Today is the solemnity of Pentecost. Today we celebrate the descent of the Holy Spirit on the Disciples. This is the third Glorious Mystery of the Holy Rosary. Today’s liturgy concludes the Easter Season for this year. In case there is anyone you are yet to wish Happy Easter, today is your last chance for this year.
When people hear the word Pentecost, some think it is another name for the Holy Spirit. The word Pentecost is originally from Greek, which means fiftieth. The full phrase is, he pentekoste hemera, which means the fiftieth day. We may want to ask, “The fiftieth day of what?
Today, we can easily say it is the fiftieth day after the resurrection of Jesus Christ, but that was not how it started. It began in the Old Testament as a Jewish Feast, which marked the fiftieth day after Passover. It was a commemoration of the arrival of the people of Israel on Mount Sinai. It was on that mountain Moses went up to receive the law for his people. Fifty days after their miraculous deliverance from slavery in Egypt, the Israelites arrived Mount Sinai, where they laid the foundation for their relationship with God through the giving and the receiving of the Law.
Every year, the Israelites set aside the fiftieth day after Passover to thank God for choosing them out of all the peoples of the earth to enter into this special relationship with God, through the giving of the law. The Jews also observed Pentecost as an agricultural festival, which marks the beginning of the wheat harvest. In the New Testament, the twelve apostles are the new twelve tribes of Israel, and the Church is the New Israel. So, in the Acts of the Apostles, Luke situates the descent of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost Day as a way or saying the Holy Spirit comes after the resurrection and ascension of Jesus to replace the Old Law with the New Law of Love.
Furthermore, Pentecost points to the universal nature of the Church. The Old Law was for the People of Israel, and it set them apart from the rest of the world, but the Holy Spirit empowered the first Christians at Pentecost to speak in a way people of all nations could understand. An indication that the redemptive work of Christ is for the whole world. The message of the gospel, empowered by the Holy Spirit, pulls down all barriers of language, race, tribe, gender, and status.
Similarly, Pentecost, the descent of the Holy Spirit on the disciples, is a reversal of Babel (Genesis 11:1-9). At the Babel event, people could not understand one another, so there was confusion everywhere. Then, when the Holy Spirit came, tongues were reunited, people came together. There was one common language of love. The apostles preached and people from different parts of the world, who spoke different languages understood them. On that day, the Church was born. So, you can call Pentecost Day the Birthday of the Church.
The Holy Spirit comes with various gifts to the Church as a body, and to individual members of the Church. Paul in the second reading reminds us that the gifts we receive from the Holy Spirit as individuals are not for division but for unity. He uses the analogy of the body to explain that just as each part of the body uses its quality and ability for the well-being and service of the entire body, so the responsibility of each Christian is not to use their gifts and talents to oppress others or create division, but to serve others and work for the unity of all. As we celebrate the Solemnity of Pentecost today, we have two questions to answer: 1. What are your unique talents? 2. In what ways are you using them to help others and break down barriers? May the Holy Spirit come upon us to strengthen us, enlighten us, encourage us, and make us true witnesses of Jesus Christ until we come to our heavenly inheritance, through the same Christ our Lord. Amen.