Year B : 27 May 2012
The first day of the week, Sunday after Pasch,
day of the Resurrection, was to become the new
Sabbath and, for St John, the day of the giving
of the Holy Spirit. Pentecost, on the Jewish
Sabbath, was a day of pilgrimage in celebration
of the giving of the Law to Moses, celebrating
freedom from the slavery in Egypt. Jerusalem
is crowded. The Holy Spirit descends, according
to St Luke. Both of the evangelists write out
of the memories passed down in their community.
[Different people have different memories of
the same event]. They weave a statement not
just about the actions that take place but about
the deeper meaning of those actions as well.
Neither evangelist was aware of the other’s
work. St Luke may preserve the earliest major
expression of the presence of the Holy Spirit
in the Church, while John reflects on what the
coming of the Spirit means. Both readings are
based on (i) breath or wind, the Hebrew ruah,
which also means the Spirit, and (ii) on the
sending of the disciples. St John usually calls
them ‘disciples’. Today they are ‘sent out’:
the word ‘apostles’ means ‘those who are sent
At creation God’s spirit, his ruah, hovered
over the water. Then He breathed into ‘the man’s
nostrils the breath of life and thus the man
became a living being’ [Genesis 1,2; 2,7]. The
prophet Elijah met the Lord in the desert in
the sound of a gentle breeze [1 Kings 19,12].
Jesus gives a new kind of life by breathing
on those who are being sent out. The Spirit
is the breath of life.
The action in the gospel today
is in three steps:
1. “As the Father has sent me, so am I sending
2. “Receive the Holy Spirit”.
3. “For those whose sins you forgive, they
are forgiven; for those whose sins you retain
they are retained”.
The giving of the Spirit is framed by the other
steps to make sure we grasp its importance.
The disciples, now apostles, are being sent
forth in Christ’s name, and with the Father’s
blessing, to make known that ‘Jesus is the Christ
the Son of God’ so that men and women will ‘have
life in his name’. They will confront the world
with a choice, just as Jesus did himself: to
accept or refuse; to believe or not to believe;
to choose salvation or condemnation. It is the
nature of God to forgive, to be merciful, and
these who are sent have to embody this pardon,
to live it for the sake of others, and to make
sure that people hear and know that God is forgiveness
itself. To bring this about they will have the
Holy Spirit to help them in the challenge, that
of re-creating the world.
• Shalom means ‘peace’, but
it is a traditional greeting which can also
convey ‘Hello’, ‘Farewell’, ‘Welcome’, depending
on circumstances. Here it recalls what Jesus
said at the Last Supper before he went out to
Gethsemane: “My peace I give you. . .a peace
the world cannot give . . . do not let your
hearts be troubled or afraid”. [John 14,27]
This was his gift on parting which is now restored,
proved by him in showing his wounds. It is given
to all disciples, including us. Where do I find
peace of mind? Do I carry that peace with me?
Am I often worried or afraid? Have I missed
out on something in all this?
• As the Father sent me,
so I send you. How do I feel about the invitation
to be an apostle? Can I accept that the Father
has confidence in me and trusts me to deliver
• Receive the Holy Spirit.
The Lord Jesus sends. Being the Son of the Father
this sending is continuous, not just a Confirmation
Day one-off. The Spirit is sent because I am
chosen by the Father who does not leave us orphans.
The Holy Spirit is God at work and God’s work
is that the world be saved through the mission
given to us apostles.
• Whose sins you shall forgive.
Would others see from the opinions I express
on sin and sinners that I am trusted with the
message that God is forgiveness itself? Am I
better at retaining than forgiving? Di I help
others to remember that God forgives? Are there
some forms of sin and evil that I think deep
down God should not forgive?
• Peace be with you. Do I
do my little bit to help build up peace between
neighbours, within my family, in the community,
in the world?
The Holy Spirit is present like the sun to
each individual who is capable of receiving
him, and emits an influence that is sufficient
to help them all. All do not share in the same
measure; he distributes his power in proportion
to our faith and according to our nature. –
St Basil +379.
Why did Jesus call the grace of the Spirit
water [John 4, 14]? Because all things depend
on water. Water comes down from heaven as rain:
water always comes down in the same form, yet
its effects are manifold – it takes one form
in the palm tree and another in the vine; it
is in all things and takes all forms. The rain
does not change but it adapts itself to the
nature of the things that receive it and becomes
what is appropriate to each. Similarly with
the Holy Spirit. – St Cyril of Jerusalem