A rebirth of faith

In the Acts of the Apostles, we hear that devout Jews from every nation had gathered in Jerusalem for the feast of Shavuot which commemorated the most important event in Israel’s history, the giving of the Torah (the first five books in the Hebrew Bible) to Moses at Mt Sinai.


It was originally a harvest festival when the Jewish people came to Jerusalem to thank God for the fruits of the wheat harvest. It also became known among the Greek speaking Jews as Pentecost as it came fifty days (pentekoste) after the feast of Passover. The feast is celebrated on the seventh Sunday after Easter which is also fifty days after Easter, hence the name.


For Christians, the feast of Pentecost concludes the Easter season. The fifty days from Jesus’ resurrection to Pentecost, are marked in a particular way by the presence of the Holy Spirit who is in fact the ultimate Easter gift. The Creator Spirit constantly brings about new things. Today’s readings show us two of these new things. In the first reading, the Spirit makes of the disciples a new people; in the Gospel, she creates in the disciples a new heart.


In the story of the tower of Babel (Gen 11), one people sharing a common language come together to build a tower to reach to the heavens. God saw their arrogance and confused their language so they could no longer understand one another. On the feast of Pentecost this lack of understanding is overcome by the gift of the Spirit and the pilgrims hear the apostles in their own languages. The Spirit creates a new people and when Peter speaks to them, he invites them to repent and be baptised to receive the Holy Spirit. We then learn that more than three thousand were baptised.


In the gospel, the frightened disciples were hiding from the community for fear of following in the steps of their crucified Lord, but the Spirit empowered them to come forward and bear witness. There is no longer discrimination among Jews or Greeks, slaves, or free persons but we all called to drink of the one Spirit.


Being a new people is an invitation to renew our commitment to the Lord and to take heart that God’s Spirit is among us calling us to bear witness through our love of God and commitment to the care of all peoples especially those who experience loneliness, estrangement, marginalisation and adversity.


Our prayer is very much that the Church will experience a new Pentecost in a rebirth of faith in our increasingly secular community, and bear witness as Peter did to the good news of Jesus. Being a community of believers renewed by Word and Sacrament ensures that we as a pilgrim people are able to move forward, actively engaged with the community, even as we continue to ask what God’s Spirit is asking of us in Australia today.


Michael A Kelly CSsR

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