Franciscan Gospel Reflection: Feast of Pentecost

Sister JulieAnn Sheahan

May 18, 2018

Saint Francis of Assisi discerned the Holy Spirit’s action in his life often. On this Pentecost Sunday we invite you to pray with three possible Gospel texts for the feast. The first, John 7:37-39 is for the Vigil Mass. Either John 14:15-16, 23b-26 or John 20:19-23 are texts for Masses on the Feast. Franciscan Gospel reflection and questions are written by Fr. Paul Gallagher, OFM. They are edited by Franciscan Sister of Christian Charity Sister Anne Marie Lom and Joe Thiel. The excerpts from the Sunday readings are prepared by Joe Thiel. To read or download the complete pdf with excerpts for your prayer, please click here: Franciscan Gospel Reflection May 20 2018. Excerpts from the Lectionary for Mass for Use in the Dioceses of the United States of America, second typical edition © 2001, 1998, 1997, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc., Washington, DC. Used with permission. All rights reserved. No portion of this text may be reproduced by any means without permission in writing from the copyright owner. Please include this information when printing. Find here just one reflection.

Photos: St. Francis Xavier Cathedral, Green Bay, Wisconsin

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.”


The third Gospel text for Pentecost is also from John’s Gospel. The text presents a different kind of experience of the Holy Spirit coming upon the disciples than is found in the Acts of the Apostles 2:1-11(the first reading for Masses on the Feast).

The disciples have gathered on the first day of the week, that same day as the resurrection. The Sabbath was celebrated on the last day of the week and looked backward over the past week. It was also an occasion to remember what God had done in their history. The first day of the week looks forward to the week ahead. Jesus’ presence with them now is not about the past events of his death and resurrection, but about what they are being commissioned to do from this point forward.

While the disciples have gathered in fear, they are sent out just as the Father sent Jesus. They have some real reasons to be afraid that those who arrested, tried, and crucified Jesus may move against them, too. However, the presence of the risen Lord is not impeded by the physical restraint of a locked door. But he is the same Jesus who was crucified, and he shows them his wounds. He stands in their midst, not above or apart, and greets them with, “peace.” This greeting is the common greeting of the day, and it is also a prayer for health, prosperity, and all good that comes with the end times. Jesus stands among them as the fulfillment of that greeting. Jesus breathes on them the Holy Spirit – an action that mirrors God breathing life into Adam. The disciples receive the power to both bind and forgive sins. The expression names the two extremes, like north and south, or body and blood, and it is intended to communicate the full range of power between the two extremes. In John’s Gospel, sin is defined as the refusal to accept Jesus and his teaching. By asking the disciples to be agents of forgiveness, Jesus is commissioning them to be agents to reach out to those who have rejected Jesus and his teachings. The text seems to use the energy that is present when two opposites are brought together to describe the new energy that is released by God upon the disciples.

Reflection Questions

1. Do you know people who primarily live life for the future? Do you know people who primarily live life out of the past? Which are you more like?
2. Do you know people who primary live life in fear? Do you also know people who primary live life with hope? Which are you more like?
3. Have there been occasions when you were aware of dangers or risks but you acted in a way that did not let fear dominate your actions? What was your motivation?
4. How do you experience the presence of the Holy Spirit in your own life?
5. Have there been times when the Holy Spirit seemed to be present in a dramatic way and times when the Spirit has been gently present to you… as gentle as your own breath?
6. How has God sent Jesus into the world? If you are sent in that same way, what does that mean for you?
7. Can you take time now to talk with God about your awareness of God’s presence in your life, your desire to be an instrument of peace and reconciliation for another, or the fear that keeps you locked up?

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