Meditation of the week

A harvest of grace

John 14,15-16.  23-26.

Pentecost in the Old Testament was originally an agricultural feast marking the end of the grain (wheat) harvest. It was also called the Feast of Weeks since it occurred seven weeks after the beginning of the grain harvest (the barley harvest), and the Feast of Unleavened Bread. (Ex 34,22).   Pentecost also was  a memorial  of  the Covenant and the giving of the Law to Moses at Mt Sinai.  The themes of harvest and Covenant/ law help us to understand the richness of the feast.

The Pentecost account, in today’s first reading (Acts 2,1-11), resonates with  a mighty wind, tongues of fire, foreign languages and throbs with energy and excitement.  The fearful, timid, disciples  become eloquent, fearless preachers of the Gospel to the amazement of the crowd, hearing them speak in their own languages.  The confusion of languages at Babel, a punishment for arrogance and sin, (Gen. 11,1-9), is now miraculously undone at Pentecost, the seal on the risen Christ’s victory over sin and death.

Today’s gospel account has a quiet energy of a different order involving love, obedience, presence, teaching and remembrance.   Immediately preceding this gospel passage, Jesus has explained to his disciples that he will suffer and die, but they are not to be afraid, or lose hope. If they obey his commandments of love, then the Advocate, the Holy Spirit whom the Father will give them at Jesus’ request, will be with them and in them, to guide, teach, and help them to remember and understand all that Jesus taught them.

Pentecost is the harvest feast par excellence of the New Testament, not a harvest of grain but of grace, won through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  The Spirit promised by Jesus; “the Advocate whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything and remind you of all I have said to you;” came upon the disciples that first Pentecost. The new commandment of love taught to them by Jesus; “love one another as I have loved you” (Jn. 13,34), is the law of the New Covenant, and of spirit-filled people.

In the Bible the special role of the Holy Spirit is highlighted in creation of the world (Gen 1,2), the  conception and birth of Jesus (Lk 1,35), and the birth of the Church. Pentecost marked the beginning of the Church and the preaching of the gospel by the apostles who became eloquent witnesses in word and deed to the risen Lord.

The same Holy Spirit gives life to each of us in Baptism and Confirmation. In Confirmation we receive the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit – wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety and fear of the lord, (Is. 11,1-3), and the nine fruits of the Holy Spirit- love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, trustfulness, gentleness and self-control.   (Gal. 5,22).

The Second Vatican Council (1963-65) in Lumen Gentium (Sec. 12 par. 2) points out that as well as making people holy through the Sacraments, the Holy Spirit leads them and enriches them with his virtue, and also distributes special graces among the faithful of every rank, for the renewal and building up of the Church.  See I Corinthians Chs.12-14 for St Paul’s detailed description of these special gifts (charisms).  Do you know which gifts you have been given by the Holy Spirit?  How are you using them in and for the Church?

Fr Geoff O’Grady