On this great feast of Pentecost, I feel sympathy for the devout Jews staying in Jerusalem, who witnessed the proclamation of the mighty works of God by the disciples. But like those bystanders, I am a little puzzled about what is going on? Are these people drunk? Are they religious fanatics? What is the source of their boldness? The simple answer is the Holy Spirit. But to recapture the experience of the Spirit by Our Lady and the disciples is difficult since we are so far removed from the event. But I think we can assume one thing: their experience was consistent with the experience of the People of God at other moments in salvation history. And to show that I will take two elements from the first reading.
The first element is wind. The Spirit blows where he wills, but always to manifest the mighty deeds of God. This was the experience of God’s people at the crossing of the Red Sea. The Lord drove back the sea with a strong east wind and the Israelites passed through dry-shod. Today the Spirit is blowing through the cenacle and urging the disciples to go forward, not just through the Red Sea but to the ends of the earth to sing the Song of Moses & the Lamb to all who will listen.
Or again, Pentecost might be compared to what Ezekiel experienced in the broad valley with dry bones lying everywhere. The disciples had gotten over the initial shock of Jesus’ resurrection, but now they realized the truth of his words that apart from him and without the promise of the Father they could do nothing. They were like dry bones until Jesus would pour out the dew of the Spirit upon them. And that is our experience, too. But when the Spirit arrived, it was like the rush and clatter of dry bones being knit together, this time into the Church. The Spirit came with the four winds and breathed new life into the disciples, stood them on their feet, and sent them out to proclaim the marvels of God.
Finally, the experience of Pentecost might be compared to the love song between the bride and the bridegroom, when the bride cries out, “Awake, O north wind, and come O south wind! Blow upon my garden, let its fragrance be wafted abroad.” At Pentecost, the Spirit is sending out the perfume of the Church to fill and captivate all creation in the knowledge of the mighty works of God.
But there is another aspect of this magnificent feast which is really the inner source of it all: the fire. I interpret this fire to be the inner being of the Holy Trinity, which is like fire. It is the mystery of total self-giving. When the Father gives to the Son, he gives all; when the Son receives all with thanksgiving, he gives everything back to the Father. And the Spirit, as he reflects this giving and receiving, holds back nothing for himself but is all witness to the glory of this inner exchange of fire in God – the fire of love. This fire is like the fire which lapped up the water and devoured the sacrifice which Elijah prepared, only in this case, the fire does not destroy but enlivens.
Today the Spirit is continuing this work of salvation begun with the People of Israel and drawing us into the heart of the Trinity. He is making a way for us through the Red Sea of this world as the Paschal candle led us through the night of the vigil; he is joining us bone to bone as one body and has become our very breath of life, and he is sending up the sweet fragrance of the bride’s garden to draw all people to God. But above all, he is manifesting the inner fire of the Trinity, which seeks to unite us in the unending sacrificial offering for which we were created. No wonder the onlookers were astounded!
Today's Homily by Dom Vincent.