May 31, 2020 • Solemnity of Pentecost
First Reading: Acts 2:1–11
Psalm: Psalm 104:1, 24, 29–30, 31, 34 (30)
Second Reading: 1 Corinthians 12:3b-7, 12–13
Sequence: Veni, Sancte Spiritus
Gospel Acclamation: Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love
Gospel: John 20:19–23
This coming Pentecost Sunday marks the conclusion of the Easter Season in the liturgical tradition of the Catholic Church. I found these interesting notes on the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops website, regarding Easter.
The Easter Vigil is the “Mother of All Vigils.” Easter Sunday, then, is the greatest of all Sundays, and Easter Time is the most important of all liturgical times. Easter is the celebration of the Lord’s resurrection from the dead, culminating in his Ascension to the Father and sending of the Holy Spirit upon the Church. There are 50 days of Easter from the first Sunday to Pentecost. It is characterized, above all, by the joy of glorified life and the victory over death, expressed most fully in the great resounding cry of the Christian: Alleluia! All faith flows from faith in the resurrection: “If Christ has not been raised, then empty is our preaching; empty, too, is your faith.” (1 Corinthians 15:14)
But Pentecost Sunday is much more than just the conclusion of Easter season. It celebrates the sending of the Holy Spirit upon the Church in fulfillment of the promises of Jesus made to His disciples in the Gospels and in the first chapter of the Acts of the Apostles after His Resurrection and before His Ascension. Here are the verses from that first chapter of Acts:
While meeting with them, he enjoined them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for “the promise of the Father about which you have heard me speak; for John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the holy Spirit.”… But you will receive power when the holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (New American Bible Revised Edition)
The ancient Jewish Pentecost celebrated the giving of the Law through Moses. It was one of the three great feasts for which a Jewish male was to present himself before the Lord in the temple in Jerusalem, if possible. The Christian Pentecost celebrates the sending of the Holy Spirit, which is also one of the Glorious Mysteries of the Rosary, upon which we meditate as we pray. The Christian Pentecost enables us to live the Gospel and function as the Body of Christ in mission to the world for whom Jesus died and was raised again. The liturgical color for Pentecost Sunday is red, which symbolizes the Holy Spirit and the fire of His love.
The first reading is about the arrival of the Holy Spirit whom Jesus has sent, proving that He just didn’t disappear into heaven but is alive and well and has sent the Holy Spirit just as He promised. There is a mighty rushing as of wind. The disciples are filled with the Holy Spirit and have tongues as of fire resting upon them. They burst forth in different languages unknown to them, joyously praising God for His mighty acts. And the whole commotion draws a crowd from the thousands of Jews gathered in Jerusalem from around the world for the Jewish feast of Pentecost. And all these people from many lands and languages can understand the praises of the disciples in their own language in this seeming reversal of what took place at the Tower of Babel incident, where God confused the speech of man (Genesis 11:6–8). Our mission as the Church, the Assembly, is the return and regathering of the scattered people of the world into the Body of Christ, the Church. Which leads us to the Psalm.
The responsorial Psalm is our praise and prayer asking for God’s help, the Holy Spirit, in our regathering mission. We need the Holy Spirit to breathe the new life of Christ into us and transform us into His people, made in His likeness. We also need His power to renew the face of the earth.
The Apostle Paul in the Second Reading makes clear the absolute necessity of the Holy Spirit. We cannot even confess that Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit! We need Him to enable us to remain in the Body of Christ, rather than going astray, and to function as He intends for us to function as members thereof. Each of us has a part to play in the regathering and the transformation. Seeing the necessity and importance of the Holy Spirit, we are led to the Sequence.
The Veni, Sancte Spiritus is a prayer, a hymn of invitation and praise to and of the Holy Spirit. Please meditate on it in preparation for this Sunday.
Come, Holy Spirit, come!
And from your celestial home
Shed a ray of light divine!
Come, Father of the poor!
Come, source of all our store!
Come, within our bosoms shine.
You, of comforters the best;
You, the soul’s most welcome guest;
Sweet refreshment here below;
In our labor, rest most sweet;
Grateful coolness in the heat;
Solace in the midst of woe.
O most blessed Light divine,
Shine within these hearts of yours,
And our inmost being fill!
Where you are not, we have naught,
Nothing good in deed or thought,
Nothing free from taint of ill.
Heal our wounds, our strength renew;
On our dryness pour your dew;
Wash the stains of guilt away:
Bend the stubborn heart and will;
Melt the frozen, warm the chill;
Guide the steps that go astray.
On the faithful, who adore
And confess you, evermore
In your sevenfold gift descend;
Give them virtue’s sure reward;
Give them your salvation, Lord;
Give them joys that never end.
Gospel Acclamation: Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love. We need to ask persistently for the Holy Spirit to come. We have this promise from Jesus.
And I tell you, ask and you will receive; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.… If you then, who are wicked, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the Father in heaven give the holy Spirit to those who ask him? (Luke 11:9, 13 New American Bible Revised Edition)
The Holy Spirit gives us the peace of Christ’s presence. He is the Comforter, the one called alongside. He comes to us like Jesus did to His frightened disciples in the Gospel reading for this solemn Sunday. He is the breath of Jesus, who gives us certainty that the joy of the Gospel of the Resurrection is true. And we can see in this reading Jesus conveying one of the gifts of Holy Orders upon the disciples, the authority and the ability to act as His priests in Persona Christi in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, which they have passed on to this present day.
May God bless the reading of His word and fill us with the Holy Spirit in accordance with the promises of the Son, for it is in His name we pray. Amen.