Saturday, June 3, 2017

Pentecost Sunday, Year A, 04.06.2017

Acts 2:1-11 / 1 Cor 12:3-7 / John 20:19-23

Today is Pentecost Sunday. And we usually associate Pentecost with the Holy Spirit, so much so that Pentecost means the Holy Spirit. 

But to begin with, the meaning of the word “Pentecost” has almost nothing to do with the Holy Spirit. 

Pentecost is a Greek word that means “fiftieth”.  It points to the Jewish festival of the “Feast of the Harvest” (Exodus 23:16), which is held on the fiftieth day after the Passover.

The purpose of that feast was to commemorate the completion of the grain harvest.

So as it is, going by the meaning of the word Pentecost, it is the “fiftieth day”. It does not say anything about the Jewish festival of the “Feast of the Harvest”, nor does it say anything about the Holy Spirit.

But in the 1st reading, we heard about how Pentecost, or the “fiftieth day” which was first associated with the Jewish “Feast of the Harvest”, became connected with the Holy Spirit.

When the Pentecost day came round, the apostles had all met in a room, when suddenly, they heard what sounded like a powerful wind from heaven, and something appeared to them that seemed like tongues of fire, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit. 

And that was how Pentecost (or the fiftieth day) became associated with the Holy Spirit. 

And from the readings, we can see how the Holy Spirit was manifested. The Holy Spirit came like a powerful wind from heaven, and then like tongues of fire, and then the gift of speech.

There is the variety of gifts but always the same Spirit. And the Risen Christ breathed on His disciples and gave them the Holy Spirit.

All these are manifestations of the Holy Spirit, but in all the readings, there is one common factor that indicated the presence of the Holy Spirit – words.

In the 1st reading, the disciples began to speak foreign languages as the Spirit gave them the gift of speech.

The 2nd reading states that no one can say “Jesus is Lord” unless he is under the influence of the Holy Spirit.

And in the gospel, Jesus said to His disciples: Peace be with you. Receive the Holy Spirit.

Words can be so common, and even so plentiful as some people can be so long-winded, but words can be so powerful in that the Holy Spirit is manifested through words. 

Which brings to mind the saying: Think before you speak. And if silence is golden, then speak only when your words are better than silence.

Yes, think before you speak. And as we think about it, the word THINK can be an acronym that reminds us of how the Holy Spirit wants us to use our words.

So before we speak, we should “T-H-I-N-K”.

T stands for “true”. Are we speaking what is true? The Holy Spirit is also the Spirit of Truth and when we speak what is true, then the Holy Spirit is present. But if we speak what is not true, then an unholy spirit is present, an unholy spirit that is up to no good.

The second letter “H” stands for helpful. What we say must be helpful and not harmful. Reckless words pierce like a sword but the tongue of the wise brings healing (Pro 12:18). The Holy Spirit is our Helper, so when we speak what is helpful, the Holy Spirit is truly present. 

The letter “I” stands for inspirational. And there is a big difference between inspirational and impressive. One uses simple words that can inspire, while the other uses bombastic words to impress. So which “I” do we want to be?

The letter “N” stands for necessary. Is what we are going to say necessary and needed? If it is not necessary and not needed, then, never mind – just don’t say it. 

And finally “K” stands for kind. Word should be kind and not used to kill. Kind words reflect the nature of a kind person. By our words, we will know what is inside of us.

So think before we speak – T-H-I-N-K. 

And just “think” is one word, so what we say must also be true, helpful, inspirational, necessary as well as needed, and kind. 

In other words, all that must be fulfilled in the words that we speak. One can’t do without the others. We can’t say what is true without being kind as well. We can’t say what is necessary and needed without being inspirational and helpful too.

So all conditions must be met, so that we will have to think before we speak.

When we speak what is true, what is helpful, what is inspirational, what is necessary and needed, and what is kind, then we will truly experience the presence of the Holy Spirit in us, and others will experience the Holy Spirit through our words.

And then we will also truly understand what Jesus means when He says “Peace be with you”.