Reflection for Pentecost, by S. Marj English

First Reading: Acts 2:1-11
Reponsorial Psalm: Ps. 104:1, 24, 29-34
Second Reading: 1 Cor 12:3b-7, 12-13
Gospel: John 20:19-23

The images of Pentecost are mystical, and Webster’s New World Dictionary defines “mystical” as spiritually significant or symbolic. Locked doors, Jesus’ breath, a noise like a strong driving wind, tongues of fire, are all symbols from these Pentecost readings.

Let the symbols prompt our reflections and prayer today on these readings.

From the Gospel: Locked doors, symbol of security and protection from harm; Jesus’ breath, a symbol of life. The disciples were hiding in fear of what might happen to them in the light of Jesus’ plight, yet Jesus found them and stood in their midst offering them peace and breathing on them the Holy Spirit. Locked doors did not hamper Jesus from entering into the disciples’ post-resurrection world; then think of the intimacy of being breathed on. Perhaps Jesus was making a point: you can hide from me and others but I will find you and give you peace. I want to be intimately related to you, involved in your lives especially when you are perplexed, troubled, and fearful.

From Acts: a strong driving wind and tongues of fire. Think of the noise of a strong, driving wind that comes with tornadoes; often survivors of tornadoes describe the sound of a train. We know the devastation of a strong driving wind, or being in the path of a train. Perhaps this symbol helps us sense the power and fluidness of the Spirit that transforms landscapes, perhaps the landscapes of our souls, and the souls of the disciples. Sometimes the old must be torn down for the new to come. The disciples’ world was certainly being turned upside down by the passion, death and resurrection events of Jesus’ life and now Pentecost. The disciples were given tongues of fire for proclaiming the Good News, and they were being commissioned to spread it like a wild fire.

May these mystical images of Pentecost kindle again in you the life of the Spirit.

Spirit of the living God, help us open ourselves to your love, care, and direction. When we are frightened, perplexed, fearful, help us trust that you are with us in very intimate ways, unlocking the doors of our hearts and blessing us with peace. Help us take seriously our own commission to be like a strong driving force and tongues of fire sharing the Good News with our very lives.

Marj English, OSF
Sisters of St. Francis, Oldenburg

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