SUNDAY’S READINGS | May 23
On the Day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit rested like tongues of fire upon each of the disciples, and they spoke in other languages in the presence of devout Jews from every nation. As the disciples spoke, the surrounding crowd heard their native dialects. So, members of the crowd asked themselves, “How it is that we hear, each of us, in our own native language? Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs — in our own language we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power” (Acts 2:8-11).
Peter addresses the crowd, remind them of the words of the prophet Joel: “In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams. Even upon my slaves, both men and women, in those days I will pour out my Spirit; and they shall prophesy” (Acts 2:17-18).
This is a promise to the “Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem” (Acts 2:14). Even more, this foreshadows the promised gift of the Holy Spirit “to every race and nation” (Collect). “Go therefore,” Jesus says, “and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to observe everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:19-20). Other ancient manuscripts add a final word, “Amen,” a most fitting affirmation to the catholic scope of the Spirit’s mission.
The gift of the Holy Spirit is for the whole house of Israel, but it also is a gift for the entire human race. We pray in the appointed Collect, “Shed abroad this gift throughout the world by the preaching of the Gospel, that it may reach to the ends of the earth.” God is always, therefore, “Our Father.” God is indeed my God, but not merely mine. God is “Our.” As we hear in the Revelation to St. John, “by your blood you have ransomed for God saints from every tribe and language and people and nation; you have made them to be a kingdom of priests serving our God” (Rev. 5:9b-10). The object of God’s grace is always and forever: every family, language, people, and nation.
The Holy Spirit falls upon Jews and Gentiles, the whole human family. And yet the scope of the Spirit’s mission is still not exhausted. The Spirit descends upon the entire creation. “We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies” (Rom. 8:22-23). We have “the first fruits of the Spirit,” a condition that awakens us to what we do and do not have. The Spirit awakens a more profound sensitivity to the groaning of nature and humanity for an as yet unfulfilled longing, “the redemption of our bodies.”
The Spirit of God has unfinished business. “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth” (John 16:13).
The Spirit has descended upon humanity and creation. Together, we wait and groan. We also rejoice because the first fruits of the Spirit are indeed the Spirit of Almighty God.
Look It Up: Psalm 104:25
Think About It: The earth is full of your creatures. Save everything, O God!