My unique gift from God
The Jewish “feast of weeks” (Deuteronomy 16:9–12) or the “day of the first fruits” (Numbers 28:26) was celebrated seven weeks or fifty days after Passover and originally commemorated the offering of the first fruits of the wheat harvest to God (Exodus 34:22; Tobit 2:1).
In Greek, this festival was known as “Pentecost,” a term that means “the fiftieth day”. Later Jewish writers viewed Pentecost as the commemoration of the giving of the law by Moses on Mount Sinai fifty days after Passover.
In the opening chapter of Acts of the Apostles, Jesus told his disciples to wait in Jerusalem until they received the promise of the Father, the promise of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:4–5; 2:33). This waiting period ended on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:1) when all the disciples were “filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues” (Acts 2:4).
Traditionally, the Christian feast of Pentecost is viewed as the birthday of the Church and commentators have drawn parallels between the giving of the Law on Sinai and the giving of Spirit in Jerusalem as indicative of God’s covenantal relationship with his people. But the motif of the outpouring of the Spirit is not limited to this one event; Luke describes subsequent spiritual experiences amongst groups of Samaritan and Gentile believers (Acts 8:14-17; 10:44-49).
In the two-volume work, Luke/Acts, the reception of the Holy Spirit by the community reflects the descent of the Spirit upon Jesus at his baptism (Luke 3:21-22). In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus “filled with the Holy Spirit…and led by the Spirit” (Luke 4:1) proclaims the “Good News”, heals the sick and raises dead to life (cf. Luke 4:18-19).
Similarly, in Acts the spirit-filled disciples boldly proclaim the good news of Jesus’ resurrection through word and action. In 1 Corinthians, Paul equates the manifestation of the Spirit with Christian baptism and the call to service. In John’s gospel, the risen Jesus breaths his Spirit into the disciples, empowering them to be agents of divine forgiveness and renewal.
The point of today’s readings is that we are called as latter-day disciples of Jesus to live our lives imbued with the Spirit of Jesus. We may not be granted the power to work signs and wonders, like healing the sick or raising the dead; but we each have a unique gift, which has been manifested in us for the benefit of others (1 Corinthians 12:7).
In ancient Israel, the feast of weeks was a harvest festival when farmers brought their offerings to the altar. In the Christian church, the feast of Pentecost is an opportunity to reflect upon the spiritual gifts that we have to offer. Ask yourself, what unique gift has God given to me and how am I God’s gift to others?
Ian J Elmer
© Majellan 2020