A Lectio Divina Approach to the Sunday Liturgy



Pentecost, Year A – May 15, 2005


“Receive the Holy Spirit”



Acts 2:1-11 // I Cor 12:3b-7, 12-13 // Jn 20:19-23






Terns are aquatic birds related to sea gulls. They have a more slender body and bill, smaller feet, a long, deeply forked tail, and a more graceful flight. The following experience of Carolyn White, a Maryknoll Sister assigned in the picturesque Marshall Islands, is about these fascinating birds flying over a lagoon at sunset (cf. MARYKNOLL magazine, November 2003, p. 5) and how they have imaged in her the presence of the Holy Spirit.


On a small island in the Marshalls one evening, I sat looking over the lagoon with the setting sun behind the trees to my left. White fairy terns were diving for their supper. When they rose from the water with a splash, the sun struck their glistening bodies with a blaze of glory. I was stunned. It set me wondering if there had been some original connection between two of the symbols for the Holy Spirit – the white dove or tern and the Pentecostal tongues of fire.


The celebration of the feast of Pentecost helps us delve more deeply into the meaning and presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives. The Gospel reading of this year’s Pentecost celebration underlines the ineffable reality that the Holy Spirit flows from Jesus Christ, the glorified Risen Lord, as his Easter gift and as the power that propels the missionary expansion of the Church.


The great liturgical theologian, Odo Casel, underlines the intimate link between the gift of the Holy Spirit and the divine saving plan centered on Christ and brought about by the Trinitarian persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Perspicaciously, he comments on the Easter-Pentecostal event: “Today we celebrate the glorious ending of the great festal season and at the same time its richest unfolding, a sacred mystery in itself. When our Lord Jesus Christ, God and man, died and rose again, God’s plan of salvation was fulfilled … In Christ the Trinity and the human race meet. Redeemed humanity can speak the same words to the Father as those uttered by the Risen Christ: I have risen and am now with you. Christ was sanctified and consecrated so that we too might be sanctified in truth. The light of the Holy Spirit has now completely irradiated him … And so at Whitsunday/Pentecost Sunday we do not honor the third person of the Godhead apart from the other two; we honor the threefold God who sanctifies and divinizes the Church through the gift of the Holy Spirit dwelling in the Church and in every soul … We celebrate the completion of the work of our redemption: God as gift, the wonderful messianic gift from above. The Spirit is the gift of God and of Christ to the Church, through which it becomes the bride of Christ and reigns with the Holy Trinity. And all this is the result of the cross.”


The Easter gift of the Holy Spirit, however, is the principle of the Church’s mission. According to the biblical scholar, Neal Flanagan: “The disciples receive the Holy Spirit at this second coming of Jesus: the eschaton, the final era, is now; future is present. In Jn 7:39, the Spirit had not yet been given, since Jesus was not yet glorified. On the cross, Jesus, manifesting the nature of God, which is love, delivers over the spirit (Jn 19:30), symbolized immediately afterward by the flow of the sacramental symbols of blood and water. And now, at his first encounter with the believing community, he breathes the Spirit again as he celebrates the re-creation of God’s people. Simultaneously, he sends out these disciples just as the Father had sent him (Jn 20:21). His mission becomes theirs; his work is placed in their hands. And that mission, that work, is to manifest God who is love – in their words and deeds. Through them now, enlivened by the Spirit, will the presence of God become known and seen and felt in the world.”


