These are commentaries on the Eucharistic Lectionary that are written for the Sunday bulletins of Trinity Episcopal Church in San Francisco. They may be reprinted for use in parish bulletins only with the ascription: Copyright © 2007, Michael T. Hiller.

The Day of Pentecost


There are choices for the readings today. The reading from Acts, which can serve either as a first or second reading, is Luke's account of the feast of Pentecost, an old Jewish festival. The disciples, and by tradition, the Blessed Virgin, have gathered in an upper room where they receive the gift of tongues, and Peter preaches a sermon. It serves us well to remember, that in the coming pages of Acts, Luke will tell the story of the Church's growing appeal to gentiles, and so this first miracle of Pentecost with the audience hearing the Gospel in their own tongues makes a great deal of sense. The alternate first reading, from Genesis, is the story of the Tower of Babel, an etiological tale that explains the emergence of different languages. It matches well to the Acts story.

The second reading is either the Acts story, or a reading from the eighth chapter of Romans where Paul describes Christian relationships with God (Spirit) as being familial (daughters and sons) rather than ones of ownership (slaves). This notion of the sons and daughters, etc. reverberate with Peter's sermon which quotes the prophet Joel, "your sons and daughters shall prophesy". In the Gospel we hear a familiar entreaty from Jesus, who not only encourages us to "love one another," but also to wait for additional resources, namely the gift of the Spirit, or Advocate. He asks his followers to look forward to this gift, which will be a support and comfort (hence "Comforter") during the supposed absence following the Ascension. John recasts the Spirit's role in the first chapter of his Gospel where he sees Jesus and the Spirit presiding over a "new creation", the Church. Benedict XVI coins an interesting phrase when he talks about this period immediately following the Ascension where Jesus is not absent, but rather "newly near." Come, Holy Spirit, come.

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