to use those gifts.

Each one of us is important to the mission of the Church. Perhaps we will not know until we die what influence we had or could have had using our gifts. What if David had chickened out and not faced Goliath with his five smooth stones and slingshot? What if Moses had not faced Pharaoh at the time of the Exodus? What if Mary had said “No” to the Angel Gabriel out of fear? And as Catholics, we who should believe in the Right to Life from conception until natural death ... from womb to tomb ... what if your mother had not chosen life for you? Maybe you are not called to be a David, a Moses or a Mary. However, God has chosen to use you through your gifts. You might see your gifts as insignificant but think of how important a tiny O-ring was to the Challenger.

The first task of the risen Christ was to offer peace. His peace cannot take root in an unforgiving heart. So when you pray, when you celebrate the Eucharist, even if it’s on an altar in a church far away because you are live-streaming it, why not place all those you need to forgive and all those whom you have offended on that altar? Ask Christ to cover you and ask Christ to cover them with His mercy and forgiveness. Then you will be free to receive the deep peace that Christ has for you as you celebrate your faith. And as you have received the gifts of the Holy Spirit ... let this Pentecost remind you to use those gifts ... for His glory and for all those around you who will be blessed by you for using them.

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