Pentecost Sunday | Year B

Posted on mayo 17, 2024 View all Gospel Reflection

At Pentecost, the room shook and wind blew and the whole room crackled with the Holy Spirit’s electric presence.

In the Book of Job 37:2-3, Job’s friend Elihu describes the voice of the Lord as thunder and lightning.

Children of wind, fire and lightning. Pentecost is kind of “wild ecumenism”—e.g. Don’t tell my Pentecostal mom, but I pray the Hail Mary.1

At Pentecost God breathed … and WHOOSH, the Holy Spirit shook the house. Breathed uses the word “ruach,” which is translated as wind, breath, and Spirit. In Luke’s account, the Holy Spirit is a very loud wind. But in John’s Gospel, the Spirit is breath. I would like to focus on the Holy Spirit as the Breath of God.

When God breathes, things come alive.

Several years ago a British film told the story of a man from Calcutta who came to London to make his fortune. The first week there he saw a woman get hit by a bus. She lay on the street, not breathing. The man from Calcutta rushed to her and applied mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. She was revived, and, pleased with his work, the man said, “Madam, my life is now in you.”2

Our Gospel connects the idea of the Holy Spirit and forgiveness, receiving it and to forgive others. But, what about, “I just can’t forgive and forget.” How many times as a priest have I heard that line! 3

One priest responds with “Of course you can’t!” or “You don’t have to!” and he adds that “it’s not uncommon to see a stunned expression of disbelief.”4

The Catechism in paragraph 2843 tells us that it is not in our power to stop feeling an offense, nor to forget about it. Although the Catechism says that “It is not in our power not to feel or to forget an offense; but the heart that offers itself to the Holy Spirit turns injury into compassion and purifies the memory in transforming the hurt into intercession.”  

There are smartphone apps that use sound waves to blow out candles. Various scientific studies theoretically confirms that fire can indeed be extinguished through directed sound waves although currently it can really only extinguish small kitchen fires as popularized by two engineering students at George Mason University. This “reflects what we often do in response to the fire of the Spirit. God stirs up something in US, lights afire-and we fight back with our own sound waves. We talk ourselves out of what the Spirit is urging US to do. We douse the flames with a flood of words and arguments and rationales. Our own logic or self-doubt becomes a spiritual fire extinguisher.5

Isaiah 55:8, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” says the Lord.

We need God’s breathed words.

2 Timothy 3:16 says that “All scripture is inspired by God.” The Greek word for inspired is «breathed out.» Some translations say that the scriptures are ‘God-breathed’.  Lectio divina or meditating on the Scriptures is to inhale the breathing out of God in His Word. You can also try The Jesus Prayer “in accordance with the rhythm of your breathing pattern and heartbeat breath prayer. Without changing your state of breathing on your inhale, you pray, “O Jesus Christ, Son of God”. Then on the exhale, “Have mercy on me, a sinner.”6

In his 2011 Pentecost homily Pope Benedict XVI preached that the Lord breathes a breath of life into our soul in all the sacraments, each in its own way, to communicate divine life to human beings, thanks to the Holy Spirit who works within them, especially with Baptism, Confirmation, the Eucharist and Penance and that this breath is continuously repeated as we allow it to work in our souls.

Lastly, the tongues as of fire to describe the Holy Spirit is important here, for what follows from the first Pentecost event provides a narrative link. From tongues of fire, we move to speaking in tongues.7

John Bergsma, a professor at Franciscan University in Steubenville, notes that “in some movements within the Church that pay special attention to the operation of the Spirit (e.g., “Pentecostal” or “Charismatic” communities) there can be great deal of emphasis on the gifts of the Spirit, particularly speaking in tongues. There’s not biblical reason to object to speaking in tongues or other gifts of the Spirit, nor is there any biblical proof that these manifestations have “died out” with the Apostles.”8

Speaking in tongues is more like an ecstatic utterance,  but with no vocabulary, grammar or anything else that could enable it to be translated. It is more like a prayer language.

The Last Lightning Strike will be at Christ’s Second Coming, Luke 17:24 tells us when Jesus will slay those who oppose God with his breath (2 Thessalonians 2:8).

1.    Samuel Thomas Martin, The Christian Century, 12/01/2021

2.    Robert H. Smith, Proclamation 5, Fortress, 1992, p 64

3.    Fr. Derek Sakowski, Forgiveness and the Holy Spirit, blog 07/22/2022

4.    Ibid, Sakowski

5.    Christa Compton, Pentecost, Currents in Theology and Mission, 44 no 2 2017, p 54

6.    St. Benedict Classical Academy, With Every Breath, website 02/06/2023

7.    Rev. Canon Prof. Martyn Percy,, 04/22/2013

8.    John Bergma, The Word of the Lord, Sunday Mass Readings, Emmaus Road Publishing, Steubenville, Ohio, 2021 p 174