Jun 9, 2019: Pentecost Sunday (C)

Introduction

The Greek word Pentecost means “fiftieth day.” Fifty days after Easter Sunday, we celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit upon the apostles and their followers, and the beginning of their earthly ministry to make disciples of all nations.

The descent of the Holy Spirit ushered in a new era for the people of God; as such, Pentecost also celebrates the birth of our Church.  From that point on, the apostles carried the message of Christ to the whole world.

In addition to honoring the coming of the Holy Spirit, Pentecost is the festival celebration of our New Covenant with God; it’s also the last Sunday of Easter.

1st Reading – Acts 2:1-11

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.

Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven
staying in Jerusalem.
At this sound, they gathered in a large crowd,
but they were confused
because each one heard them speaking in his own language.
They were astounded, and in amazement they asked,
“Are not all these people who are speaking Galileans?
Then how does each of us hear them in his native language?
We are Parthians, Medes, and Elamites,
inhabitants of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia,
Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia,
Egypt and the districts of Libya near Cyrene,
as well as travelers from Rome,
both Jews and converts to Judaism, Cretans and Arabs,
yet we hear them speaking in our own tongues
of the mighty acts of God.”

Today’s first reading is the well-known Pentecostal narrative.  The setting is Jerusalem, fifty days after Christ’s resurrection and ten days after his ascension.

Saint Luke describes for us the dawning of the age of the Holy Spirit, which will be the subject for the rest of the book of Acts.  The Spirit instructs the early missioners, is the driving force in proclaiming the message of salvation, is responsible for conversions to the new faith, gives strength in persecution, is the inspiration for Saint Paul’s journeys, and is responsible for the inclusion of non-Jews in the early Church.

When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled,

Pentecost originally was not a Christian feast, but a Jewish one.  Originally a harvest festival to celebrate God’s generosity, it became the feast of Shavuot, which was fifty days after Passover, the preeminent feast that celebrated the Angel of Death passing over the Jewish homes in Egypt during one of the plagues.  Because it was celebrated a day more than “a week of weeks” after Passover, it was also called the Feast of Weeks.  As with the other two pilgrim festivals (Passover and the Feast of Booths), it eventually took on historical importance, commemorating the giving of the Law at Sinai.

Just as the gospel accounts reinterpret the significance of the Passover meal with Jesus’ instituting the Eucharist, so the Act of the Apostles reinterprets the significance of the Jewish feast of Pentecost, making it a celebration of the gift of the Spirit to the Church.

they were all in one place together.

Just before he ascended, Jesus told the disciples: Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:4-5).

Following this instruction, the disciples returned from the site of the ascension in Galilee to the Upper Room in Jerusalem.

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,

The symbols of driving wind, sound, fire, and tongues would not have been strange to Jews who knew their Scriptures.  These external manifestations were phenomena associated with a theophany, an experience of God.  For example, thunder accompanied God’s revelation at Sinai (Exodus 19:16); God spoke to Job from the whirlwind (Job 38:1), and to Moses from the burning bush (Exodus 3:2).

which parted and came to rest on each one of them.

Notice that the fire rests on each person, indicating that the Spirit has come to dwell in each person.

The text does not specify exactly who was in the room.  Previously, in Acts 1:15, Luke described one hundred twenty who had gathered, but later, in Acts 2:14, only the twelve apostles are mentioned.

Contrary to some translations, the Greek does not use gender-specific language, so we cannot say that it was a gathering of exclusively men; in fact, the later reference to the Joel passage in Acts 2:17-18 suggests it was not.

And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit

Recall the words of John the Baptist in Luke 3:16: I baptize you with water. But one who is more powerful than I will come, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.

Many see the tongues of fire and the infusion of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost as the fulfillment of John’s words.

and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim.

The same Greek word (glōssa) is used for the tongues of fire that appeared above each one and for the foreign tongues that were subsequently spoken.

