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Pentecost Sunday (B)

Acts 2:1-11; 1 Cor 12:3b-7, 12-13; Gal 5:16-25

May 27, 2012

Hallelujah, this Sunday we celebrate Pentecost! The word Pentecost means fiftieth and as stated by many biblical scholars, was originally the name of an agricultural festival that was celebrated fifty days after the Passover. Jewish tradition also held that Moses received the law on this day. For Christians, Pentecost is the great event where the Holy Spirit descends and is poured out to all, transforming those present to be bold disciples united in faith, love and hope. Pentecost represented a new beginning for those who were there for this phenomenon. While Jesus' ministry was to the people of Israel, now the message of Jesus is for the entire world - the beginning of the Christian Church.

Spirit of the Living God, Fall Fresh on Me! In many Christian churches it is a custom for members of the congregation to wear red to celebrate the descending of the Holy Spirit, which as Luke writes in the first reading, was like tongues of "fire." This event was experienced by peoples of many races and ethnicities. In my own parish in recognition of the many diverse communities who make up a part of the parish, it has been the tradition for many years on Pentecost Sunday for members of the parish to wear cultural dress or red (to designate the Holy Fire of the Spirit).

There's a Sweet, Sweet Spirit in this Place. These words from an African American hymn could also be used to describe the apostles' experience as described in the gospel reading from Luke. This Sweet Spirit touched the hearts and minds of all those were present in the "Upper Room." It was that Sweet Spirit that transformed those disciples who were hiding in fear - into bold ministers ready to go forth and preach the Good News.

Every Time I Feel the Spirit Moving in My Heart. St. Irenaeus, one of the first theologians in the Christian Church states that the Spirit came down with power to open the gates of life to all the nations and to make known to them the new covenant. He further writes that as baptism we have become one in body and through the Holy Spirit, we become one in soul. These are powerful and transformative words. Do we today truly believe that we are of one body and through the power of the Holy Spirit - one in soul? Our action flows from our belief and if we truly believed these words - how would it impact our actions towards one another? In the second reading from the letter of St. Paul to the Corinthians, St. Paul focuses on how the Spirit shapes our attitude and unites us as one Body in Christ. Later in this letter, Paul shows how that attitude shapes our understanding of all in the global community. He states if one of us suffers, we all suffer and if one of us is uplifted, we all share in the joy. This sense of unity and interconnectedness is a result of the Holy Spirit working in the lives of people of faith. If one is open to the Spirit, one cannot ignore the sufferings of the community, of the homeless person on the street, or those who cry out in hunger and pain in our global community. The suffering of even one person disrupts the Body.

Melt Me, Mold Me, Fill Me, Use Me. As people of faith, we must be open to trusting the Holy Spirit to use us, to fill us and to shape us. This is a challenging notion for some and scary for others. As we come to enter into the celebration of Pentecost, let our prayer be that we are open to the Holy Spirit filling us and using us to transform our communities, our churches and our world.

By Dr. C. Vanessa White, Assistant Professor of Spirituality and Director of the Augustus Tolton Pastoral Ministry Program

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