05.23.2021 Pentecost Sunday

Jacopo di Cione

(1325 - 1390)

National Gallery - London


Pentecost is the event that happened fifty days after the Resurrection. Christ’s Disciples were gathered together to celebrate the Jewish Feast of Weeks when, according to the Bible, a strong wind was felt and flames like ‘tongues of fire’ appeared on their heads. The Disciples were filled with the Holy Spirit and miraculously began to speak in a number of different languages. Those who heard them speak were amazed – they thought that the Disciples must be drunk! Jacopo di Cione was commissioned to paint the panel for the Church of Saint Peter in Florence. In the painting we see the Disciples depicted sitting in a circle in an upstairs room or in perhaps a covered walkway, with the Virgin Mary and Saint Peter at the centre. Each has a flame on their head. The upper part of the panel shows a white dove flying downwards into the room, emitting golden rays –incised into the gold leaf background – from its beak. The artist has included windows on the back wall of the room to give an impression of depth to the painting. Saint Peter is holding the symbol of a key so that his identity cannot be mistaken. His prominence is appropriate given the Church’s dedication to Saint Peter. The biblical account mentions that a crowd of Jewish believers visiting the city from Mesopotamia, Egypt and Rome gathered to hear the disciples speaking about God in languages they could understand. We see them here in the scene below. Some look up, their hands raised in wonder, while two figures listen at the doors, which are slightly ajar. The artist has shown these men wearing a variety of head coverings, from hoods to crowns to brimmed hats, perhaps to emphasise their diverse and foreign origins. This moment is significant for Christ’s followers: it gave them the authority to continue preaching His message to all nations.

Lectio John 15: 26-27; 16: 12-15 1526 “When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who comes from the Father, he will testify on my behalf. 27 You also are to testify because you have been with me from the beginning. 1612 “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. 14 He will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you. 15 All that the Father has is mine. For this reason I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.”.

Meditatio Context The Gospel of next Sunday contains verses from Chapters 15 and 16. They are part of the Farewell Discourse delivered by Jesus at the Last Supper. Jesus speaks to the Disciples who are His witnesses[1]. Jesus makes also reference to the gift of the Holy Spirit, the ‘Paraclete’ or ‘Advocate’. The Holy Spirit will lead the Disciples to experience the truth[2]. Introduction Pentecost emboldens the Disciples to share their experience of the Resurrection as the path of true life for all peoples of all times. Human history is transformed from there on. Pentecost is an experience of unity, not uniformity, of races, tongues, nations and cultures[3] . It is the Feast of the Universality of the Good News. The Disciples lose all fear and have the courage to leave the Cenacle[4] to announce the Good News of the Kingdom entrusted to them by Jesus. You too will be witnesses[5] The Disciples became the witnesses of Jesus because they had been with Him from the outset of his Public Ministry. There can be no witnesses without a personal encounter. We can witness to Christ only when we have experienced His presence in our lives. Christian witness therefore, springs from a long friendship with Christ. A Christian witness, however, is a person who not only knows Christ but wants others to know Him as well. It is our privilege and our task to be witnesses for Christ in the world; and we cannot be His witnesses without a personal encounter with Him. He will lead you into all the truth[6] The work of the Holy Spirit is to introduce us into knowing the truth of God, that is, understanding who God is. Perhaps this is the passage that best expresses the principles of God’s Revelation in the New Testament. To Jesus the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Truth, whose great work is to bring God's truth into the world. The name we give to the action of bringing God's truth to humanity is called ‘Revelation’, and no other passage in the New Testament shows the principles of ‘Revelation’ better than this one. And they were filled with the Holy Spirit[7] The Catholic Church throughout history considers the Solemnity of Pentecost as her official beginning. Her first task is the Proclamation of the Good News. The multitudes that were present in Jerusalem that day witnessed the transformation of a group of mainly unschooled Galileans fearlessly announce that Jesus was risen and was the Saviour of the world by speaking in different tongues[8] . They proclaimed that, through Jesus, we are all children of the same Father, and on this day the Holy Trinity was fully revealed. In Jesus all peoples from the then known world[9] were called to be one. However, notwithstanding the passage of time, the world still does not know this unity, and as a result lacks peace. Humanity needs to reconstruct in Christ relationships that have been broken because of selfishness and injustice.

Oratio Veni Creator Spiritus

Holy Spirit, Lord of Light, From the clear celestial height Thy pure beaming radiance give. Come, thou Father of the poor, Come with treasures which endure Come, thou light of all that live! Thou, of all consolers best, Thou, the soul’s delightful guest, Dost refreshing peace bestow Thou in toil art comfort sweet Pleasant coolness in the heat Solace in the midst of woe. Light immortal, light divine, Visit thou these hearts of thine, And our inmost being fill: If thou take thy grace away, Nothing pure in man will stay All his good is turned to ill. Heal our wounds, our strength renew On our dryness pour thy dew Wash the stains of guilt away: Bend the stubborn heart and will Melt the frozen, warm the chill Guide the steps that go astray. Thou, on us who evermore Thee confess and thee adore, With thy sevenfold gifts descend: Give us comfort when we die Give us life with thee on high Give us joys that never end.



Contemplatio

Let us go back to the origin of the Church, to the Day of Pentecost.

Let us look at the Apostles: some of them were fishermen, simple people accustomed to making their living through the work of their hands, but there were also others, like Matthew, who was an educated Tax Collector.

They were from different backgrounds and social contexts, and they had Hebrew and Greek names. In terms of character, some were meek and lowly while others were impatient and assertive; they all had different ideas and sensibilities. They were all different. Jesus did not change them; He did not make them into a set of copies of Himself.

Let us now focus on ourselves, the Church of today.

We can ask ourselves: “What is it that unites us, what is the basis of our unity?” We too have our differences, for example of opinions, choices, and feelings.

But the temptation is always to fiercely defend our ideas, believing them to be good for everybody and agreeing only with those who think as we do. And that is something that is always divisive. This is a faith created in our own image and likeness and is not what the Spirit wants. We might think that what unites us is our belief in Christ. But there is much more: our principle of unity is the Holy Spirit.

- If we go back to the Day of Pentecost, we discover that the first task of the Church is the proclamation of the Good News. The Apostles set off: unprepared, yet willing to give their all. The one thing that kept them going was the desire to share what they had received. The beginning of the First Letter of John is beautiful: “What we have seen and heard, we now proclaim to you” (1 John: 1-3).

If we have in our hearts a God who is ‘gift’, everything changes. If we realize that what we are is His gift, free and unmerited, then we too want to make our lives a ‘gift’. By loving humbly, serving freely and joyfully, we will be able to offer to the world the true image of God. The Spirit, the living memory of the Church, reminds us that we are born from a ‘gift’ and that we grow by giving, giving of ourselves … .

Fragments from the Homily of Pope Francis on 31 / May / 2020

[1] John 15:27 “And you also are witnesses, because you have been with me from the beginning.” [2] John 16:13 “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth.” [3] Acts 2:4 “And they were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.” [4] Acts 2:14 “But Peter, standing with the eleven, lifted up his voice and addressed them, Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and give ear to my words.” [5] John 15:27 [6] John 16:13 [7] Acts 2:4 “And they were filled with the Holy spirit and began to speak in other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.” [8] Acts 2:7-8 “And they were amazed and wondered, saying, are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language?” [9] Acts 2: 9-11 “Parthians and Medes and 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 Arabians, we hear them telling in our tongues the mighty works of God.”

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