Day of Pentecost, Year C: Three Meanings

SUNDAY’S READINGS | June 5, 2022

Acts 2:1-21 or Gen 11:1-9
Ps. 104:25-35, 37
Rom. 8:14-17 or Acts 2:1-21
John 14:8-17 (25-27)

The Jewish Feast of Pentecost was an agricultural festival celebrating the gift of land and the grain harvest. Pentecost became associated with the giving of the law, ten words, to Moses. Because Pentecost was a pilgrim festival, we observe “devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem” (Acts 2:5). These three meanings are fulfilled in Jesus Christ. The Lord Jesus is our land, harvest, and Word.

A New Land: Walking in the way of Christ is to step into a “land of unlikeness,” a new world, a redeemed and sanctified creation. The Spirit says to the churches, “Let the heavens rejoice, and let the earth exult, let the sea and its fullness sound forth; let the fields rejoice and all that is in them. Then all the trees of the woods will rejoice at the presence of the Lord, because he comes, because he comes to judge the earth” (Ps. 96:11-13, Vulgate). Jesus said, “Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; but if you do not, then believe me because of the works themselves” (John 14:11). Of the innumerable works of Christ, the Incarnation is a miraculous work and a great affirmation of the world of soil and water and living things. “O Lord, how manifold are your works! In wisdom you have made them all; the earth is full of your creatures. Yonder is the sea, great and wide, creeping things innumerable are there, living things both small and great. There go the ships, and Leviathan, that you formed to sport in it. These all look to you to give them their food in due season; when you give it to them, they gather it up; when you open your hand, they are filled with good things” (Ps. 104:24-28).

The Grain Harvest: Telling a parable, Jesus says, “The kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground, and would sleep and rise night and day, and the seed would sprout and grow, he does not know how. The earth produces of itself, first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head” (Mark 4:26-28). Jesus is the seed, the stalk, the head, and the mature grain. He is the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep. He is bread from heaven. The nourishment of his life passes from him to us, though in no way diminishing his nutritive power. We become what he is, and this is especially clear in the mystery of baptism and the Eucharist.

Using Leo the Great as a guide, consider two passages. Speaking of baptism, Leo says, “For the renunciation of the devil and the belief in God, the passing of the old state into newness of life, the casting off of the earthly image, and the putting on of the heavenly form — all this is a sort of dying and rising again, whereby he that is received by Christ and receives Christ is not the same after as he was before he came to the font, for the body of the regenerate becomes the flesh of the Crucified.” Of the Eucharist, he says, “What else is brought about by the partaking of the Body and Blood of Christ than that we pass into that which we then take, and both in spirit and body carry him everywhere?” (Sermo 12, De Passione).

The Word: Ten words were given to Moses. The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. A flaming tongue speaks to us in our dialect, and we know the mighty works of God.

Look It Up: Romans 8:17

Think About It: That very Spirit bears witness to our spirit.

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