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23 May, 23

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Pentecost: The friend that accompanies, guides and encourages

And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on every [...]

And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came suddenly a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each of them. They were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues, as the Spirit caused them to speak.
Acts 2:1-4

Pentecost or shebuot

For the Jews, it was one of the three great feasts. At the beginning, thanksgiving for the harvesting of grain (first fruits), but this was joined by the feast for the giving of the Torah, the "instruction manual" of the world and of man, which granted wisdom to Israel. Pentecost was the feast of the Covenant to live always according to God's will as manifested in his Law.

The feast of Sinai

The images that St. Luke uses to indicate the irruption of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost-the wind and the fire-allude to Sinai, where God had revealed himself to the people of Israel and granted them his covenant (cf. Ex 19:3 ff). The feast of Sinai, which Israel celebrated fifty days after Passover, was the feast of the covenant. In speaking of tongues of fire (cf. Acts 2:3), St. Luke wants to present the Cenacle as a new Sinai, as the feast of the Covenant that God makes with his Church, which he will never abandon.

Pope Francis' words on Pentecost, action of the Holy Spirit, 2021 Rome

The Holy Father asks all the pastors and faithful of the Catholic Church to unite, this Pentecost 2023, in prayer together with the Catholic Ordinaries of the Holy Land, to invoke the Holy Spirit, "so that Israelis and Palestinians may find the path of dialogue and forgiveness".

The day of Pentecost

With the power of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost they make themselves understood by all, whatever their origin and mentality: The day of Pentecost There dwelt at Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. And when the noise was heard, the multitude came together and were perplexed, for each one heard them speaking in his own language.

They were astonished and wondered, saying, "Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? How is it, then, that we hear them each in our own mother tongue? "Parthians, Medes, Elamites, inhabitants of Mesopotamia, of Judea and Cappadocia, of Pontus and Asia, of Phrygia and Pamphylia, of Egypt and the part of Libya near Cyrene, Roman strangers, as well as Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs, we hear them speaking in our own tongues the great things of God (Acts 2:5-11).

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The action of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost

What happens that day, with the action of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, is the antithesis of the Bible's account of the origins of mankind: At that time the whole earth spoke one language and with the same words. Moving from the east, they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there.

Then they said to each other: -Let's make bricks and bake them in the fire! In this way, the bricks served them as stones and the asphalt as mortar. Then they said: -Let us build us a city and a tower whose top reaches to heaven! So shall we make a name for ourselves, that we may not be scattered over the face of the whole earth. And the Lord came down to see the city and the tower which the sons of men were building, and the Lord said, "They are one people, with one language for all, and this is only the beginning of their work; now nothing they try to do will be impossible for them.

Let us go down and confuse their language right there, so that they will no longer understand one another! So from there the Lord scattered them over the face of the whole earth, and they ceased to build the city. Therefore it was called Babel, because there the Lord confused the language of the whole earth, and from there the Lord scattered them abroad over the face of the whole earth (Gen 11:1-9).

Francis said during the celebration of Pentecost this year 2021 in Rome that the Holy Spirit consoles "especially in difficult moments like the one we are going through", and in a very personal way because "only the one who makes us feel loved as we are gives peace of heart". In fact, "it is the very tenderness of God, who does not leave us alone, because to be with those who are alone is already to console.

Pentecost: Active communication

When the people in the biblical story began to work as if God did not exist, they found that they themselves had become dehumanized, because they had lost a fundamental element of human beings, which is the ability to agree, to understand each other and to act together. This text contains a perennial truth. In such a technified society, with so many means of communication and information, as the contemporary one, we speak less and less and we understand each other less and less, we lose the real capacity to communicate in an open and sincere dialogue. We need something to help us recover this capacity to be open to others.

The action of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost

What human pride broke, the action of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost put back together again. Today too, docility to the Holy Spirit is what gives us the help we need to build a more humane world, in which no one feels alone, deprived of the attention and affection of others. Jesus promised this to the apostles and to each one of us: I will pray the Father and he will give you another Paraclete to be with you always. (Jn 14:16). Use a Greek word para-kletós which means "the one who speaks next to": is the friend who accompanies us, encourages us and guides us along the way. 

Now that we are talking to God in this time of prayer, we ask ourselves in his presence: do I strive to build my professional and family life, my friendships, the society in which I live, as a world built by my own efforts without caring about God? Or do I want to listen and be docile to the loving voice of the Holy Spirit, that inseparable companion that Jesus has placed at my side to guide and encourage me?

We can invoke the Holy Spirit with an ancient and beautiful prayer of the Church at Pentecost: Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful, and kindle in them the fire of your Love. And we ask the Blessed Virgin, Spouse of God the Holy Spirit, that, like her, we may allow her to do great things in our souls, so that we may know how to love God and others, and build a better world with her help.

Mr. Francisco Varo Pineda
Research Director
University of Navarra
Faculty of Theology
Professor of Sacred Scripture

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