In this last week of the Easter season, our Mass readings are already preparing us for the Solemnity of Pentecost this coming Sunday. In the Communion Antiphon for today (May 27, 2020), we hear Jesus’ words from the Gospel of John proclaimed: “When the Paraclete comes, whom I will send you, the Spirit of Truth who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness to me, and you also will bear witness, says the Lord, alleluia.” (Jn 15:26-27)
Pentecost traditionally has been proclaimed as the birthday of the Church. Just as Easter celebrates new life, Pentecost is a call to become aware of the new life we have received through our walk with Jesus from the cross, to the tomb, to the post-Resurrection visits, to the Ascension, to the upper room with the disciples.
I always have been moved by the image of the disciples gathered in the upper room as I listen to the Pentecost Mass readings proclaimed. “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.”(Acts 2:1-11) The strong driving wind and the tongues of fire resting upon them is like a wake-up call. Something awakens my heart. Something brings me to realize, finally, that I am one of the disciples in the upper room. I too speak in a different tongue and am anointed by the Spirit to use my gifts in continuing Jesus’ mission of gifting hope, peace, and love to the world.
In the Gospel reading, Jesus appears to the disciples with this greeting: ‘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.’ ” (Jn 20:19-23) Like the disciples, I rejoice that I have seen the Lord and received the Holy Spirit. I am being sent forth, clothed with the gift of peace, and I am enlivened to continue gifting Jesus’ mission to the world.
My favorite image of Pentecost is the flame, the “tongues of fire” which parted and came to rest on each of the disciples. I once wrote the following poem to describe the Pentecost experience for me.
“The Flame Lives On”
The Spirit invites me once again
to that holy Upper Room of long ago
where driving winds gush to and fro
and the Spirit’s purifying presence descends upon me.
I sit in utter amazement
of this most awesome event:
What breathtaking Presence!
What fiery Luminescence!
What overshadowing Mystery!
I truly hear:
The peaceful breath of the Spirit.
I truly see:
The Flame of the Spirit illuminating
my heart and those around me.
The Holy Flame draws me inward
gifting me with only
a faint glimpse of the Face of God.
But this powerful Flame also draws me outward
and I am called to share
this glimpse of God with others.
all are awakened
to the glory of Jesus standing among them.
proclaiming greetings of peace,
breathing the Spirit’s Life-Force upon them,
and inviting all to continue his mission on earth.
May each flame on which I gaze,
may each breath I raise,
renew me to proclaim
“The Flame Lives on!”
Happy Birthday as we prepare to celebrate the feast of Pentecost. May the new life we have received enable the flame to live on within our hearts as we continue Jesus’ mission of gifting hope, peace, and love to the world.
By Sister Priscilla Cohen, OSB