Today is Pentecost Sunday! When did the Holy Spirit descend on the disciples? There seems to be some disagreement between today’s First Reading and the Gospel passage. In the Acts of the Apostles, Luke gives us the impression that it took place on the fiftieth day of the Resurrection and that the disciples were preparing for this event.

On the other hand, in the Gospel according to John, the disciples had no clue that they were about to receive the Holy Spirit. They had hidden themselves in fear behind closed doors after they had been disappointed by what happened to Jesus on Good Friday. At this moment of fear and disappointment on the evening of the Resurrection (and not 50 days later) Jesus appeared to them, breathed on them and bestowed on them the gift of the Holy Spirit. Just as God created Man in the Book of Genesis amid chaos and disorder by breathing into his nostrils the breath of life, so Jesus recreates human beings by breathing on his disciples. His breath inspired his disciples with the Holy Spirit amid the chaos and disorder of their fear.

So what is going on here? Do the discrepancies between both accounts question the truth of Pentecost? It is essential at this point to remember that Luke and John, like the other authors of the books of the Bible, did not write as mere historians but as theologians. They were not secretaries who were taking the minutes of a meeting. They were not stenographers transcribing a speech. They were not out to give us a chronological account of what happened; they took it for granted. Some authors of the books of the Bible wrote decades after the events they wrote about. They only wrote what they remembered; whatever they wrote was also their interpretation of what they remembered.

Luke and John were out to give us a deeper meaning of the events that surrounded Pentecost. They were out to help us see the connection between the Old Testament and the New Testament; they wanted us to understand the New Testament as the fulfillment of the Old Testament. As a theologian, John wrote his account of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the disciples to tie the gift of the Spirit to Easter. John wanted to make it obvious that the Spirit is a gift of the risen Lord. So, discussed the outpouring of the Holy Spirit as an event that occurred following the resurrection, which is why he placed it on Easter Sunday evening.

In his account of Pentecost in the Acts of the Apostles, Luke recounted the gift of tongues, which the Holy Spirit gave to the disciples. This gift came to undo the event that took place at the tower of Babel in the Book of Genesis where human beings were scattered because they spoke different languages and could not understand one another. When the Holy Spirit descended on the disciples, they spoke, and those who heard them could understand them in their different languages. Therefore, the Holy Spirit came to unite scattered humanity, and as Paul puts it in the Second Reading, God gave them different gifts to build the one body of Christ. We are like the different parts of the same body; we are all differently gifted but equally important. Each one should channel their gifts towards building the community. At Christmas, God came to be with us in the person of his son, Our Lord Jesus Christ. After the ascension of Jesus into heaven, God has come to us at Pentecost, no longer to be with us, but to be in us as the Holy Spirit. He breathes his Spirit into us to give us new life. As Jesus promised before his ascension, the Spirit helps us connect the dots in life, have a clearer understanding of all that comes our way and lead us to the complete truth. The Spirit also helps us to communicate the message of God’s love to people of all nations. May the Holy Spirit heal us from all divisions and conflicts and make us one until we come to our heavenly inheritance through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Rev. Fr. Emmanuel Ochigbo

View all posts

1 comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *