As we celebrate the Solemnity of Pentecost, Franciscan Friar Fr. Paul Gallagher reflects on the Gospel for Sunday, June 5, 2022. The content is 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 5 2022 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. Photo: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Pentecost,_from_the_Colegio_de_Jesus,_Coimbra,_by_Josefa_de_Ayala,_c._1660-1670_-_Museu_Nacional_de_Machado_de_Castro_-_Coimbra,_Portugal_-_DSC09998.jpg
There are three possible gospel readings for the feast of Pentecost. There is one for the vigil mass, John 7:37-39, and two options for the Sunday mass: either John 14:15-16, 23b-26 or John 20:19-23.
On the last and greatest day of the feast, Jesus stood up and exclaimed, “Let anyone who thirsts come to me and drink. As scripture says: ‘Rivers of living water will flow from within him who believes in me.'” He said this in reference to the Spirit that those who came to believe in him were to receive. There was, of course, no Spirit yet, because Jesus had not yet been glorified.
John 14:15-16, 23b-26.
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.
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.”
There are scripture texts that are associated with the feast of Pentecost which are very different from each other. Luke in Acts of the Apostles described the descent of the Holy Spirit on the disciples in cosmic signs of wind and fire (Acts 2:1-11). (This will be the first reading for those who attend Mass on Sunday.) In this account, Jesus has already ascended into heaven and the disciples have elected a replacement for Judas. When the Holy Spirit descends, it seems to energize the disciples so that they can go out and begin to be effective witnesses to others.
The third possible gospel for this feast, the one from John 20, is the one most frequently chosen for Sunday, and is the one likely to be heard by most US Catholics this Sunday. It is from John’s gospel, and it presents another expression of the Holy Spirit coming to the disciples. Here Jesus breathes on them a new breath of life. In this version, the presence of the Holy Spirit seems to bring them peace, and they are commissioned to forgive sins.
- How do you experience the presence of the Holy Spirit in your own life? Have there been times when the Holy Spirit seems to be present in dramatic or cosmic ways? Are there also times when the Holy Spirit is present in the very breath of your life?
- Do you personally prefer to think of the Spirit as present in one of these ways more so than the other? Do you know people who feel differently than you?
- Rather than looking at the descriptions of the Holy Spirit coming upon the community as being separate and somewhat opposing views, what happens if you look at them as different expressions of the same event? What happens to your understanding of the Holy Spirit’s presence in the early disciples, and in the life of the church today, and in your life?
- In the third gospel text (John 20:19-23), why do you think Jesus says, “whose sins you retain are retained.” Isn’t that presumed when he says, “whose sins you forgive are forgiven them?”
- Is it possible that one of the reasons we do not experience the power of God in our lives is that we have not exercised the power given us to forgive others?