Monday, September 6, 2010

Pentecost 2010

“Come Holy Spirit Fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love!”
My brothers and sisters today we are celebrating the great solemnity of Pentecost. In this day Catholics and others Christians celebrate the day in which God poured His Holy Spirit into the hearts of a band of scared fisherman and peasants, empowering them to boldly witness to the resurrection and by their preaching renew the face of the earth. What we might not realize is that today, there is another group of people celebrating. As a matter of fact they have been celebrating this day since they had their own encounter with the amazing power of God, way before Christians ever did. Of course I’m speaking of the Jewish people, which Fifty days after Passover celebrate the feast “Shavuot”.
I did a little bit of research about this feast and was struck by the connections between this ancient Jewish celebration and Pentecost. Let me share with you what I found. Christians believe that since the first Pentecost, every time the Spirit of God is poured into our hearts we receive the seven (Count them seven) gifts of the Holy Spirit which are wisdom, understanding, good judgment, courage, knowledge, reverence, and fear of offending God. Christians also believe that we are not supposed to keep these gifts for ourselves but that we are to return them to Him by living the Gospel message in our lives and preaching the good news wherever we go.
What do this has to do with the celebration of Shavout? Well… during this celebration the Jewish people hold a ceremony called “Bikkurim” which means “First Fruits”. This is not a well known ceremony these days (unlike the Passover) but it comes to us from the times of Moses. In the book of Deuteronomy, we read that God gave a new land to the people of Israel. We read that this land has been blessed with seven (count them seven) crops, crops for which this land is very fertile. He also commanded that on the day of Shavout (Fifty days after Passover) the first fruits of these seven crops, of these gifts given by God, were to be collected and offered back to Him in the temple. In the first Pentecost the men that were listening to the apostles and believed in their powerful message were in Jerusalem to offer their first fruits, instead they themselves became the first fruits of the Church.
But the story does not end there, why is Shavaut celebrated on the 50th day after the Jewish Passover and why use this day to give God the First Fruits? Because this day (The 6th day of the Jewish month of Sivan) is the day in which God gave the Torah (The 10 commandments and the law) to Moses in Mount Sinai. This is the day in which God’s own words were given to the Hebrews so that they would become a light for all the nations. This is the day in which God gave words that recreated a group of escaped slaves into the great Nation of Israel.
If you think about it my brothers and sisters, in this day in which these two great traditions celebrate Pentecost, we celebrate the same event; God giving his children a gift that will empower them, and His Children returning to him their first fruits.
Now there is one last comment I would like to make. Some people read today’s first reading and make the mistake of thinking that the gifts the apostles received in that first Pentecost somehow have been lost; I wish these people would have been here this morning or yesterday when 76 of our young people received the sacrament of confirmation. Ok perhaps, we did not get a strong wind, the tongues of fire and the speaking in tongues, but as someone that spend the last 9 months getting them ready for this day, I have to tell you, they would have seen 76 young adults filled with the spirit of God, eager to serve the church as ushers, lectors, Eucharistic, and music ministers. They would have seen the first fruits of a new generation of fully initiated Catholic Christians taking their rightful place in our community. A new generation ready to be recreated and eager to renew the face of the earth.