It is unclear whether the reference here is to communicative speech (“foreign tongues”) or ecstatic speech called glossolalia.  As we will see, the people who came to see what happened did understand their bold proclamations, suggesting that it was communicative speech.

Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven staying in Jerusalem.

A startling change in setting from the confines of the house to the surrounding area.

All Jewish males over the age of twelve were expected to try to celebrate the three pilgrimage festivals in Jerusalem, one of which was Pentecost; this explains why devout Jews from every nation were in Jerusalem at this time.

At this sound, they gathered in a large crowd,

The loud noise of wind mentioned earlier draws a crowd.

but they were confused because each one heard them speaking in his own language.

The root of the word translated as “confused” is the same as the word used to describe the effect of the tower of Babel (Genesis 11:1-9), leading some commentators to believe that this event is the countertype of the confusion of tongues that occurred after the attempt to construct the tower.

When humans raise themselves up to God to “make a name” for themselves [as at Babel], they are dispersed and confused in language.  When God’s Spirit comes down upon them, divisions are broken down.  This remains a particular mandate for the contemporary Church in an increasingly fragmented world.  [John R. Donahue (2002), Hearing the Word of God, Year B, 80]

This interpretation suggests that the human race has been reunited and all are now gathered into the reign of God.

They were astounded, and in amazement they asked, Are not all these people who are speaking Galileans? Then how does each of us hear them in his own native language?

Note the change in attitude of the crowd: from confused, to astounded, to amazed.  They knew those speaking were Galileans, presumably because of some feature of their speech.  Yet the hearers were able to understand the message in their own dialect.

We are Parthians, Medes, and Elamites, inhabitants of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the districts of Libya near Cyrene,

A geographical sweep more or less from east to west, which gives the impression of universality.

as well as travelers from Rome,

Breaking with the geographical sweep, Luke also includes the center of the Roman empire.

both Jews and converts to Judaism, Cretans and Arabs,

As a conclusion to the list, western-most and eastern-most.

yet we hear them speaking in our own tongues of the mighty acts of God.”

The exact nature of this marvel is less significant than its meaning.  It was clearly a manifestation of the universal presence and power of the Spirit.

Just before his ascension, Jesus told the apostles: You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.  (Acts 1:8)  Here we see that the coming of the Spirit has instant effect and the apostles immediately preach the gospel to all nations, fulfilling this promise.

Thus the Church was born.

2nd Reading – 1 Corinthians 12:3b-7, 12-13

Brothers and sisters:
No one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit.

There are different kinds of spiritual gifts but the same Spirit;
there are different forms of service but the same Lord;
there are different workings but the same God
who produces all of them in everyone.
To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit
is given for some benefit.

As a body is one though it has many parts,
and all the parts of the body, though many, are one body,
so also Christ.
For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body,
whether Jews or Greeks, slaves or free persons,
and we were all given to drink of one Spirit.

This reading consists of three different yet related themes: an acclamation of the lordship of Jesus, a defense of diversity within the community, and the body metaphor that characterizes that diversity.

Brothers and sisters: No one can say, Jesus is Lord,except by the Holy Spirit.

The acclamation “Jesus is Lord” is rich in both Jewish and early Christian meaning.  “Lord” (kýrios) was the official title of the Roman emperor.  To proclaim Jesus as Lord was to set up a rivalry between the followers of Jesus and the ruling political authority.  Since most (if not all) Roman emperors claimed to be somehow divine, this rivalry was both political and religious.  Furthermore, because the Roman government was involved in the death of Jesus, such a challenging claim would place those who made it at great risk for their lives.

The word “Lord” is also used in the Septuagint, the Greek version of the First Testament, as a substitute for God’s personal name.  To use this title for Jesus is to ascribe to him the attributes of God.  It is important to note the acclamation uses the name of the man Jesus, not his religious title, Christ.  It is this man who is placed on the same level as the God of ancient Israel.

