Solemnity of Pentecost - Year B

Reading I

Acts 2:1-11
When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled, they were all in one place together. And suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house in which they were. Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim. Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven staying in Jerusalem. At this sound, they gathered in a large crowd, but they were confused because each one heard them speaking in his own language. They were astounded, and in amazement they asked, “Are not all these people who are speaking Galileans? Then how does each of us hear them in his native language? We are Parthians, Medes, and Elamites, inhabitants of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the districts of Libya near Cyrene, as well as travelers from Rome, both Jews and converts to Judaism, Cretans and Arabs, yet we hear them speaking in our own tongues of the mighty acts of God.”

Responsorial Psalm

Psalm 104:1, 24, 29-30, 31, 34
R. (cf. 30) Lord, send out your Spirit, and renew the face of the earth.
Bless the LORD, O my soul! O LORD, my God, you are great indeed! How manifold are your works, O LORD! the earth is full of your creatures;
R. Lord, send out your Spirit, and renew the face of the earth.
May the glory of the LORD endure forever; may the LORD be glad in his works! Pleasing to him be my theme; I will be glad in the LORD.
R. Lord, send out your Spirit, and renew the face of the earth.
If you take away their breath, they perish and return to their dust. When you send forth your spirit, they are created, and you renew the face of the earth.
R. Lord, send out your Spirit, and renew the face of the earth.

Reading II

1 Corinthians 12:3b-7, 12-13
Brothers and sisters: No one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit. There are different kinds of spiritual gifts but the same Spirit; there are different forms of service but the same Lord; there are different workings but the same God who produces all of them in everyone. To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit. As a body is one though it has many parts, and all the parts of the body, though many, are one body, so also Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, slaves or free persons, and we were all given to drink of one Spirit.


Galatians 5:16-25
Brothers and sisters, live by the Spirit and you will certainly not gratify the desire of the flesh. For the flesh has desires against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; these are opposed to each other, so that you may not do what you want. But if you are guided by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are obvious: immorality, impurity, lust, idolatry, sorcery, hatreds, rivalry, jealousy, outbursts of fury, acts of selfishness, dissensions, factions, occasions of envy, drinking bouts, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I warned you before,
that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. In contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified their flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also follow the Spirit.


R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.


John 20:19-23
On the evening of that first day of the week, when the doors were locked, where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.” When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. 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.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.”

John 15:26-27; 16:12-15
Jesus said to his disciples: “When the Advocate comes whom I will send you from the Father, the Spirit of truth that proceeds from the Father, he will testify to me. And you also testify, because you have been with me from the beginning. “I have much more to tell you, but you cannot bear it now. But when he comes, the Spirit of truth, he will guide you to all truth. He will not speak on his own, but he will speak what he hears, and will declare to you the things that are coming. He will glorify me, because he will take from what is mine and declare it to you. Everything that the Father has is mine; for this reason I told you that he will take from what is mine and declare it to you.”


Acts 2:1-11
Pentecost was one of the three pilgrim feasts that required the adult men of Israel to travel to Jeru-salem (Deut 16:16). It was a harvest festival celebrated 50 days after Passover, when the first loaves of bread from the spring wheat crop were dedicated as a firstfruits offering to the Lord (Lev 23:15-17). Over time, theological significance was added to its agricultural focus: Pentecost became a celebration of the Torah given to Irael on Mount Sinai, with lectionary readings taken from Exodus 19-20. For Christians, Pentecost celebrates the new law of the Spirit (Rom 8:2), written on the hearts of believers (Jer 31:31-34; 2 Cor 3:4-6), which surpasses the Law of Moses, inscribed on stone tablets (Ex 31:18).1
The wind and the fire of the Pentecost event certainly call to mind the great theophany of God on Mount Sinai (Ex 19:16-19). Reference to God as the Mighty Wind is introduced in the second verse of the bible, Genesis 1:2, “the earth was a formless wasteland while a mighty wind (Ruah) swept over the waters.” Ruah is one of the names for God in the OT, i.e. Holy Spirit. The image of God as fire appears first in the burning bush when God reveals Himself to Moses as the one whose nature it is to be, i.e. being itself. In that revelation God makes Himself visible in the fire of the burning bush. It is thus fitting that God makes Himself visible at Pentecost in wind and fire.
The miracle of Pentecost is anticipated by isolated instances in Luke (Lk 1:15, 35, 41, 67), and its effects are noted several times in Acts (4:8, 31: 9:17, 13:9). The Spirit is the founding gift of the New Covenant and the soul that animated the Christian community (1 Cor 12:12-13). He directs the missionary efforts of the Church (Acts 1:8, 13:2), guides her leadership into truth (Jn 16:13), and sanctifies her life through the Sacraments (Acts 2:38; 8:17; Jn 20:22-23).2

