Sunday, June 8, is Pentecost Sunday.
Vigil: Genesis 11:1-9; or Exodus 19:3-8, 16-20; or Ezekiel 37:1-14; or Joel 3:1-5; Psalm 104:1-2, 24, 35, 27-30; Romans 8:22-27; John 7:37-39
Sunday: Acts 2:1-11; Psalm 104:1, 24, 29-30, 31, 34; 1 Corinthians 12:3-7, 12-13; John 20:19-23
Perhaps the best way to see the true drama of Pentecost is to look at all of the available readings the Church offers for the Pentecost vigil and Pentecost Sunday. Here is a quick overview:
The Tower of Babel is one option. The story tells us how haughty humanity looks to technology for salvation, but ultimately cannot communicate without Divine intervention. Without the Holy Spirit, we are in Babel, trying to helplessly communicate.
God’s might in the Mount Sinai reading is the next vigil option. When the Lord came to Mount Sinai to converse with Moses, "the smoke rose from it as though from a furnace, and the whole mountain trembled violently." When the Holy Spirit speaks, he sounds like thunder.
Ezekiel’s dry-bones vision is next. He sees dry, dead bones with no spirit. We, too, are like Ezekiel’s lifeless bones until we learn his prayer: "From the four winds come, O Spirit, and breathe into these slain, that they may come to life."
The prophet Joel is the next option, in which he sees the future dispensation of the Spirit in a dramatic scene: "I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh. Your sons and daughters shall prophesy; your old men shall dream dreams; your young men shall see visions."
St. Paul’s vigil reading sums them all up. You can imagine the Babel people alienated from God, the terrified Hebrews at Mount Sinai and the empty bones of Ezekiel when he says: "We know that all creation is groaning in labor pains even until now," waiting for the Spirit, and "we also groan within ourselves as we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies."
In the Gospel for the vigil Mass, Christ himself expresses the longing for the Spirit.
"On the last and greatest day of the feast, Jesus stood up and exclaimed, ‘Let anyone who thirsts come to me and drink. … Rivers of living water will flow from within him who believes in me.’"
Without God, we feel disjointed, empty and aching.
With the Spirit, we are transformed into new creatures. Says the Psalmist, "When you send forth your Spirit, they are created, and you renew the face of the earth."
In the Pentecost Sunday Gospel, Jesus breathes on his apostles, and they receive the power to forgive sins.
We experience the Holy Spirit when we go to confession, when we pray and when we come to Mass.
Pentecost Sunday is the Church’s reminder of just how powerful this life-giving reality truly is.
Tom and April Hoopes
write from Atchison, Kansas,
where Tom is writer
in residence at