Acts of the Apostles 2:1-11
The Holy Spirit descends upon the Apostles gathered in Jerusalem.
God’s Spirit renews the earth.
1 Corinthians 12:3b-7,12-13 or Romans 8:8-17
We are all one in Christ Jesus.
Jesus appears to his disciples and gives them the gift of the Holy Spirit.
On the evening of that first day of the week,
when the doors were locked, where the disciples were,
for fear of the Jews,
Jesus came and stood in their midst
and said to them, “Peace be with you.”
When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side.
The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.
Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you.
As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”
And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them,
“Receive the Holy Spirit.
Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them,
and whose sins you retain are retained.”
Background on the Gospel Reading
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, taken from the Gospel of John, also recounts how Jesus gave the gift of the Holy Spirit to his disciples. There is no need to try to reconcile these two accounts to each other. It is enough to 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 previously heard today’s Gospel on the second Sunday of Easter. At that time, we also heard the passage that follows, which describes Jesus’ appearance to Thomas. In that context, we were led to reflect on belief and unbelief.
In the context of the feast of Pentecost, this reading 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.” As he breathes the Holy Spirit upon them, Jesus sends his disciples to continue his work of reconciliation through the forgiveness of sins.
This Gospel reminds us that the Church is called to be a reconciling presence in the world. This reconciling presence of Christ is celebrated in the Church’s sacramental life. In the Sacrament of Baptism, we are washed clean from sin and become a new creation in Christ. In the Sacrament of Penance, the Church celebrates the mercy of God in forgiving 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.
Pentecost is sometimes called the birthday of the Church. The Gospel for Pentecost reminds us that the Church begins with the command to forgive. Within the family, the domestic Church, we learn how to forgive and we learn to accept forgiveness. It is the gift of the Holy Spirit that enables us to do both. Today is a fitting time to share a family celebration of reconciliation.
As you gather together as a family, sit quietly for a few minutes, inviting all to reflect upon their need to forgive and to receive forgiveness. If there is a situation or issue within the family that needs attention, spend some time reflecting upon the concern and how your family might address it. Read together today’s Gospel, John 20:19-23. Talk together about how Jesus gave us the gift of the Holy Spirit to help us in the work of forgiveness and to bring us peace. Pray together today’s psalm, or the Prayer to the Holy Spirit, asking that the Holy Spirit help your family. Share with one another the sign of peace.
Sources: Loyola Press; Sunday Readings