Psalm 104:1, 24, 29-30, 31, 34
Psalm 104 is a hymn of praise to Yahweh as creator and sustainer of life. “Bless the Lord, O my soul.” The word soul has an interesting etymology as it evolves through Sacred Scripture. The Hebrew word is nepes. It is used in different contexts to describe the following: throat, neck, breath, living being, person, personality, life and eventually the modern day understanding of soul. Nepes is translated into Greek as psyche (zoo kay), and into English as soul. In the creation story of Genesis, “The Lord God formed man out of the clay of the ground and blew into his nos-trils the breath of life, and so man became a living being.” (Gen 2:7) With the evolution of the word nepes the soul is seen as the receptor or the receiver of the life breath of God. In the crea-tion story the life breath of God, i.e. the Holy Spirit is blown into the nostrils, into the throat and neck of the person, into his being. The Hebrew word for life as used in the creation story is hay yim which is used both to describe biological life as well as eternal life (Mal 2:5). The word psy-che as developed in Greek Philosophy was also used to describe the receptor of or the seat of life, the dwelling place of the spirit of the person, in the flesh/spirit dichotomy. The soul, the receptor of the Holy Spirit is of particular significance as we celebrate the Pentecost event. Using an anal-ogy from modern electronics God is the transmitter of His Holy Spirit and the soul is the receiver. God is always transmitting.

1. The Ignatius Catholic Study Bible, The New Testament, S.F., Page 209, F.N. 2:1.
2. The Ignatius Catholic Study Bible, The New Testament, S.F., Page 209, F.N. 2:4.


John 20:19-23
There are two words in today’s Gospel that don’t translate well into English. The first is the word peace and the second is the word send or sent. Jesus talked about a peace that only He could give and not as the world gives. The underlying word in Hebrew/Aramaic is shalom. The Jewish un-derstanding of this peace is precisely that it comes from God, God is the source of this peace. Peace is one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit, i.e. Love, Joy, Peace, etc. As the serenity prayer states, it does not promise freedom from the storms of life, but peace amid the storms. For me it is an anchor point in this fast pace and turbulent world.
The idea of being sent by someone in the ancient world had a much deeper connotation than we often think of. To send someone was to give them whatever authority that the sender had to give. It might be likened to a modern-day power of attorney. If a king sent one of his subjects to per-form some tasks or enter some contract, he would carry with him the full authority of the king. So, when Jesus sent out His apostles, He gave them His power and authority, the power and au-thority given Him by His Father. Recall their amazement when the apostles returned from their first missionary assignment. Peter’s bold sermon after the Pentecost experience is certainly evi-dence of the power of the Holy Spirt that now overshadows him. The transformation that takes place in all the disciples following Pentecost further attests to the power of the Holy Spirit at work in them and in the Church. As priests and deacons, and as lay faithful working in the Church we can attest to those gifts in ministry.

