Today is the solemnity of Pentecost which means the 50th day after easter. In a Jewish context, it is a harvest feast. So we can say that the period of easter is a period between two Jewish harvest feasts, The Feast of the first fruits and the fests of the weeks (Lev 23). Both feasts find their fullness in Jesus. The Feast of the first fruit is celebrated on the third day after the Jewish Passover. That is on Sunday morning. People had to bring the first fruit of their harvest and present it to the priests who received and waved with prayer and then offer it to the Lord in the temple accompanied by an offering of burnt offering, drink offering and cereal offering with unleavened bread. This feast finds its fullness in Jesus Christ. He who had no sin is the true unleavened bread. He is the first fruit from the dead. He’s also lifted up in the resurrection and is offered to God as a sacrifice not in the earthly temple but in the heavenly temple. Thus easter fulfils the first feast.
The second is the Feast of the Weeks, celebrated on the 50th day, seven weeks after the Feast of the first fruits. If the sheaf was brought for the Feast of the first fruits, then for the Feast of Weeks, they had to bring two leavened loaves; remember that this is the only time in the bible asking to bring leavened bread for an offering. And burnt offerings, oblation and libations were to be offered. That is not the end of the Feast of the Weeks. They are also asked not to harvest to the edge of the field and not to collect what remains of the crop to be gleaned; they must leave it for the poor and the stranger. Therefore the feast of weeks or Pentecost has two dimensions, one ritual dimension that must be performed in the temple, and the other must be performed in the daily life. So these two things, the sacrifice of the leavened bread and the aid to the poor, require our attention.
If we continue to read Acts 2, we find that the time apostles received the Holy Spirit was around is the 3rd hour ( 9 o clock), the exact hour when the glory cloud would descend and consume the sacrifice on the altar.
Now the fire that descends on the apostles reveals that they are the new sacrifices, the new leavened loaves. They’re to be offered up through the power of the Spirit, and they are the first fruits of the harvest. If we continue to read the 2nd chapter, we also read: “all who believed were together and had all things in common; and they sold their possessions and goods and distributed them to all, as any had need.” (Acts 2:44-45). This is the second dimension foreseen in the old Jewish feast of the weeks. The Feast of the weeks is perfectly fulfilled at Pentecost and continues in history through the Church. Helping the poor and needy has always been the priority of the Church.
At the same time, it is also the fulfilment of the Jewish concept of the temple. The Jewish concept was that the earthly temple is made of stone, but the heavenly temple is made of fire. So, what happens at Pentecost is that earth ascends to heaven, and heaven descends to the earth, in the Church, which becomes the new temple of God where people from every nation, regardless of language or culture, will unite to offer themselves.
The harvest that began on the day of Pentecost hasn’t stopped yet. We are all part of that harvest. Now we understand well the symbolism of the leavened bread that symbolises each of us, sinners. God also accepts this offer. It is the work of the Holy Spirit. This is a great cause of joy for us.
Every time we celebrate the Holy Mass, we offer ourselves the leavened breads. Therefore in the holy Mass, the priest invokes the Holy Spirit twice. The first is up on the offerings so that they may become the body and blood of Christ, and the second on the assembly so that they may become one body and one Spirit in Christ and a perennial offering pleasing to the Lord.
It will be clearer if we read the letter to the Romans: “If Christ is in you, although your bodies are dead because of sin, your spirits are alive because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit who dwells in you.” (Rm 8:10-11).
Unfortunately, we often forget that we have received the Holy Spirit and live under the slavery of fear and sadness. But we need to remember what St Paul says of the Holy Spirit, “the Spirit we have received, “is not the spirit of fear and timidity, but the Spirit of power, love, and self-discipline.” (2 Tim 1:7)
So let’s not let our life be guided by fear and sadness or something else, but guided by the Holy Spirit. That is what the spiritual life is all about, the life guided by the Holy Spirit.
Let me ask you: why did you come for the Mass? Why do you feel that you need a confession? It is the work of the Holy Spirit within us. That is why St Paul says: “No one can say Jesus is Lord, except through the Holy Spirit.” (1 cor 12:3) That means God himself enables us to recognise and accept the lordship of Christ through the Holy Spirit. That is to say, the very simple act of faith is the fruit of the Holy Spirit.
So let us recognise the Spirit that we have received in the baptism and the Confirmation, especially in the sacrament of Confirmation that perpetuates in us the grace of Pentecost. It gives us a special strength of the Holy Spirit to spread and defend the faith by word and action as true witnesses of Christ, to confess the name of Christ boldly, and never to be ashamed of the Cross. (CCC 1302-1303). Let us also pray for the unity that the Holy Spirit brings. Unity of the Church, parish and our families.