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Reflection on Pentecost Sunday

Posted on May 28, 2023, by Agnes Ann Schum SL

The season of Easter concludes with today’s celebration, the feast of Pentecost.  On Pentecost we celebrate the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the disciples in a locked room in Jerusalem; this event marks the beginning of the Church.  The story of Pentecost is found in the Acts of the Apostles, today’s first reading.  The account in today’s Gospel, taken from the Gospel of John, also recounts how Jesus gave the gift of the Holy Spirit to his disciples. There is no need to try to reconcile these two accounts with each other.  It is enough to know that, after his death, Jesus fulfilled his promise to send to his disciples a Helper, an Advocate, who would enable them to be his witnesses throughout the world.

As we think of that first Pentecost we can visualize the disciples gathered behind those locked doors, fearful, feeling hurt, lost, abandoned, with no idea what to do.  We find ourselves in similar situations sometimes. Yet they had the promise of Jesus that he would send the Spirit.

However, that first Pentecost was anything but a tame event. “The winds howled, the walls rattled, the earth shook.”  What’s more, “tongues of fire” descended upon everyone huddled in that room.  Clearly the Holy Spirit came not as a gentle breeze but more as a hurricane or earthquake. It was quite an experience.

I’m not sure why but it reminds me of the classic film “The Wizard of Oz.”  A powerful wind comes into Dorothy’s drab, ordinary life, spins her around, lifts her out of her place and drops her in a new world, with an incredible mission to accomplish.  Along the way she meets friends who have exactly the gifts she needs: the Scarecrow seeking a mind filled with wisdom, the Tin Man looking for a heart filled with compassion and the Cowardly Lion needing courage.  They didn’t realize they had these gifts all along. They formed the bonds of community and together accomplished their mission.

So it is with the Apostles. Once they were filled with the Holy Spirit, there burned within each of them a sense of purpose. They each had the wisdom, compassion and courage they needed. 

They rejoiced when they saw Jesus in the room with them and He greeted them with “Peace.” They remembered what Jesus had taught them by his example. They were to go out and teach. They had no guidebook. All they had was their lived experience., their personal experience of Jesus teaching them, showing them the good works of healing, forgiving, reaching out to poor, forgotten and marginalized persons. Thanks to the Holy Spirit, the disciples’ worries and fears disappeared. From their locked room they went out to the whole world.  Actually, anyone trying to live a life of integrity and compassion and unselfishness is doing a very wild thing in a world that rewards cunning, has little sympathy for those in need and is constantly urging us to “watch out for #1”.

With these thoughts in mind, I’d like to end with this Pentecost prayer, “Spirit of Pentecost,” written by spiritual writer Melannie Svoboda SND: https://melanniesvobodasnd.org/the-first-pentecost-a-wild-time-was-had-by-all/.


Agnes Ann Schum SL

Agnes Ann , who resides at Loretto Motherhouse in Nerinx, Ky., is a member of the Motherhouse’s pastoral community care team.