Therefore, this is a cry of faith, a testimony to the divine character of this man from Galilee.  No one would make such a bold claim were it not for the promptings of the Holy Spirit.

“If no one can say that Jesus is Lord except by the Spirit, what can we say about those who do name His name but do not have the Spirit? Here we have to understand that Paul was not talking about catechumens who had not yet been baptized but about believers and unbelievers.” [Saint John Chrysostom (A.D. 392), Homilies on the First Epistle to the Corinthians 29,3]

There are different kinds of spiritual gifts but the same Spirit; there are different forms of service but the same Lord; there are different workings but the same God who produces all of them in everyone.

In Acts, as the tongues of fire appeared over each person’s head, we understood that the Spirit dwells in each person.  Now we learn from Paul that the indwelling of the Spirit is a gift not just to the individual, but to the community.

In sketching the diversity within that community, Paul uses two triads: gifts / ministries / works, and Spirit / Lord / God.  Although the latter triad suggests a trinitarian perspective that associates one set of functions with each of the divine persons, it is clear from the next verse that all the activities are manifestations of the Spirit.

The Corinthians had inquired as to which gift of the Holy Spirit was greater than another, out of concern about their own image and status.  They seem to have developed a disproportionate esteem for certain ecstatic and charismatic phenomena, especially speaking in tongues, to the detriment of order in the liturgy.

Paul undermines any spiritual elitism by emphasizing that all gifts have the same origin and therefore the same value, and reminding them that they had all made the same baptismal confession (Romans 10:9).

To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit.

These gifts are not given for the self-aggrandizement of the one who received them.  All were given for the benefit of the entire community.

“Each person receives a gift so that, governing his life by divine constraints, he may be useful both to himself and to others while presenting an example of good behavior.” [The Ambrosiaster (between A.D. 366 – 384), Commentaries on Thirteen Pauline Epistles]

As a body is one though it has many parts, and all the parts of the body, though many, are one body, so also Christ.

The diversity found within the community is compared to the complexity of the human body.  Each part has its unique function, but all parts work for the good of the whole, and each part is dependent upon the others.

The Church is the Body of Christ, and it too is formed of many different members which are to work together for the benefit of the whole. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, slaves or free persons, 

In this community, there are no more stratifications, whether religious (Jew or Greek) or social (slave or free).

and we were all given to drink of one Spirit.

No one member of the body is either superior or inferior to any other; all are partakers of the same graces of the same Spirit.

From Eucharistic Prayer Three at Mass: Lord, grant that we may be filled with the Holy Spirit and become one body, one spirit in Christ.

Alternative 2nd Reading – Romans 8:8-17

Brothers and sisters:
Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
But you are not in the flesh;
on the contrary, you are in the spirit,
if only the Spirit of God dwells in you.
Whoever does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.
But if Christ is in you,
although the body is dead because of sin,
the spirit is alive because of righteousness.
If the Spirit of the one who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you,
the one who raised Christ from the dead
will give life to your mortal bodies also,
through his Spirit that dwells in you.
Consequently, brothers and sisters,
we are not debtors to the flesh,
to live according to the flesh.
For if you live according to the flesh, you will die,
but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body,
you will live.

For those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.
For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear,
but you received a Spirit of adoption,
through whom we cry, “Abba, Father!”
The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit
that we are children of God,
and if children, then heirs,
heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ,
if only we suffer with him
so that we may also be glorified with him.

In today’s second reading, Paul tell us that Christian life is lived in the Spirit and, empowered by the Spirit, it is destined for glory.

Brothers and sisters: Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.  But you are not in the flesh; on the contrary, you are in the spirit, if only the Spirit of God dwells in you.

Paul contrasts two ways of living: in the flesh and in the spirit. By “in the flesh,” he is not referring to bodily or sexual behavior.  He is speaking of human nature in all its limitations, limitations that sometimes incline one away from God and the things of God. On the other hand, life in the spirit is attuned to God.  It is, in fact, that dimension of the human being that can be joined to the very Spirit of God.

