Presentation on theme: "Pentecost: an Outpouring of Divine Life General audience of July 22, 1989."— Presentation transcript:
Pentecost: an Outpouring of Divine Life General audience of July 22, 1989
The Pentecost event in the upper room of Jerusalem was a special divine manifestation. We have already considered its principal external elements: "the sound of a mighty wind," the "tongues of fire" above those assembled in the upper room, and finally the "speaking in other languages."
All these elements indicate not only the presence of the Holy Spirit, but also his special descent on those present, his "self-giving," which produced in them a visible transformation, as is evident from the text of the Acts of the Apostles (2:1-12).
Pentecost closes the long cycle of divine manifestations in the Old Testament, among which the most important was that to Moses on Mount Sinai.
From the beginning of this series of pneumatological reflections, we have mentioned the link between the Pentecost event and Christ's Pasch, especially under the aspect of his departure to the Father through his death on the cross, his resurrection and ascension. Pentecost is the fulfillment of Jesus' announcement to the apostles on the day before his passion, during his "farewell discourse" in the upper room of Jerusalem.
On that occasion Jesus had spoken of the "new Paraclete": "I will pray the Father, and he will give you another Paraclete, to be with you forever, even the spirit of truth" (Jn 14:16). Jesus emphasized: "When I go, I will send him to you" (Jn 16:7). Speaking of his departure through his redemptive death on the cross, Jesus had said: "Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me; because I live also" (Jn 14:19).
Here we have a new aspect of the link between the Pasch and Pentecost: "I live." Jesus was speaking of the resurrection. "You will live": the life, which will be manifested and confirmed in my resurrection, will become your life. The transmission of this life, manifested in the mystery of Christ's Pasch, is effected definitively at Pentecost.
Indeed, Christ's words echo the concluding part of Ezekiel's prophecy in which God promised: "I shall put my Spirit within you, and you shall live" (37:14). Therefore Pentecost is linked organically to the Pasch. It pertains to Christ's paschal mystery: "I live and you will live."
By virtue of the coming of the Holy Spirit, Christ's prayer in the upper room is also fulfilled: "Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him power over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him" (Jn 17:1-2).
In the paschal mystery, Jesus Christ is the principle of this life. The Holy Spirit gives this life, drawing on the redemption effected by Christ: "He will take what is mine" (Jn 16:14). Jesus himself had said: "It is the Spirit that gives life" (Jn 6:63). Similarly St. Paul proclaims that "the written code kills, but the Spirit gives life" (2 Cor 3:6).
Pentecost radiates the truth professed by the Church in the words of the creed: "I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life." Together with the Pasch, Pentecost is the climax of the divine Trinity's economy of salvation in human history.
The apostles were assembled on the day of Pentecost in the upper room of Jerusalem together with Mary, the mother of Jesus, and other "disciples" of the Lord, men and women. They were the first to experience the fruits of Christ's resurrection.
For them Pentecost was the day of resurrection, of new life in the Holy Spirit. It was a spiritual resurrection which we can discern in the transformation of the apostles in the course of all those days; from the Friday of Christ's passion, through Easter day, until the day of Pentecost.
The capture of the Master and his death on the cross were a terrible blow for them, from which they found it difficult to recover.
This explains their mistrust and doubts on receiving news of the resurrection, even when they met the risen one. The Gospels refer to it several times: "They would not believe" (Mk 16:11); "some doubted" (Mt 28:17).
Jesus himself rebuked them gently: "Why are you troubled and why do questionings arise in your hearts?" (Lk 24:38). He tried to convince them about his identity, by showing them that he was not "a spirit" but had "flesh and bones." It was for this reason that he even ate a piece of broiled fish before them (cf. Lk 24:37-43).
The Pentecost event definitively leads the disciples to overcome this attitude of mistrust: the truth of the resurrection fully pervades their minds and wins over their wills. Truly then "out of their hearts flow rivers of living water" (cf. Jn 7:38), as Jesus himself had foretold in a metaphorical sense when speaking of the Holy Spirit.
Through the work of the Holy Spirit the apostles and the other disciples became an "Easter people," believers in and witnesses to Christ's resurrection. Without reserve, they made the truth of that decisive event their own.
From the day of Pentecost they were the heralds of "the mighty works of God" (magnalia Dei) (Acts 2:11). They were made capable of it from within. The Holy Spirit effected their interior transformation by virtue of the new life that derived from Christ in his resurrection and now infused by the new Paraclete into his followers.
We can apply to this transformation what Isaiah prophesied metaphorically: "until the Spirit is poured upon us from on high, and the wilderness becomes a fruitful field, and the fruitful field is deemed a forest" (Is 32:15).
Truly on Pentecost the gospel truth is radiant with light: God "is not the God of the dead, but of the living" (Mt 22:32), "for all live to him" (Lk 20:38).
The Pentecost theophany opens to all the prospect of newness of life. That event is the beginning of God's new "self-giving" to humanity. The apostles are the sign and pledge not only of the "new Israel," but also of the "new creation" effected by the paschal mystery.
As St. Paul writes: "One man's act of righteousness leads to acquittal and life for all men.... Where sin increased, grace abounded all the more" (Rom 5:18-20). This victory of life over death, of grace over sin, achieved by Christ, works in humanity by means of the Holy Spirit. Through him it brings to fruition in our hearts the mystery of redemption (cf. Rom 5:5; Gal 5:22).
Pentecost is the beginning of the process of spiritual renewal, which realizes the economy of salvation in its historical and eschatological dimension, casting itself over all creation.
It is a new beginning in relation to the first original beginning of God's salvific self-giving, which is identified with the mystery of creation itself. 'In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth...and the Spirit of God (ruah Elohim) was moving over the face of the waters' (Gen 1:1f.).
This biblical concept of creation includes not only the call to existence of the very being of the cosmos, that is to say, the giving of existence, but also the presence of the Spirit of God in creation, that is to say, the beginning of God's salvific self-communication to the things he creates.
This is true first of all concerning man, who has been created in the image and likeness of God" (Encyclical on the Holy Spirit, Dominum et Vivificantem n. 12). At Pentecost the "new beginning" of God's salvific self- giving is united to the paschal mystery, source of new life.