Day of Pentecost, Year A: One Church, Many Gifts

The Dove Descending by Fr. Lawrence Lew, OP/Flickr

Sunday’s Readings | May 28, 2023

Acts 2:1-21 or Num. 11:24-30
Ps. 104:25-35, 37
1 Cor. 12:3b-13 or Acts 2:1-21
John 20:19-23 or John 7:37-39

The promised gift of the Holy Spirit arrives, spreading abroad throughout the world, making a holy people who are learning, however haltingly, to judge rightly in all things, who feel and know a holy comfort amid all their joys and their sorrows (the Collect). The Holy Spirit is God, within us individually and collectively, but also God enveloping, sustaining, and directing all things. “You send forth your Spirit, and they are created; and so you renew the face of the earth” (Ps. 104:31).

Jesus comes to the disciples, greets them, and then gives them the gift of the Holy Spirit. “Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’ After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you. When he had said this, he breathed on them and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit’” (John 20:19-22). The breath of Jesus is the breath of life, the same Spirit who once moved over the face of the waters and spoke, saying, “Let there be.” This Spirit makes us newly alive, and alive especially in the common life we share. In the words of St. Paul, “For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body — Jews or Greeks, slave or free — and we were all made to drink of one Spirit” (1 Cor. 12:13). And, as we say in the baptismal rite, “There is one Body and one Spirit; There is one hope in God’s call to us; One Lord, one Faith, one Baptism; One God and Father of all” (BCP, p. 299). The holiness of the Church and the unity of the Church are concomitant themes. The Church is quintessentially one and holy. Within the Church’s unity, the Spirit permits, indeed fosters, a wide range of gifts to be used for the common good. St. Paul speaks of gifts, activities, and services, among which he lists “the utterance of wisdom,” “the utterance of knowledge,” “faith,” “healing,” “the working of miracles,” “prophecy,” “discernment of spirits,” “various kinds of tongues,” and “the interpretation of tongues” (1 Cor. 12:4-11). The list is by no means exhaustive. St. Peter quotes 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 daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams” (Acts 2:16-17). With vision-dream awareness, we may see the Spirit working incessant wonders in creation. “I will show portents in the heaven above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and smoky mist. The sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood” (Acts 2:19-20). Standing on my front porch looking east for a private view of the early-morning sky, I see smoky gray clouds resting on the horizon, pierced by flaming balls of red, yellow, and orange of varied hues. Upward and to the north and south, the sky clears, the clouds fading into a subcaeruleus sky. Birds chatter and dart in staccato flight. “O Lord, how manifold are your works! In wisdom you have made them all” (Ps. 104:24). The Holy Spirit is God within us, and God all around us, present to and in all things.

Look It Up: Acts 2:6

Think About It: The Spirit speaks your language, giving you your irreplaceable gift. The Spirit opens your eyes to a world of visions and dreams, making all things strangely new and divinely luminous.


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