The goal of human life is to please God, yet it cannot be attained by one who is dominated by concern for self, or “in the flesh.”

“The apostle does not reject the substance of flesh but shows that the Spirit must be infused into it.” [Saint Irenaeus (A.D. 180-199), Against Heresies, 5,10,2]

Whoever does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.

Note how Paul interchanges the “Spirit of God,” the “Spirit of Christ,” and “Christ” as he tries to express the multi-faceted reality of participation in the divine life.

But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the spirit is alive because of righteousness.

Here, Paul equates Christ and Spirit and plays on the meanings of the Greek word pneuma, which means “breath” or “spirit.” Without the Spirit, the source of Christian vitality, the human body is like a corpse because of the influence of sin, but in union with Christ the human spirit lives, for the Spirit resuscitates the dead human being through the gift of uprightness.

“Paul is not saying here that the Spirit is Christ, but is showing rather that anyone who has the Spirit has Christ as well. For where the Spirit is, there Christ is also. Wherever one person of the Trinity is present, the whole Trinity is present too. For the Trinity is undivided and has a perfect unity in itself.” [Saint John Chrysostom (A.D. 391), Homilies on the Epistle to the Romans, 13]

If the Spirit of the one who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you,

The Spirit is the manifestation of the Father’s presence and power in the world, since the resurrection of Christ and through it.

the one who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also, through his Spirit that dwells in you.

The future tense refers to the role of the Spirit in the end-time resurrection of Christians.  Although sin can still exact physical death as a punishment, it cannot quench the spirit that lives because of righteousness.  Therefore, just as Christ conquered death and lives anew, so those joined to Christ will share in his victory and enjoy new life.  Sin and death are not the ultimate victors.

Consequently, brothers, we are not debtors to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh, you will die, but if by the spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.

Paul does not deny that Christians are under the same sentence of death as are all other people.  However, he contends that sin and death are not the ultimate victors.

“It is right and clear that we are not obliged to follow Adam, who lived according to the flesh, and who by being the first to sin left us an inheritance of sin (see Genesis 3:13-19). On the contrary, we ought rather to obey the law of Christ who, as was demonstrated above, has redeemed us spiritually from death. We are debtors to Him who has washed our spirits, which had been sullied by carnal sins, in baptism, who has justified us and who has made us children of God (see Galatians 3:24-26).” [The Ambrosiaster (between A.D. 366-384), Commentaries on Thirteen Pauline Epistles Romans 8:12]

For those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.

As far back as the traditions found in the book of Deuteronomy, Israelites believed they were children of God (Deuteronomy 14:1); however, in that earlier tradition, the idea of children of God was associated with obedience to the law, not being “led by the Spirit.”

Here we see the opposite: Those who are children of God are so not because of obedience to the law, but because they are led by the Spirit.

“If you put your confidence in baptism to the point that you neglect your behavior after it, Paul says that, even if you are baptized, if you are not led by the Spirit afterward you will lose the dignity bestowed on you and the honor of your adoption. This is why he does not talk about those who received the Spirit in the past but rather about those who are being led by the Spirit now.” [Saint John Chrysostom (ca. A.D. 391), Homilies on the Epistle to the Romans, 14].

For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you received a spirit of adoption,

Paul is playing on the meanings of pneuma (Greek), which is translated as “spirit,” by using three distinct senses of the word:

The “Spirit of God” is a divine reality, which activates, or compels us, to do God’s will.

The “spirit of slavery” is a disposition or a mentality.  Slaves obey blindly, out of fear, without knowing their master’s plan. Vitalized and filled by God’s Spirit, the Christian cannot possess the attitude of a slave, because he freely commits himself to God and submits to his plan.

The “spirit of adoption” is a relationship. This obviously doesn’t refer to legal adoption, but God has taken us unto himself with the status of a child, rather than of a slave (who belonged to the household but had no family rights or inheritance).

through which we cry, “Abba, Father!”

