Daily Reflection
May 19th, 2002
Larry Gillick, S.J.
Deglman Center for Ignatian Spirituality
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Acts 2:1-11
Psalms 104:1, 24, 29-30, 31, 34
1 Corinthians 12:3-7, 12-13
John 20:19-23

“Fifty Days” or “the Feast of Harvesting Wheat,” or “The Feast of Weeks,” or “Pentecost,” are all names given to this celebration in our Jewish-Christian liturgy.  Our Jewish ancestors counted “fifty” days from celebrating Passover and then celebrated “Shavuot.”  We read in Exodus 23, beginning in verse 14, “Three times a year you are to celebrate a feast in my honor.”  The first of these is Passover and the third is for the gathering of fruits, which is known as the Feast of “Booths” or ”tabernacles.”  The second is for the first gathering of what we call, Winter Wheat.  It is this second festival in which we join our Jewish sisters and brothers, this day.

In Exodus, it is written also that during these three feasts, all the men should present themselves before the Lord.  So we read in today’s First Reading of so many people gathered together from various parts of the world.  The Apostles are gathered as well to celebrate this feast of God’s faithful fertility.  As the seeds have been planted and the sun and rain have nourished them and the earth brings forth saving wheat for this agricultural community, so the Holy Spirit comes upon the earth to bring forth its fruit.  God’s faithfulness to the Jews continues by the sending of the Spirit of nourishing pregnancy.  What God has created, God blesses and brings forth fruitfulness in amazing ways.  In Genesis we read about the confusion of tongues as a result of human pride and self-deification.  One of the effects of the hovering Spirit is the beginning, or remembering, of God’s once-fractured people.  Distinctions caused by a breakdown in communications between God and humans and so among humans as well, is to be healed.  We celebrate only a beginning and the spirit continues that healing work of unified communication in us and through us.  By the coming of the spirit, all men and women are ordained to be moved to hear “about the marvels that God has accomplished.”  While there are differences of language and culture, the work of our being unified into one has begun.

John’s Gospel presents the first Easter Appearance of Jesus to His disciples and the sending or breathing of the Spirit upon the disciples as happening on the same day.  The disciples are gathered together, but not in a harmonious unity.  They are fearful, shameful, and hiding, locked in a room and in their sense of infidelity.  Into this human condition, enters Jesus with a greeting of peace.

The peace which Jesus offers has a hook.  All is forgiven, but not forfeited.  Jesus loves our humanity as He finds it, but does not leave it the way He found it.  This “peace” is not the same as complacency or immobility.  On the contrary, this “peace” is a precondition for His sending them.  Instead of their being banished or imprisoned for their having abandoned Jesus and their commitments, Jesus finds them, blesses them and sends them out to continue His mission of finding, blessing and sending.  He breathes new life into His followers and upon the earth.  These fragile humans are the “first fruits” or the gathering of the “wheat” which begins a new harvest season for God.

Pentecost for us, in this part of the world, takes place during the planting time of the year.  Though it is originally a harvest celebration, its meaning for us is not a contradiction.  The sending of the Spirit is a continuation of God’s fidelity to this creation; God's finding the old and making it new.  Fifty days after the planting of the cross in the earth, fifty days after the disciples clung to their earthliness for fear, fifty days later, the “breath” or “Spirit” of God descends again upon the earth to bring forth fruitfulness and harvest.

The warm winds of spring have been laying down dusty patterns on my desk here, and I assume elsewhere in my room.  The wind blows where it will and penetrates everywhere.  Now there is not enough Nebraska soil, fertile as it is, to begin a garden on my windowsill, but given time and enough neglect on my part, there could be a harvest soon enough.  The Spirit of God, Who came upon the Apostles during their celebration of Shavuot, continues to blow, penetrate and bless our earthliness to bring forth real peace, forgiveness and mission.  The wind, which sounded as if it were violent, brings peace, but there is that hook.  To where are we being sent?  To whom do we go to bring peace?  I could close my window and keep the wind and accumulating earth, out and keep myself here inside.  Dirt, earth, humanity, growing, harvesting, planting again, this is Pentecost again.  Jesus loving us the way He finds us, but not leaving us with our windows shut.  If we leave the windows open to the Spirit the Breath of God will blow in and blow us all out into this God-loved, Jesus-found earth.

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