May 09, 2016
Reflection for Pentecost Sunday
Peace Be With You
This Sunday we celebrate Pentecost Sunday. There are many who say that Pentecost is the day on which the church was started. Pentecost brings the 50-day Easter season to a close. We often think of Pentecost as a uniquely Christian celebration. But in fact it comes from the Jewish period celebrating the 50 days after Passover. In Jewish circles it is known as Shavu`ot or the “Feast of the Weeks.” In Deuteronomy 16 it states: “You shall count seven weeks; begin to count the seven weeks from the time you first put the sickle to the standing grain. Then you shall keep the feast of weeks to the Lord your God with the tribute of a freewill offering from your hand, which you shall give as the Lord your God blesses you; and you shall rejoice before the Lord your God.” [Dt. 16:9-11a]
The followers of Jesus were gathered, as it says in our first reading from Acts 2: “When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled, they were all in one place together.” Today Christians celebrate Pentecost as a holiday in which we commemorate the coming of the Holy Spirit on the early followers of Jesus. The reading goes on to say: “And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit.” However, learning from our Jewish brothers and sisters about the Feast of Weeks, we realize that Pentecost didn’t begin when the Holy Spirit descended on the disciples. Rather, Jesus chose the end of the Feast of Weeks to send down the Holy Spirit.
What does it mean to be filled with the Spirit? It is seeing God as active or visible in the world. Not as some distant being that we might encounter someday after we die. The Spirit brings the church into existence and enlivens it. As Christians we are meant to live in the presence and power of the Spirit of God every moment of every day. When Pope Francis calls for a cultural revolution he is calling for a revolution of Spirit. A transformation of how we see ourselves in relation to God and each other. When I reflect on this reading and think about the followers of Jesus, first huddled together and then they were filled with the Spirit, I believe they were transformed.
In the Gospel, John talks about how the followers were huddled in a locked room. Afraid and alone, wondering what might become of them, Jesus appeared to them and said four of the most powerful words ever spoken: “Peace be with you.” With those four words Jesus took their fear away. Just imagine for a minute if, instead of preaching fear, separation and hatred, we all went around preaching those four words.
Peace Be With You.
FAN Executive Director