The Aramaic “Abba” is a familial, colloquial term of intimacy for one’s father.  In modern terms, it might be translated to “Dad” or “Daddy.” Having been taken into the family of God, we enjoy the status of being his children, and as such, have the right to call God “Father,” or “Daddy.”

“We have received the Spirit to enable us to know the one to whom we pray, our real Father, the one and only Father of all, that is, the one who like a Father educates us for salvation and does away with fear.” [Saint Clement of Alexandria (post A.D. 202), Stromateis, 2.78].

The Spirit itself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God,

According to the law, two witnesses were required to corroborate the truth of a story.  Paul is making bold claims here, so he calls on witnesses to confirm the truth.  His two witnesses are the Spirit of God and our own spirit, which together testify to our status as children of God.

“The Spirit of adoption … bears witness and assures our spirits that we are children of God after we have passed from the spirit of slavery and come under the Spirit of adoption, when all fear has departed. We no longer act out of fear of punishment but do everything out of love for the Father. It is right too that the Spirit of God should be said to bear witness with our spirits and not with our souls, because the spirit is our better part.” [Origin (post A.D. 244), Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans].

and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ,

If we are true children of God, then we are also heirs.  But heirs to what?  Certainly heirs to heaven and its rewards, but perhaps (although the text is not explicit) also heirs to the very inheritance to which Jesus is heir – the glory of God in the coming reign of God.

if only we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.

Whatever our inheritance may be, it is only gained through suffering.  It is our complete union with Jesus, including his passion, that entitles us to privileges.  As his co-heirs, we must walk in his footsteps.

“Here ‘suffer with him’ does not mean that we should sympathize and come to the aid of the sufferer, as it usually does in everyday parlance. Christ did not suffer in order to get attention, nor did He undergo weakness in order to gain the sympathy of those who felt sorry for Him. To suffer with Christ means to endure the same sufferings that He was forced to suffer by the Jews because He preached the gospel. … If we suffer with Him we shall be worthy to be glorified with Him as well. This glory is the reward of our sufferings and is not to be regarded as a free gift. The free gift is that we have received remission of our former sins.” [Diodore of Tarsus (ca. A.D. 345), Pauline Commentary from the Greek Church].

Gospel – 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.”

In order to convey Pentecost as an event connected with Easter, today’s gospel reading is John’s account of Jesus’ first appearance to the disciples, the night of the first Easter.  (This was also our gospel reading for the Second Sunday of Easter.)

On the evening of that first day of the week,

This is the first Easter Sunday, the day Jesus rose from the dead.  John wants to make it clear that this is the apostles’ first encounter with the risen Christ. Every resurrection account which is dated in the gospels occurs on a Sunday.

when the doors were locked, where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews,

After what had happened to Jesus, they feared for their lives.  Their triumphant entry into Jerusalem with Jesus a mere week before had quickly turned to betrayal, pain, torment, and death.

To make matters worse, they had been absent when Jesus needed them most.  They were grieving his death and dealing with painful regret, all the while knowing that the authorities who had killed Jesus could easily do the same to them.

Jesus came and stood in their midst

The locked doors also underscore the mysterious character of Jesus’ risen body, which is not impeded by material obstacles.

and said to them, “Peace be with you.”

Shalom.”  This wish of peace, the common greeting of the day, is also a prayer for the eschatological blessings of health, prosperity, and all good things.

When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. 

The showing of the wounds demonstrates that the Risen One is also the Crucified One. It was not only Christ’s spirit that was resurrected; his tortured body is also present.  This answers the question of “Where have they put him?” (John 20:2).

The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.

The apostles’ fear changed to joy.

This is the fulfillment of a promise that Jesus made to them at the Last Supper:  Are you discussing with one another what a said, ‘A little while and you will not see me, and again a little while and you will see me?’ Amen, amen, I say to you, you will weep and mourn, while the world rejoices; you will grieve, but your grief will become joy. (John 16:19-20)

This kind of intense joy is one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit, a joy characteristic of all Jesus’ followers, as Jesus had explained during their last meal together.

Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you.

Jesus introduces the bestowal of the Holy Spirit with a second salutation of “shalom.

As the Father has sent me,

Jesus was sent to reconcile people with God and had the authority to forgive sins.

so I send you.”

Sent with the full authority of God.  “Apostle” means “one who is sent.”

How will this handful of peasants have the power to carry on Jesus’ mission to the entire world?  Only through the power of the Holy Spirit.

And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.

There is a beautiful play on the Hebrew word ruah which is the same for “breath,” “wind,” and “spirit.” Breathing on others may seem strange to us, but the apostles would have been familiar with the long tradition of God doing this in Scripture.  It is reminiscent of the creation of Adam (Genesis 2:7) and the restoration of Israel after the Exile (Ezekiel 37:9).

This is one of John’s many allusions to the book of Genesis. By breathing in this way we are reminded that the risen Lord has the power to create, or in this case, re-create.  Just as Adam’s life came from God, so now the disciples’ new spiritual life comes from Jesus.

Even now, the Holy Spirit continues to breathe life over the universe, animating and propelling people to leadership, stimulating enthusiasm — in short, it makes all things new.  Just as the apostles’ fear in the Upper Room was turned to joy, so the Holy Spirit makes it possible for ordinary mortals to confess Jesus as Lord before hostile audiences.

Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.”

Within this new spiritual order, Jesus gave the Church the authority to forgive sins even as he did — or, better said, to transmit the forgiveness that only God can bestow.

Alternative Gospel Reading – John 14:15-16, 23b-26

Jesus said to his 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.
Those who do not love me do 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 whom the Father will send in my name,
will teach you everything
and remind you of all that I told you.”

This gospel reading contains several major theological themes.  It emphasizes the link between love and obedience, it speaks of the presence of God with the one who loves, and it provides us with a partial view of the internal relationships within the Trinity.

Jesus said to his disciples: “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.

Love is the fundamental message of Jesus.  However, he calls for a demanding love, one that is self-sacrificing as was the love of Jesus himself.  Only those who follow his example and obey his directives can be said to truly love.

Obedience is not the requirement for love, it is the consequence of it.

And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate

The Holy Spirit is “another” Advocate because Christ himself has been the first.  Some translations use the term Paraclete instead of Advocate; “Paraclete” is a legal term that had been taken into Jewish use, signifying an advocate/ helper/ mediator.

to be with you always.

The Holy Spirit will not leave them as Jesus is about to, but will remain with them forever.

Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him,

Love is the fundamental message of Jesus.  However, he calls for a demanding kind of love, one that is as self-sacrificing as was the love of Jesus himself.  Only those who follow his example and obey his directives can be said to truly love, and those who love as Jesus did will in turn be loved by his Father.

Such love is more than an emotional response.  It is a state of being, a disposition within which one lives.

and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him.

The dwelling Jesus and his Father make with those who love like this is an abiding dwelling (monē), not just a transitory state.

Whoever does not love me does not keep my words;

Those who do not keep the word of Jesus will not be so blessed.

Note that it is lack of love and obedience that precludes the world from having a part in this manifestation of Father and Son.

yet the word you hear is not mine but that of the Father who sent me.

Since the word of Jesus is really the word of the one who sent him, to reject that word is to reject both Jesus and his Father.  They will not dwell with such a person.

I have told you this while I am with you. The Advocate, the Holy Spirit that the Father will send in my name

Like Jesus, the Holy Spirit is sent by the Father, but the Spirit is sent in the name of Jesus, not in the name of the Father.

he will teach you everything and remind you of all that I told you.”

The Spirit is not a substitute for Jesus but is an emissary, participating in the mission of Jesus by reminding the disciples the things Jesus taught them.  To so remember is more than an intellectual act; it is a call to bear witness to the word of God.