John 15:9-17
Our pericope today is the heart of the Last Supper Discourse and is a part of the beautiful Vine and Branches metaphor. The setting is the Last Supper. Jesus is sitting around the table with His disciples minus Judas. He has washed their feet, given them His Body and His Blood, and is now talking about the gift of the Holy Spirit and about abiding in His Love and about becoming fruit for the world.
There has been a gradual movement through the metaphor of the vine and branches, which intro-duced the theme of abiding (cf. vv. 4, 5a, 5b, 6, 7), into an insistence that to abide in Jesus means to abide in love (vv. 9-11). The disciples’ abiding in the love of Jesus and keeping His com-mandments unites them with Jesus’ response to the Father in whose love He abides, and whose commandments He keeps. Keeping the commandments of Jesus inserts the disciples into “the chain of love” (cf. Segovia, Farewell 148-163).2 The decision to enter into and remain in this chain of love or not, is the difference between knowing and not knowing God, between believing and not believing. Ultimately it is the difference between life and death,
Verse 11 has always intrigued me. Jesus knows what lies ahead of Him. He is about to surrender Himself to the Crucifixion. And He says, “I tell you this so that My joy might be in you and your joy might be complete.” Joy is one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit. The source is God. It is one of the fruits of abiding in God’s self-giving love. True Joy can only be complete in the total emptying, the total gift of self. To abide in Christ, to put on the heart and the mind of Christ, giv-en up, poured out on the Cross is the source of true and complete joy.
Verses 12-17 can be subdivided as follows:

1.The commandment to love as Jesus Loved (vv. 12-14). The disciples are to respond to the command of Jesus by loving one another unto death as Jesus loved them.

2. Jesus’ love has established a new relationship (vv. 15-16). Jesus has given His life for His friends, and thus they are no longer servants but loved and chosen ones of Jesus.

3. The commandment to love (v. 17). It is as friends and no longer servants that the disciples are to love one another.3

To love as Jesus loved is being modeled for them in the washing of the feet and in His Body and Blood being given up on the Altar of the Cross. Jesus loves without limit, without counting the cost.
It is Jesus who is choosing them as friends. Jesus has demonstrated His love for His friend in the Lazarus story (Jn 11:3,11,36) Jesus was moved to the depth of His being, He wept for His friend, and raised him to life. The Book of Wisdom speaks of the wise as being friends of God. It is one of the gifts of Sophia, Lady Wisdom to enable us to become a friend of God. This friendship de-scribes a loving, abiding, relationship with God.

3. St. Irenaeus, Against Heresies, Lib. 3, 17, 1-3L SC 34, 302-306.


Every day I thank God for the gift of His Holy Spirit. I owe every second of the 25 years of my priesthood to the Holy Spirit. I could do nothing without the Holy Spirit. I feel espe-cially blessed with experiencing strong Spirit filled parish communities over my years as a pastor. I feel that I have received more than I have given to each of the communities that I served. What I have received more of is the Holy Spirit.
It is through day-to-day experiences that we can sense and feel and see the Holy Spirit. It is in prayer that I can see the movement of the Holy Spirit in communities of faith. As we can see the wind in the movement of the trees, I can see the Holy Spirit in the movement and in the life of the Church. We are truly blessed to have the vibrancy of the Holy Spirit with and among us. It is a gift from God. It is in fact the gift of God. The Holy Spirit is God quite literally sharing His life with us. The great Catholic theologian, Han Urs von Bal-thasar, once said that the Holy Spirit is “the whirl of love between the Father and the Son that cannot be contained but bursts out into all of creation.” The Holy Spirit is both the bond of love that makes the Father and Son one, and the pouring out of God’s love into all of crea-tion.
In the beginning the mighty Spirit (Ruah) hovered over the waters and transformed the primordial chaos into the beauty of creation. God then formed man out of the clay of the earth and breathed His Spirit into his nostrils and man became a living being. The Spirit rushed upon a young shepherd boy named David and he became the great anointed king that he was. God promised to breathe His Spirit back into the field of dry human bones that had cut themselves off from God that they may once again become living beings. When the time was right God sent His Holy Spirit into a young peasant girl in Palestine and she would give birth by the power of that Spirit to a man who we call the Son of God and the Son of Mary. The heavens opened as Jesus came out of the waters of the Jordan River and the Spirit was seen coming in the form of a dove upon Him. From the cross Jesus surrendered that Spirit back to the Father. On Sunday morning that Spirit was breathed back into the lifeless body of Jesus and He was raised from the dead. That evening the Risen Lord walked through the looked doors of the upper room and breathed that same Spirit upon the apostles. Fifty days later that same Spirit was poured out upon the Church at Pentecost. This weekend that same Spirit will pour out upon our gifts of bread and wine, and they will become the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ. God’s love will be poured out into us who be-lieve!
Come Holy Spirit fill the hearts of us Your faithful and enkindle in us the fire of Your love. Amen

