Central idea: The Resurrection and Pentecost. Doctrine: Easter is Pentecost is Eucharist. Practical application: Reception of Communion.
Note: The Lectionary readings for Pentecost for each of the three years are the same. Lectionary 63: Mass during the day.
This outline draws from the insights presented in the Homiletic Directory. For an outline that focuses on the Gifts of the Holy Spirit with an emphasis on piety, click here. For an outline that focuses on the invocation of the Holy Spirit, click here. For one that focuses on prayer to the Holy Spirit, click here.
Central idea: The Resurrection and Pentecost
Reading 1 Acts 2:1-11
When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled,
they were all in one place together.
And suddenly there came from the sky
a noise like a strong driving wind,
and it filled the entire house in which they were.
Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire,
which parted and came to rest on each one of them.
And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit
and began to speak in different tongues,
as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim.
Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven
staying in Jerusalem.
At this sound, they gathered in a large crowd,
but they were confused
because each one heard them speaking in his own language.
They were astounded, and in amazement they asked,
“Are not all these people who are speaking Galileans?
Then how does each of us hear them in his native language?
We are Parthians, Medes, and Elamites,
inhabitants of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia,
Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia,
Egypt and the districts of Libya near Cyrene,
as well as travelers from Rome,
both Jews and converts to Judaism, Cretans and Arabs,
yet we hear them speaking in our own tongues
of the mighty acts of God.”
- This first reading recounts the Pentecost event. To the disciples, the gift of the Holy Spirit is manifested to the ears and to touch like “a strong driving wind” and to sight as “tongues as of fire.”
- This gift moves the disciples publicly to proclaim the Resurrection of Christ. Their fear has evaporated and they spontaneously know what to say.
- Not only can Jews from all over the world understand the Gospel when it is preached under the influence of the Holy Spirit, every human being, in every place, and in every age, can.
Responsorial Psalm Ps 104:1, 24, 29-30, 31, 34
R. Lord, send out your Spirit, and renew the face of the earth or Alleluia
Bless the LORD, O my soul!
O LORD, my God, you are great indeed!
How manifold are your works, O LORD!
the earth is full of your creatures;
May the glory of the LORD endure forever;
may the LORD be glad in his works!
Pleasing to him be my theme;
I will be glad in the LORD.
If you take away their breath, they perish
and return to their dust.
When you send forth your spirit, they are created,
and you renew the face of the earth.
- God is completely immaterial, pure spirit, yet he causes the material universe and all the creatures that make it up to exist: He creates and sustains creation.
- God’s special creature on earth, man, has a rational soul and a material body, intimately united in life. Only man can consciously know that God the creator exists. Only man can see in everything something of God’s goodness, power, and glory, and thank and praise him for it.
- God provides for his creatures and man asks that God provide for him what he needs to flourish.
- Man needs not just his body to be provided for but also his rational soul. That is why he needs spiritual goods, like knowledge, wisdom, forgiveness, the help of grace, and God himself.
Reading 2 1 Cor 12:3B-7, 12-13
Brothers and sisters:
No one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit.
There are different kinds of spiritual gifts but the same Spirit;
there are different forms of service but the same Lord;
there are different workings but the same God
who produces all of them in everyone.
To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit
is given for some benefit.
As a body is one though it has many parts,
and all the parts of the body, though many, are one body,
so also Christ.
For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body,
whether Jews or Greeks, slaves or free persons,
and we were all given to drink of one Spirit.
- Through the gift of the Sacraments, each Christian becomes a member of the Body of Christ and receives sanctifying grace, a share in the very life of God.
- Among these members, each is given some particular gifts of the Holy Spirit for the service of the others.
- It behooves us to discover what particular gifts God has endowed us with and to put them into use.
Or Rom 8:8-17
Brothers and sisters:
Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
But you are not in the flesh;
on the contrary, you are in the spirit,
if only the Spirit of God dwells in you.
Whoever does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.
But if Christ is in you,
although the body is dead because of sin,
the spirit is alive because of righteousness.
If the Spirit of the one who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you,
the one who raised Christ from the dead
will give life to your mortal bodies also,
through his Spirit that dwells in you.
Consequently, brothers and sisters,
we are not debtors to the flesh,
to live according to the flesh.
For if you live according to the flesh, you will die,
but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body,
you will live.
For those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.
For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear,
but you received a Spirit of adoption,
through whom we cry, “Abba, Father!”
The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit
that we are children of God,
and if children, then heirs,
heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ,
if only we suffer with him
so that we may also be glorified with him.
- When St. Paul contrasts the spirit and the flesh, he is not saying the human soul is good and the human body is bad. The body is not the cause of sin; rather, man’s disordered soul is. That is, man chooses to obey his passions rather than direct them according to right reason. So what St. Paul is really contrasting is the “old” man who lives according to concupiscence and the new man who lives under the influence of grace.
- Through our participation in the life of the Son, we receive a share in the life of God called sanctifying grace. This gift makes us children of God (who can call God, “Abba, Father!”), helps us to behave accordingly, and promises us a share in God’s eternal life in heaven.
Sequence – Veni, Sancte Spiritus
Come, Holy Spirit, come!
And from your celestial home
Shed a ray of light divine!