After Christ’s ascension, it will be the function of the Holy Spirit to complete the revelation
of Christ by enlightening the Church concerning the true and full meaning of what Jesus had done and said. This function was not completed when the New Testament was written but continues today as the Church continues to guide and teach.

While this passage cannot provide us with a complete trinitarian teaching, it does offer us some insight into the mystery of God.  There is definitely an intimate relationship between Jesus and his Father.  The very metaphor of father, which is used to speak of God, is evidence of this.  Furthermore, he and his Father together dwell with faithful believers. Despite this intimacy, they are distinct from each other.  Jesus was sent by his Father.  Jesus proclaims the word of his Father, and his Father sends the Holy Spirit in his name.

Connections and Themes

Pentecost.  The Christian community has been living in a peculiar “in-between” time since the ascension of the Lord. Today it celebrates the dramatic inbreaking of the time of fulfillment.  The feast celebrates the fullness of the Spirit and the great gathering together of nations; it also brings the Easter season to its conclusion.  Like the finale of a majestic symphony, the readings for today recapitulate many of the themes that appeared throughout the Easter season: christology, trinitarian theology, reign of God, repentance, salvation, mission, universality.  All are brought together as we are brought together into the body of Christ.

In the fullness of the Spirit.  At last the plan of salvation has been brought to conclusion.  The risen Lord has been exalted to his rightful place next to God, and he has sent his Spirit to fill the earth with God’s power.  The world is charged with divine energy: tongues are loosed, and speech overflows its linguistic constraints; charismatic gifts flood the valleys of human habitation; barred doors are burst open, and frightened hearts are calmed.  The Spirit of the Lord fills the whole world.

A new kind of law.  What is given in the new covenant with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit far surpasses what was given in the old covenant.  Even though Israel received the Ten Commandments at Sinai — the event being celebrated with Jewish Pentecost — the rest of the Old Testament story clearly shows that the nation failed to keep them.  The lesson we learn from the Scriptures is that the Law by itself is not enough.  Although the people know the Law, they cannot keep the Law on their own power. This is why the prophets foretold that God would establish a new covenant with a new kind of law: a law that would be written on people’s hearts (Jeremiah 31:31-33, Ezekiel 36:26-27).

With the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, we are given a supernatural strength to rise above our weak, fallen human nature and walk in God’s ways.  We are prompted by the Spirit to love as Christ loved, turned away from sin, and given the power to fulfill the law.  The prophecies are fulfilled.  When we allow the Holy Spirit to change our hearts of stone and permeate our lives, we can truly say, “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me” (Galatians 2:20).

The great gathering.  Once again we gather together for one reason, only to discover God has gathered us for another.  Strangers assemble to fulfill personal obligations, and they experience a phenomenon that bonds them together for life.  Individual religious devotion is swept up into communal divine revelation.  Through the Spirit of God we are reconciled to one another, and then together we spend ourselves for the common good.  Through the Spirit of God the world is renewed, the community is revitalized, and we come to know the mysterious yet all-pervasive peace of Christ.

If this has all really happened, why does our world look the same?  Why is there so much religious and ethnic rivalry?  Why do we continue to make distinctions between Jew and Gentile, slave and free, woman and man — distinctions that favor one at the expense of another?  Why is there too little peace, or comfort, or solace?  Why do we refuse to forgive or to be reconciled?  Is Pentecost merely a feast we celebrate in red vestments?  Has the face of the earth really been renewed?

The answer is yes!  Resoundingly, yes!  The Spirit has been poured forth and works wonders wherever human hearts are open to its promptings.  The earth is renewed each time rivalries are resolved; distinctions are recognized as mere expressions of diversity; peace is restored; comfort and solace are offered; forgiveness is granted.  We are immersed in the vigor of the Spirit of God; all we have to do is open ourselves to it and the reign of God will be born in our midst.

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