While many of us are familiar with the liturgical readings for the celebration of Pentecost Day – The First Reading: Acts 2: 1-11 when the Holy Spirit descended upon the apostles and they began speaking in foreign languages, the Second Reading: 1 Corinthians 12:3-7,12-13 where St. Paul tells us that while we are many parts, we are one body, and all are given the same Spirit that allows us to proclaim that Jesus Christ is Lord, and the Gospel: John 20:19-23 – Jesus appears to the apostles, shows them his hands and side, and says, “Receive the Holy Spirit…” do you know that the extended-form vigil Mass on the evening before the feast, has five readings punctuated by responsorial psalms and canticles, followed by the Gospel?
This is fitting for the last day of the Easter season, and recalls the start of the Easter season with the vigil Mass of Easter presenting with seven readings.
At the Easter vigil, the seven readings recount the outstanding deeds of God in the history of Salvation – the mighty happenings of creation, the call of Abraham, the rescue from Egypt, the prophets heralding the Messiah, the epistle telling us about Christ and finally the Gospel announcing the Resurrection of Jesus.
For the Vigil Mass of Pentecost, the astounding deeds of the Holy Spirit, while hidden, are proclaimed. We trace how Mankind is divided through sin and pride, and witness the unifying action of the Holy Spirit as He repairs and restores humanity as the true sons and daughters of God, made in His likeness and image. In the First Reading of the extended form, we hear of the Tower of Babel (Genesis 11:1-9). This is followed by the Second Reading where Moses encounters God on Sinai and leads the people to encounter the revelation of God (Exodus 19:3-8,16-20) – through the heightened senses – peals of thunder, lighting, a cloud, a trumpet blast – recalling the symbolism of the Holy Spirit, invisible, yet seen and heard through the senses. The Third Reading tells us of the breath of the Spirit filling the dry bones as Ezekiel prophesises (Ezekiel 37:1-14). In the Fourth Reading, the prophet Joel speaks of how the Lord will pour out His Spirit on men and women (Joel 3:1-5). While the Fifth Reading reminds us that the Holy Spirit intercedes on our behalf in our weakness and expresses our longings in sighs and groans (Romans 8:22-27). Finally, in the Gospel, Jesus speaks of the Advocate that is to come, and like a living spring will gush forth from man’s hearts (John 7: 37-39).
Now these readings are not supposed to be taken in isolation. For the fullness of the work of the Holy Spirit is seen in the readings found for the Mass of Pentecost Day – where the Holy Spirit comes like a wind and tongues of fire, bringing peace and forgiveness. The division of Babel is healed – the language is now unified once again.
The action of the Holy Spirit is not a scattering and division, but a gathering and unity. In the place of chaos, there is peace. In the place of woundedness, there is forgiveness. The Holy Spirit replaces the desolation of desertification with a refreshing and constant living spring. The Holy Spirit breathes and bestows life in the place of death and dryness.
Jesus alludes to the Holy Spirit as the Fullness of Joy in John 16:24: “Until now you have not asked anything in my name; ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be complete.” Jesus reminds us to ask God our Father for the Holy Spirit, so that our joy may be complete.
By the Grace of God,
Brian Bartholomew Tan