Franciscan Gospel Reflection: Solemnity of Pentecost 2019

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June 05, 2019

Greetings for Pentecost! There are three possible Gospel texts for the Feast of Pentecost. 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. We offer a Franciscan Gospel reflection and questions written by Fr. Paul Gallagher, OFM for your prayer on the feast itself. 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 June 9 2019. Excerpts are 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. Photos: The Church of Notre Dame, Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin

John 14:15-16, 23b-26 (For the Feast)

Jesus said to the disciples: “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always.

“Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words; yet the word you hear is not mine but that of the Father who sent me. “I have told you this while I am with you. The Advocate, the holy Spirit that the Father will send in my name–he will teach you everything and remind you of all that I told you.

Background:

This gospel returns to Jesus’ farewell address in the fourteenth chapter of John. The reading is meant to prepare the disciples for a time when Jesus will no longer be with them. The text focuses on love that motivates one to obedience. The fundamental message of Jesus is self-sacrificing love, which was the heart of both Jesus’ teaching and the way he lived his life. When one loves God is this manner, they are obedient to God, and both Jesus and God dwell with them.

The other theme found in this text in the relationship between the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit. While not a theological explanation, the text does offer some important insights. There is an intimate relationship between them, but they are distinct one from the other. The Father and the Son will dwell with the faithful, but they are distinct, for the Father has sent the Son. The Father will also send the Holy Spirit. But the Holy Spirit comes in the name of Jesus to remind them of all that Jesus has taught them. This message of reassurance would have meant a great deal to the early Christian community whose members were struggling to understand their belief in the mist of persecution from the religious and civil authorities of the day.

Reflections Questions:

1. During this season of graduations and marriages, many are experiencing the end of significant relationships and perhaps uncertainty about the future. What has been your experience of bringing significant relationships to a close?
2. As I look toward the future, I find myself thinking…
3. How does your love for others affect what you do and what you would not do?
4. If I imagined myself as one of the early disciples after the death and resurrection of Jesus, and recalled his promise to send an Advocate, I would…
5. As you hear these words of Jesus in this gospel, what desire of yours do you hear being spoken?
6. Can you take some time to speak to God about whatever it is you hear God saying to you in this text?

John 20:19-23 (For the Feast)

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.”

Background:

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 to the ways God had been present throughout the Jewish history. 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 might move against them, too. However, the presence of the risen Lord is not impeded by the physical restraint of a locked door. 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?
2. Do you know people who primarily live life in fear? Do you also know people who primary life with hope? Which are you?
3. When I think of times in my life when I took a risk…
4. Signs of the presence of the Holy Spirit’s presence in my life include…
5. If God is sending me into the world in the same way that the Father sent Jesus…
6. 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 instead of going forward?