Pentecost , May 31st, 2020
As the Father has sent me, so I send you.John 20:21
Method: Lectio Divina
Commentary from Loyola Press
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 apostles gathered in the upper 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, John 20:19-23, also recounts how Jesus gave the gift of the Holy Spirit to his disciples. Yet the event in John’s Gospel takes place on Easter Sunday. There is no need to try to reconcile these two accounts. It is enough that we 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.
We already heard today’s Gospel proclaimed on the Second Sunday of Easter this year (Lectionary Cycle A). That Gospel passage, however, also included the description of Jesus’ appearance to Thomas. In that context, we were led reflect on belief and unbelief.
In the context of the Feast of Pentecost, John 20:19-23 reminds us about the integral connection between the gifts of peace and forgiveness and the action of the Holy Spirit. Jesus greets his disciples with the gift of peace. Jesus then commissions his disciples to continue the work that he has begun, “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” He breathes the Holy Spirit upon the disciples and sends them to continue his work of reconciliation through the forgiveness of sins. Jesus’ act of breathing the Holy Spirit mirrors God’s act of breathing life into Adam at the time of Creation. In fact, both the Greek and Hebrew words for “spirit” can also be translated as “breath.”
This Gospel reminds us that the Church is called to be a reconciling presence in the world. The reconciling presence of Christ is celebrated in the Church’s sacramental life. In the Sacrament of Baptism, we are cleansed of sin and become a new creation in Christ. In the Sacrament of Penance, the Church celebrates the mercy of God through the forgiving of sins. This reconciling presence is also to be a way of life for Christians. In situations of conflict, we are to be agents of peace and harmony among people.
Questions for reflection:
- What word or words in this passage caught your attention?
- What comforted you?
- What challenged you?
- Jesus came and stood in their midst. Where do I see Christ present in my life?
- Jesus said, “As the Father has sent me, so I send you. Where is God sending me? What can I do this week to discover and carry out God’s will?
- Jesus breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” How does the Holy Spirit inspire (“breathe in”) my life? What gifts do I need from the Holy Spirit to be a better disciple?
Other Resources for Lectio Divina of John 20: 19-23
- Loyola Press Sunday Connection Year A Pentecost
- Portland Diocese Lectio Divina for Pentecost
- Order of the Brothers of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary of Mt. Carmel Pentecost
Audio Divina and Video DivinaBreathe Marie Barnett
View the video and answer the reflection questions below.
- What emotions does the song evoke?
- What is the connection between the Gospel and this song?
- How do we experience the Holy Spirit’s presence among us?
- How do help other people experience the presence of the Spirit?
Visio Divina of The Pentecost by El Greco
- Pray in quiet with your eyes closed. Bring yourself towards stillness.
- Gaze at the image. Let your eyes rest on the scene. Note your feelings as you examine the whole and parts of the work.
- Read Acts 2:1-11 Note that this is Luke’s version of the events described by John in his Gospel.
- Gaze at the work again. Imagine that you are in this scene. What do you see from your vantage point? What you hear? smell? sense?
- Read the Commentary by Patrick van der Vorst below. How does these insights enrich your understanding?
- How is the sacred present to you in this experience?
- How does this Visio Divina relate to your life now?
- What insight from this experience do you want to retain? How will you do that?
- Complete the Visio Divina by offering a prayer of thanksgiving.
Commentary on the Painting on Panel by Patrick van der Vorst
Today is Pentecost, the day we celebrate the gift of the Holy Spirit, 50 days after Easter. The name ‘Pentecost’ comes from the Greek pente-koste, which means fiftieth. As Jesus sends the apostles on a mission (as the father sent me, so I am sending you) and gives them the gift of the Holy Spirit (receive the Holy Spirit) to fulfil their mission, we must also regard today as the start of the Church’s mission in the world and to the world.
When thinking of the Holy Spirit, it isn’t always easy to grasp who or what it is. The Holy Spirit is not a vague, surreal shadow, nor an impersonal force. He is a person equal in every way with God the Father and God the Son. All the divine attributes ascribed to the Father and the Son are equally ascribed to the Holy Spirit; the three making up the Holy Trinity. The Holy Spirit was given to us to live inside those who believe in Jesus. In a way that we cannot do on our own, the Holy Spirit will influence our lives through love, peace, patience, joy, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, etc… Rather than us trying to rely on ourselves to be loving, patient, kind, etc, God asks us to rely on Him and the Holy Spirit to produce these qualities in our lives.
So how can artists depict the Holy Spirit then? Throughout history, artists have used fire/flames, wind, the breath of God and a dove as the main symbols to represent the Holy Spirit. In today’s painting we see a combination of three of these elements: the dove (at the top of the painting), the wind we see flowing from the heavens, and the flames that have descended upon the apostles and the Virgin. Probably to me, the flames bear the most symbolism. Fire has long been a symbol of God, not only in the bible itself (think of the burning bush and Moses for example), but also in our day to day spiritual lives: we light candles in our churches, the paschal candle, etc… Fire helps us to communicate with God. Fire symbolises this transforming power of the Holy Spirit. It is also this fire we all need within us to help spread the Word.
El Greco, by assigning a flame to each individual depicted, masterfully shows us how the Holy Spirit dwells in all of us, individually. By the way, the bearded Apostle who looks out at us from the right of the canvas has been identified as a self-portrait. This work was painted as part of the main altarpiece for the church of the Augustine College of María de Aragón in Madrid. Its strong verticality further enhances the spiritual side of this work.
If we let the Holy Spirit live within us, we have that little piece of heaven inside us, and we become temples where heaven and earth meet.
See also Pentecost Art
Children’s Liturgy Resources
Pentecost Prayer from Loyola Press
Liturgy of the Word with Children, Diocese of Auckland Pentecost
The Kid’s Bulletin Pentecost explanations and activities
Living With Christ for Children May 31 Pentecost
Saskatchewan Catholic School Boards Pentecost Resources for Children
See also Pentecost in Two Minutes