Come, Father of the poor!
Come, source of all our store!
Come, within our bosoms shine.
You, of comforters the best;
You, the soul’s most welcome guest;
Sweet refreshment here below;
In our labor, rest most sweet;
Grateful coolness in the heat;
Solace in the midst of woe.
O most blessed Light divine,
Shine within these hearts of yours,
And our inmost being fill!
Where you are not, we have naught,
Nothing good in deed or thought,
Nothing free from taint of ill.
Heal our wounds, our strength renew;
On our dryness pour your dew;
Wash the stains of guilt away:
Bend the stubborn heart and will;
Melt the frozen, warm the chill;
Guide the steps that go astray.
On the faithful, who adore
And confess you, evermore
In your sevenfold gift descend;
Give them virtue’s sure reward;
Give them your salvation, Lord;
Give them joys that never end. Amen.
Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful
and kindle in them the fire of your love.
- When we ask the Holy Spirit to come to us, what are we asking for and what are we getting?
- According to the Sequence Veni, Sancte Spiritus: enlightenment of the mind, comfort, friendship, refreshment and renewal, forgiveness, docility, guidance, reward, eternal salvation, and joy.
Gospel Jn 20:19-23
On the evening of that first day of the week,
when the doors were locked, where the disciples were,
for fear of the Jews,
Jesus came and stood in their midst
and said to them, “Peace be with you.”
When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side.
The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.
Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you.
As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”
And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them,
“Receive the Holy Spirit.
Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them,
and whose sins you retain are retained.”
- Today’s Gospel reading for Pentecost is the Risen Christ’s Easter evening appearance to his fearful disciples.
- Jesus proves who he is by showing them his hands and his side.
- They rejoice.
- He gives them peace in place of their fear. (Jesus’ words are not simply declarative (I wish for you to be at peace), but performative (I give you peace!)).
- He also gives them their Great Commission to preach the Gospel to the entire world.
- To accomplish this mission (“I send you”), he gives them the gift of the Holy Spirit, a gift which includes the power to forgive sins, and hence, the power to restore peace.
Doctrine: Easter is Pentecost is Eucharist
- Pentecost is the event “where God the Father ‘through his Word, pours into our hearts the Gift that contains all gifts, the Holy Spirit’” (CCC 1082, HD 56).
- St. Thomas Aquinas teaches that “Gift” is a proper name of the person of the Holy Spirit, who proceeds from the Father and Son as love.
- A gift, by definition, is something that is given without the intention of a return and that wishes the receiver well. Therefore, what underlies every real gift is love. Since the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and Son as love, He proceeds as the first gift. From this first gift, as St. Augustine says, “many particular gifts are portioned out to the members of Christ.” (ST I, q. 38, a. 2)
- “The reading from Acts . . . recounts the Pentecost event itself, while the Gospel gives an account of what happened on the evening of Easter Sunday itself. [That evening] the risen Lord breathed on his disciples and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit’” (Jn 20:22). (HD 56)
- “Easter is Pentecost.” The reason is that “Easter is already the gift of the Holy Spirit.” (HD 56)
- If Easter is Pentecost, how is the event we called Pentecost different from what the Apostles experienced on the evening of the Resurrection? The answer is that “Pentecost is the convincing manifestation of Easter to all the nations, uniting many tongues in one new language of understanding ‘the mighty acts of God’ (Acts 2:11) displayed in Jesus’ death and resurrection.” On Easter, those gathered in the upper room received the Gift of the Holy Spirit. Now, with Pentecost, that gift of the Holy Spirit is available to everyone on earth. (HD 56)
- In the Prayer over the Offerings, the Church asks that “the Holy Spirit may reveal to us more abundantly the hidden mystery of this sacrifice [of the Mass] and graciously lead us into all truth” (HD 56).
- Each day we worthily receive Holy Communion is a new Pentecost for us. As the Communion Antiphon puts it, “They were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke of the marvels of God, alleluia.” As HD 56 explains, “The scriptural verses find [their] fulfillment in the faithful receiving the Eucharist.” This is how “Eucharist is Pentecost.”
Practical application: Reception of Communion
- It sounds strange to say that there is an identity between the Resurrection of Christ, the Gift of the Holy Spirit to the Church and the world at Pentecost, and our participation at Mass and worthy reception of the Eucharist.
- But the Blessed Trinity has forgiven our actual sins, restored our human nature, and given us communion with itself through the Person of Jesus Christ.
- Who would not want to have been in the upper room to see the risen Christ and to have been breathed on by him to receive the Holy Spirit? Who would not want to have been one of the disciples who experienced the rushing wind and tongues of fire and who then were able to convincingly proclaim the Resurrection of Christ to the whole world?
- But we participate in both these realities every time we worthily receive Communion.
- Thus, the words of the liturgy are not just words. The Holy Spirit is real and he can reveal to us all truth, including the mystery hidden in the sacrifice of the Mass. And when we receive the Eucharist, we are filled with the Holy Spirit and can speak of “the marvels of God.”
- In Holy Communion, Our Lord speaks to us, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”
This outline is written to be in accord with the Homiletic Directory issued by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments (2014). (To read an excellent summary of the Homiletic Directory, click here.)