Pentecost Sunday, Year A-2011
- The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor (Lk. 4:18—NAB)
The Holy Spirit, although expected because he is the promise of the Father, surprises just the same. Who will not be surprised if suddenly is heard a loud noise and seen are tongues, as of fire, parting and coming to rest on everyone present? And what a surprise indeed that Galileans speak different tongues such that each listener hears them proclaim God’s mighty acts in his or her own tongue! Those listening are so astounded that they cannot explain it and hence have to resort to scoffing and attribute it all to the proclaimers being drunk.
Perhaps not so obviously amazing is the courage of said proclaimers. But it does not mean it is any less surprising, especially if it is taken into account, first, that the one who appears to preside over the proclamation had denied Jesus three times and, second, it has not been too long ago that they locked themselves up for fear of Jesus’ opponents, the representatives of the religious establishment. And could it be that it was out of fear that all of Jesus’ acquaintances, including the women, watched his crucifixion at some distance? In any case, the Holy Spirit—to borrow St. Cyril of Alexandria’s words—alters the pattern of the disciples’ lives so that the cowards become men of great courage; the strength received from the Holy Spirit enables them to face unafraid the violence of their persecutors .
Thus Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit and armed only with the sword of the Spirit, the word of God (Eph. 6:17) in the prophecy of Joel and in Psalms 16 and 110 dares ask for attention in the style of Dt. 6:4 and points out Jesus of Nazareth, delivered up to death but now risen, as the exalted Lord and Messiah. Without fear and without mincing words, he accuses his fellow Jews of killing Jesus, nailing him to the cross, with the cooperation of lawless Gentiles. In effect, Peter is questioning the authority of the representatives of both the religious and political establishment. It is perhaps this establishment that makes up the corrupt generation from which people are to save themselves through repentance and the baptism for the forgiveness of sins and the conferring of the gift of the Holy Spirit. And the Holy Spirit, the Father’s promise to all those called by God to form the one body with many and different parts, is the one to undo what was done in the land of Shinar through the fault of those who settled there and did not go to take possession of the land God had assigned to them so they could fill the earth and subdue it (Gen. 11,:1-9) .
That we who are scattered and diverse can be reunited and reconciled, this is an important part of the surprise that the Holy Spririt brings. The Holy Spirit continues the admirable deed of Jesus, who without reproaching in the slightest way those who showed themselves to be neither faithful nor reliable especially when he most needed them, offered this disciples peace. Then immediately he gave them the Holy Spirit so that they could devote themselves to the mission and ministry of communion and reconciliation (cf. 2 Cor. 5,:18-19). And here, now, the surprise becomes greater, yes, in a paradoxical manner, since such ministry supposes scattering and diversity. We Christians cannot settle for being settled, being established: if we really received the Holy Spirit and are under his influence, we cannot but proclaim that Jesus is Lord, and we will go and make disciples of all nations, as St. Vincent repeatedly counseled us to do.
And ultimately, even more surprising is the hard truth, reality, because it is taken as foolishness, that the Christian mission, the Christian ministry, is inseparable from the handing over of the spirit (Jn. 19:30), which is memorialized in the celebration of the Eucharist.
-  Cf. Office of Readings for Thursday, Seventh Week of Easter, in the Liturgy of the Hours.
-  Cf. The New Jerome Biblical Commentary (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1990) 2:14-15.