Background: Jesus is in the Upper Room, talking to his disciples, after having instituted the Eucharist and before he leaves for Gethsemane. After having described the intimate relationship that exists between him and his disciples (15:1-8.9-17), and the opposition they will suffer because of their loyalty to him (15:18-21), Jesus reiterates the promise of the Holy Spirit which he had made earlier (see 14:26).
Introduction: In these two excerpts, Jesus describes briefly the relationship of the Holy Spirit with God the Father and himself (see 15:26 and 16:14-15) and the role that He will play in the lives of the faithful. (See 15:26 and 16:13.) It is in the light and the power bestowed by the Spirit that the disciples will be able to bear witness to Jesus. (See 15:27)
Jn 15:26-27; 16:12-15
Jesus said to his disciples:
“When the Advocate comes whom I will send you from the Father,
the Spirit of truth that proceeds from the Father,
he will testify to me.
And you also testify,
because you have been with me from the beginning.
“I have much more to tell you, but you cannot bear it now.
But when he comes, the Spirit of truth,
he will guide you to all truth.
He will not speak on his own,
but he will speak what he hears,
and will declare to you the things that are coming.
He will glorify me,
because he will take from what is mine and declare it to you.
Everything that the Father has is mine;
for this reason I told you that he will take from what is mine
and declare it to you.”
Historical Background: An outpouring of the Spirit was one of the “signs” of the messianic times.(See Is 2:2 and Jl 3:1 -5.) John the Baptist had foretod that the Messiah would baptize his followers “in the Holy Spirit and fire.” (See Mt 3:11.) Jesus himself had repeatedly promised that he would send another “Consoler.” (See Jn 15:26 and 16:7.13.)
These promises/prophecies were fulfilled on Pentecost Day, the second most important feast in the Jewish calendar. Every year, on that occasion, Jerusalem was crammed with people “from every nation under heaven” who
assembled to commemorate the giving of the Law on Sinai and the signing of the Alliance between God and the people of Israel.
But the group of Jesus’ disciples did not seem concerned about the commemoration of those past events. Rather, they were gathered together
prayer, awaiting the fulfillment of promise reiterated by Jesus before
ascension. (See Lk 24:49 and f 1:8.)
Introduction: Today’s passage from the Book of Acts describes:
- the extraordinary event of the ascent of the Holy Spirit on the entire community of believers;
- the effect which such an event produced on all of them; and
- the reaction of the people to the different “signs” that accompanied the descent of the Holy Spirit.
This event, which took place on Pentecost Day, was a clear sign that through the Spirit, mankind was in the process of becoming once again one people – the new people of God, made one by the new Law and a new alliance.
When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled,
they were all in one place together.
And suddenly there came from the sky
a noise like a strong driving wind,
and it filled the entire house in which they were.
Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire,
which parted and came to rest on each one of them.
And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit
and began to speak in different tongues,
as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim.
Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven staying in Jerusalem.
At this sound, they gathered in a large crowd,
but they were confused
because each one heard them speaking in his own language.
They were astounded, and in amazement they asked,
“Are not all these people who are speaking Galileans?
Then how does each of us hear them in his native language?
We are Parthians, Medes, and Elamites,
inhabitants of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia,
Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia,
Egypt and the districts of Libya near Cyrene,
as well as travelers from Rome,
both Jews and converts to Judaism, Cretans and Arabs,
yet we hear them speaking in our own tongues
of the mighty acts of God.”
Alternative Second Reading
Background: After having dealt with the relationship between Christian faith and the law of Moses, and having stated that man is “justified” (set in the proper relationship with God) not through the works prescribed by the Law, but by faith in Jesus Christ, Paul emphasizes that Jejus Christ is the one who sets people free and makes them adopted children of God. He then moves on to exhort the believers to live a life of real discipleship and thereby preserve the freedom Christ has earned for them.
Introduction: In today’s excerpt the Apostle focuses his readers’ attention on the perpetual struggle between man’s lower passions/desires and his spiritual aspirations that characterize the life of every individual on earth. In such a struggle, he forcefully points out, a real believer should always follow the lead of the Spirit, live by His gifts, for He is the only one who leads to the possession of the Kingdom.
Brothers and sisters, live by the Spirit
and you will certainly not gratify the desire of the flesh.
For the flesh has desires against the Spirit,
and the Spirit against the flesh;
these are opposed to each other,
so that you may not do what you want.
But if you are guided by the Spirit, you are not under the law.
Now the works of the flesh are obvious:
immorality, impurity, lust, idolatry,
sorcery, hatreds, rivalry, jealousy,
outbursts of fury, acts of selfishness,
dissensions, factions, occasions of envy,
drinking bouts, orgies, and the like.
I warn you, as I warned you before,
that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
In contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace,
patience, kindness, generosity,
faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.
Against such there is no law.
Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified their flesh
with its passions and desires.
If we live in the Spirit, let us also follow the Spirit.