Indeed, the giving of the Holy Spirit to the Easter community of Christian disciples behind closed doors on the day of the Lord’s resurrection reaches a climactic point and attains a more public and expansive character on the day of Pentecost, the feast that takes place fifty days after Easter. According to the authors of the Days of the Lord, vol. 3: “Pentecost is the crowning finale of the celebration of the Lord’s resurrection, which lasts throughout Easter time and ends with the pouring out of the Spirit over the apostles and in the Church … Why then was it necessary to wait fifty days after Easter for the outpouring of the Spirit? Granted, the communication of the Spirit to the first disciples and the Church cannot be separated from the paschal event. John knows this. He reports that, on the evening of that first day of the week, when the Lord appeared to the disciples, 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’ (cf. Jn 20:19-23). But, on that day, the disciples were in a house where all the doors were locked. At Pentecost, the Spirit made them open the doors, speaking without fear to the people who gathered as a noise like a strong driving wind filled the whole house (cf. Acts 2:1-11). This was a public event. On this fiftieth day was celebrated the feast of Weeks – Sabu’ot – a commemoration of all the covenants, from Noah to Sinai. One can therefore see the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on this day as the solemn promulgation of the new covenant and the birth of the Church. Shrouded in the secrecy of its paschal baptism, where the Spirit brought it to maturity, the Church blossoms on Pentecost, and it is quite clear that the fruits of the Lord’s Passover surpass the promise of the buds.


The marvelous event of the original Pentecost with its recreating energy and unifying force should be replicated in our lives and experienced by the peoples, cultures and nations of the here and now. Harold Buetow asserts: “Through the ministry of the Church, whenever we receive the gift of the Holy Spirit’s action in our lives we experience a little pentecost. Little pentecosts happen whenever we use the special gifts gently given us by the Spirit to serve all the other members of the community of humankind. They happen whenever we cooperate with God’s inspiration to bring peace, to unify our parish, to do a good deed, to help a needy neighbor, to think kindly thoughts of others, or to allow God to forgive our sins. Only when we cooperate with our little pentecosts can we have the wonderful experiences of the first Christian Pentecost. Then we may look to enabling better communication between those with wrinkled skin on their bent frames, on the one hand, and bearded youth with ragged shorts, on the other, and between staunch conservatives and radical liberals. Then we will dynamically share our faith and our joy. And, if some say we are drunk, as they did of the Apostles on the first Christian Pentecost (in the next few verses of the Acts of the Apostles), we can with St. Peter remind them that it is still early in the morning of our new life in the Spirit.”






A.     When the Risen Jesus breathes upon us and says, “Receive the Holy Spirit”, what is our response? Are we receptive to the Holy Spirit, the Easter gift?


B.     How does the Easter mandate, “As the Father has sent me, so I send you” affect us personally and influence our lives effectively?


C.     How do we make “little pentecosts” happen in our lives? Do we cooperate with the Holy Spirit in making the original Christian Pentecost a basic and lived reality in the here and now? How do we contribute to the missionary impetus of the Church?






Leader: Father, all-powerful and ever-living God,

we do well always and everywhere to give you thanks.

Today you sent the Holy Spirit

on those marked out to be your children

by sharing the life of your only Son,

and so you brought the paschal mystery to its completion.

Today we celebrate the great beginning of your Church

when the Holy Spirit made known to all peoples the one true God,

and created from the many languages of man

one voice to profess one faith.

The joy of the resurrection renews the whole world,

while the choirs of heaven sing for ever to your glory.


Assembly: Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of power and might,

heaven and earth are full of your glory.

Hosanna in the highest.

Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.

Hosanna in the highest.






            The following is the bread of the living Word that will nourish us throughout the week. Please memorize it.


“Jesus said to them, ‘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.’” (Jn 20:21-22)






A.     ACTION PLAN: Pray for the healing of all nations and for peace in the world through a renewed outpouring of the Holy Spirit, the Easter gift. Make a “little pentecost” happen in today’s distressed situation and thus contribute to a healing and recreating experience of the original Pentecost. Pray for those who are preparing to receive, and those who have received, the sacrament of Confirmation that they may truly experience the power of the Holy Spirit in their lives.


B.     ACTION PLAN: That we may participate more meaningfully in the saving mission to go and make disciples of all nations, and in view of a more meaningful Year of the Eucharist, make an effort to spend an hour in Eucharistic Adoration. Visit the PDDM WEB site (www.pddm.us) for the EUCHARISTIC ADORATION THROUGH THE LITURGICAL YEAR (# 25): A Weekly Pastoral Tool for the Year of the Eucharist.








Prepared by Sr. Mary Margaret Tapang  PDDM






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