27 May 2007 Pentecost Sunday
Acts 2, 1-11; Psalm 104; 1 Cor 12; John 20, 19-23 or John 14. 15-16, 23-26
Pentecost Sunday is a feast of the universal Church. It commemorates the coming of the Holy Spirit to the apostles, fifty days after Easter. Let us look at the history of this feast. In the Old Testament, the Pentecost was an ancient Jewish feast known as “the harvest of the first fruits (Exodus 23, 16); the “feast of weeks” (Exodus 34, 22; Deut 16, 10; 2 Chronicles 8, 13); the “day of the first fruits” (Numbers 28, 26) and later, the Jews called it, ‘asareth or asartha’ meaning, the closing festival of the harvest and of the Paschal season. It was celebrated on the fiftieth day from ‘the next day after the Sabbath’ of the Passover (Leviticus 23, 11).
The Pentecost was associated with the first fruits of the harvest. In ancient times, especially with agricultural peoples, the consecration of the first fruits — hence, the best of the harvest— was a common practice. They believed that the best yield of the earth belongs to God, and thus the offering is an acknowledgment of God’s gifts. Only after the best produce is given to God, can the yield become lawful for people to eat and used.
The coming of the Holy Spirit is remarkably the opposite of the Jewish Pentecost. In the Jewish Pentecost, it is the people who offer their best gifts to God. In the Christian Pentecost, the Father and Jesus offers us the greatest gift that proceeds from them: the Holy Spirit. It is the other way around.
The gifts or fruits of the Holy Spirit are categorized into two. The first gifts are for the sanctification of the person such as wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, godliness and fear of the Lord. By wisdom, we relish and love what is of God. By understanding, we are able to grasp the truth of our faith. By counsel, we are enabled to see and choose correctly what is for our salvation and God’s greater glory. By fortitude, we gain the courage to overcome difficulties in our life of faith. By knowledge, it guides us towards a holy life. By godliness or piety, it inspires us to love God. By fear of the Lord, it helps us dread what would offend God and at the same time, accord the respect He deserves. In other words, these are the virtues that makes us holy.
Second, the gifts of the Holy Spirit is called, charism or charismata. These are extraordinary gifts granted to us at the service of the community, for the help of another. Our talents and personal abilities fall in this category. In other words, these are tools we can use to show our love for others.
In the Christian Pentecost, the same loving gesture is offered to us by God. The words from the Gospel of John is true: God so loved the world. He gave us His Only Son. Now He gave us His Spirit — the Spirit that would accompany us and not make us orphans (John).
It is just appropriate, that we too respond to God with all our hearts, with all our minds, with all our souls. How? We use the words of St. Ignatius of Loyola: “Take Lord and receive all my liberty, my memory, my understanding, my entire will. Whatever I have or hold, you have given to me, and I restore them all to you.” Thus every talent is consecrated to God, at the service of others. We always give our best, because God gives only His best.
Ignatius proceeds with his prayer, “Give me only your love and your grace that I am rich enough and ask for nothing more.” All then is gift. All is grace. All is love. The Spirit is Grace Himself. The Spirit is Love Himself. When we celebrate mass today notice the color red. Red signifies love. Red signifies fire. Red signifies ardent and passionate love. That is the love of God for us. And that too, should be the way we love — ardent, passionate, on fire.