Jesus, before His Ascension into heaven, commissioned all the disciples to go into every corner of the earth bringing the Good News; the Gospel. However, without the Spirit to embolden them and strengthen them for the mission, they were afraid and non-the-wiser as to how they should go about this task. They pray and wait as commanded (cf. Acts 1:4-5).
Gathered together in the upper room with the Mother of Jesus, Mary the spouse of the Spirit, they pray in wait. At that time, the Holy Spirit came rushing upon them mightily and they were given “the gift of speech,” symbolised by the tongues of fire that rested on their heads, with which they proclaimed the Gospel to all the nations under heaven.
Pentecost finally brings together what was separated and “confused” in the beginning. At the sinful event of the Tower of Babel in Genesis 11, God confused the languages of the world where all the nations were present (cf. Genesis 10).
In the sending of the Spirit at Pentecost in our First Reading, the confusion is reversed. They are again confused, however, but this time because they can understand each other. All nations “under heaven” were present again (cf. Acts 2:5). It’s the un-Babel.
The Old Law was given to Moses on Mt Sinai and it was given with frightening theophany (a visible manifestation of divinity) like dark clouds, thunder, and fire as God descended on to the mountain (cf. Exodus 19:16-19). When the New Law is given, the Holy Spirit poured into our hearts, it is accompanied by peace, bold proclamations, and prophecies. But now you understand why they were afraid. They were expecting another Sinai event. But Mary is there to assure them of the opposite.
The Old Law was given on tablets of stone but this New Law, the Holy Spirit, is written on our hearts (cf. 2 Corinthians 3:2). We who have received the Spirit of Christ, the Spirit of Love, do not need the Old Law to tell us not to kill, or not to bear false witness, or worse, worship another “deity” for example.
We refrain from doing these things out of the immense love that we allow the Spirit to cultivate in us to the point where we love our neighbour at the cost of our own deaths, never bearing false witness out of the love we have for truth, and always worshipping the one true God — the Blessed Trinity, Who is the one goal of our entire lives. In sum, we love God with all that we are and we love our neighbours as ourselves (cf. Mark 12:30-31).
In our Gospel this Sunday, Jesus, again before His Ascension, walks among his Apostles and gives them a different measure of the same Spirit. They are given the power to forgive sins or retain them. This is a spiritual power only given to the men we call “Father.”
As St Paul says in our Second Reading, “There is a variety of gifts but always the same Spirit; there are all sorts of service to be done, but always to the same Lord; working in all sorts of different ways in different people, it is the same God who is working in all of them. The particular way in which the Spirit is given to each person is for a good purpose.”
Remember, the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of life, for God is life Himself. Without the Spirit, we are as good as dead, for we are actually spiritually dead without Him; and that’s the life that counts. Consider the words of this Sunday’s Psalm: “You take back your Spirit, they die, returning to the dust from which they came. You send forth your Spirit, they are created, and you renew the face of the earth.”
As Scott Hahn puts it: “We receive that Spirit in the sacraments, being made a ‘new creation’ in Baptism (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:17; Galatians 6:15). Drinking of the one Spirit in the Eucharist (cf. 1 Corinthians 10:4), we are the first fruits of a new humanity—fashioned from out of every nation under heaven, with no distinctions of wealth or language or race, a people born of the Spirit.”
See you next week on Seeking the Word!
Please consider sharing our Seeking the Word reflections so that more Gibraltarians and others around the world can benefit from it and prepare to approach God's table every Sunday. If you'd like to Subscribe, click here.