Readings for the Solemnity of Pentecost in year A

Acts 2:1-11

Psalm 103

1 Corinthians 12:3-7.12-13

John 20:19-23

Homily

For some it may have been too warm, for others it may have been too dry, but I suspect that most of us have enjoyed the beautiful weather of the past few weeks. Every day you can see more green on the trees and, increasingly, flowers show their beauty. There is great abundance of vitality and new life around us.

This also means that weeds are doing well. Of course I shouldn’t call them weeds but plants that grow in places where we don’t want them because of aesthetic reasons or because they prevent other plants to grow or because of health and safety. For they could make you slip and fall…

Because of the awareness of the abundance of new life, my attention was drawn to the psalm of today’s mass: ‘Send forth your spirit, lord, and renew the face of the earth’. Psalm 103 (104) connects the new life on the earth with the Spirit of the Creator God. It is an appropriate psalm for the celebration of Pentecost.

When we look at the three major feasts of the liturgical year, I am aware that many people struggle with Pentecost. It is probably because it may seem a bit vague. At Christmas it is quite easy to connect with the child Jesus in the manger. At Easter we can visualise the last supper of Jesus and his disciples and we also connect with Jesus on the cross. But when it comes to the resurrection it already starts to stretch our imagination.

Pentecost challenges us even more. We celebrate the descent of the Holy Spirit, but there is nothing we can see. The Spirit of God is invisible. We can only talk about Him or Her in images and symbols. Today we heard about tongues of fire, wind and breath. At Jesus’ baptism the image of a dove is used to refer to the Holy Spirit and that is how the Spirit is often portrayed.

When we refer to the Holy Spirit we use images or we describe the effect the Spirit has on people and on the earth. That is how we can recognise the presence of the Spirit. We already saw how Psalm 103 (104) opens our eyes to see the Spirit at work in creation.

In his letter to the Corinthians Paul refers to the gifts of the Spirit and invites us to recognise the working of the Spirit of Christ through the way we use our gifts and talents. If we use them for a good purpose we live and work in the Spirit. If people use their gifts to gather and build up, we see the Spirit at work.

In Luke’s account of Pentecost in the Acts of the Apostles we heard how the Spirit enables the disciples to go out and speak in a such a way that people from many nations can understand them. There is a fire in them that touches other people and sets them ablaze. Language is no longer a barrier for the message of the love of God, revealed to us in Jesus. When we live in the Spirit of Christ, we will speak that language.

In the gospel we heard that the presence of the Spirit of God is revealed through the forgiveness of sins. He or she who is filled with the Spirit sets people free from what binds them and what leads to death.

Today’s celebration of the descent of the Holy Spirit may increase our awareness of the presence and the working of God’s life giving Spirit in the world. May we recognise the presence of the Spirit through the wonders of creation. May we see the gifts of the Spirit in the people around us, affirm them and rejoice in them. May we be under the influence of the Spirit of Christ and reach out with love, our common language.

May God renew the face of the earth through a fresh outpouring of the Spirit in a new Pentecost on which we may find encouragement and newness of life. For that we continue to pray:

 Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful
and enkindle in them the fire of your love.

V. Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created.
R. And you shall renew the face of the earth.

Let us pray.
O God, who by the light of the Holy Spirit,
did instruct the hearts of the faithful,
grant us in the same Spirit to be truly wise
and ever to rejoice in His consolation.
Through Christ our Lord.
Amen.