Your in Christ,

Personal Witness

Since childhood I have had a deep personal relationship with Jesus. Since the day of my First Communion, I have experienced His real and substantial presence in the Eucharist. In my mind’s eye I envision Him as portrayed in art as the Good Shepherd holding a lamb in His arms. I have always spoken to and listened to Jesus in my silent prayer. There were times in my life where I have strayed and neglected this relationship, but I now know that He was always hold-ing me in His arms, always seeking me out when I strayed. He has always remained faithful and my relationship with Jesus has never been stronger than it is at this moment in my life.
During my seminary years I developed for the first time a relationship with God the Father. It came while meditating on the story of The Prodigal Son. In the Blessed Sacrament Chapel at the seminary there was a large print of Rembrandts’ Return of the Prodigal Son. My vision of God the Father now indelibly sketched in my mind is that of Rembrandts’ rendition. I am the prodigal son in His embrace.
It was not until my ordination 25 years ago that I began to have a personal relationship with the Holy Spirit. The Spirit is more difficult to envision. How does one see the wind? As one sees the wind in the movement of trees and the rustle of leaves, I see and feel the Holy Spirit now in my life in a very personal way. At the center of the ordination liturgy is the Invocation of the Holy Spirit as the candidate lies prostrate in front of the altar. From that moment on I have felt the Holy Spirit in a rather profound way leading and guiding my life and ministry.
Two or three years into my priesthood I was experiencing a bit of discouragement. I see now how I had drifted from the Holy Spirit. I was thinking that it was me that was doing all the work and things were not progressing as well as I had hoped. One day on my day off, a Monday, I was feeling particularly dejected about how the weekend had gone. As usual on my day off I was out on a nature hike. That day I was on a trail that followed the southern shore of Lake Su-perior in the central Upper Peninsula of Michigan. I was west of Grand Marais at a point where the trail rises some 500 feet above the lake with a nearly straight vertical descent. I found my-self eye level with a beautiful bald eagle soring in the wind currents. As I watched I noticed that she was circling a smaller bird that I at first assumed was her prey. The bird was flopping its wings frantically trying to stay airborne. I then thought that maybe it was wounded as it flew so erratically. As I watched further through my binoculars, I discovered that it was a young ea-glet that was just leaning to fly. It had not yet learned to utilize the wind currents as the mother had. There was the mother gliding effortlessly with the wind beneath her wings and the baby was flapping her wings frantically trying to stay afloat.
Now with lifted spirits I continued my hike. As my thoughts turned back to prayer and my discouragements, I realized that I was like the young eaglet, that I was flapping my wings to stay afloat. I was not utilizing theHoly Spirit as the wind beneath my wings. From that mo-ment on I started to rely more on the Holy Spirit and less on my own efforts, and my ministry and my life would be changed forever. I spent more time in prayer asking for the enlightenment and the guidance of the Holy Spirit. I started praying the Holy Spirit prayer before and after every homily.

Come Holy Spirit fill the hearts of us Your faithful and enkindle in us the fire of Your love. Amen.