Reflection on the Readings at Mass for the Pentecost Sunday – Year A. The Liturgical Sense of the Scriptures Podcast, by Catholic Author and Theologian David L. Gray. (Pentecost Sunday) Year A. READINGS: Acts 2:1-11, 1 Corinthians 12:3b-7, 12-13, and John 20:19-23.
The Liturgy of the Catholic Mass Fulfills the Human Desire for Unity
One of the most compelling pieces of evidence that we were created by a God who is truly one in being is fact that as human beings we cannot help ourselves, but to pursue and to desire unity. We cannot help ourselves, but to pursue oneness, because oneness created us. Not only does our physical DNA point to a common source and a universal relationship, as well as the fruits of procreation, which is family, but in all our pursuits and interactions in the world, unity is our chief craving. Humans cannot help but to believe that if everyone believed as they believed that the world would be better; this is why we had designed ritual, religion, tribes, government, curriculum, brands, and countless other things, because we truly desire unity amongst each other. We have a history conquering other lands to unify the with us; a dark history of subjugating and killing people who we do not think are worthy of unification. All of our self-driven efforts at unity always and inevitably fail, but nearly two thousand years ago the most perfect design for unity of humanity came to dwell amongst us. So that, unity was no longer an idea for us to grasp at, but now a person named Jesus Christ in whom we abide in.
Today’s First Reading from Acts 2:1-11, speaks to that human desire and deep craving for unity, saying, “When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled, they were all in one place together.” That is, they were unified in their anticipation of the Lord. There were no selfish desires among them. They were all of one accord. The text then reads, “And suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house in which they were. Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim.” In this way, the unifying Pentecost event was the fulfillment of Christ Jesus’ Bridegroom prayer from John 17:20-23, “I pray not only for them, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, so that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me. And I have given them the glory you gave me, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may be brought to perfection as one, that the world may know that you sent me, and that you loved them even as you loved me.”
As Christ Jesus and the Holy Spirit share a joint mission, the Pentecost event; that is, Christ Jesus sharing His relationship with the Holy Spirit with us, made us co-partners in that joint mission; making us priests, prophets, and kings in Him, through the indwelling and gifts of the Holy Spirit. Sharing in this joint mission of the Holy Trinity not only makes us one with each other, but also sends us into the world as ambassadors and missionaries of unity through the love and truth of God. This missionary work of unity in Christ is accomplished through the particular gifts of the Holy Spirit that each of us receives.
According to today’s Second Reading from 1 Corinthians 12:3b-7, 12-13, “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.” Again the gifts of the Holy Spirit are not inclined toward selfish desires or personal ambition, but, rather, are purely ordered towards unity in Christ Jesus. They are ordered towards increasing and sanctifying the members of the Body of Christ. Later in 1 Corinthians 12:28, the Apostle specifies what some of those gifts are, writing, “Some people God has designated in the church to be, first, apostles; second, prophets; third, teachers; then, mighty deeds; then, gifts of healing, assistance, administration, and varieties of tongues.” Here at the first Pentecost event, the Holy Spirit ordered for the work that needed to be accomplished with so many people from different nations and tongue present, that all received the gifts of tongues.
Inasmuch as the Sacraments, in particular the Sacrament of Baptism and the Sacrament of Confirmation unite us uniquely with the Holy Spirit, the means by which we remain united with the Holy Trinity by the means of reconciliation through Sacramental absolution through the Sacrament of Penance for grave sins and Reconciliation through non-Sacramental absolution through the liturgy of Catholic Mass for venial sins. In this way, the gifts for the joint mission of the Christ and the Spirit bestowed upon the disciples at the Pentecost event and the authority of the joint mission of the Christ and the Holy Spirit bestowed upon the disciples only after the resurrection event are intimately connected with each other and share some similarities. For example, notice how the Gospel Reading from John 20:19-23 begins, “On the evening of that first day of the week, when the doors were locked, where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.” Again, as in the Pentecost event, the disciples were all together, unified, and anticipating persecuting it appears. And like what will happen at the Pentecost event, the visitation of Christ Jesus resulted in bestowing upon them power, authority, and sending them on a mission. “Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.”
In the Divine Symphony, the hope of God and the joint mission of the Christ Jesus and the Holy Spirit come together perfectly. Those who have received the gifts of the Holy Spirit turn together to worship God, using those gifts. We are all gathered together in one place in anticipation of our Lord. Our Catholic Masses celebrated simultaneously at various times throughout the world are drawing all of God’s People together into one assembly; communicating to us the word and love of our Creator; peace, healing us of our venial sins so that we might be worthy of reception of the Holy Communion and then inviting us to receive the one Bread and one Cup so that we might become an image in the world of who has entered us, so that when the world see us, they might see Him. The only thing that impairs our union with the one is our sins, but even that impairment has a remedy in the one in whom our heart desires.
This is just one way how the readings at Mass this Sunday connect to the liturgy and how the liturgy is forming us on how to live our lives in the world. Be in the world who you have received during the liturgy.