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Jesus breathes the Holy Spirit

Gospel Reading: 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.”

Right after the death of Jesus, the apostles go in hiding for fear of their lives. The authorities seek them out because they are following Jesus, who is considered subversive. While they are locked up in a room, however, the risen Jesus appears to them. He greets them, “Peace be with you,” to dispel their fears. They rejoice at his sight.

Jesus shows them the wounds of his hands and his side, reminders of his crucifixion. Jesus repeats his greeting of peace and then sends them out for the forgiveness of sins. As he sends them, he breathes on them the Holy Spirit (pneuma). The Holy Spirit, says the Gospel, comes upon the disciples on Resurrection Sunday itself.

The First Reading tells us another story on the coming of the Holy Spirit. It says that the Holy Spirit descends upon the Apostles fifty days after the Resurrection. Hence, the name Pentecost. Luke, the author of the Acts of the Apostles, describes the Holy Spirit descending upon them in tongues as of fire. The Holy Spirit also manifests itself in the form of sound bites. The Apostles are filled with the Holy Spirit and begin to speak in different tongues. We call speaking in tongues glossolalia.

People outside the house hear a strange sound from a strong wind. These people must be Jewish pilgrims, who have come from different places in the Mediterranean world to attend the Jewish feast of Pentecost. Mosaic Law requires all male Jews to attend this harvest feast, 50 days after the Passover. These people must wonder why these simple Galileans could speak different languages about the mighty acts of God and could very well be understood by them. At this point, the Apostles already start doing their mission.

Both the First Reading and the Gospel talk of the coming of the Holy Spirit in connection with the disciples’ mission. This marks the start of the Church. Hence, Pentecost means the birth of the Church. Praise the Lord, hallelujah! Today we celebrate her birthday and greet the Church, “Happy Birthday!”

The original word for Church in Greek is ecclesia, from which the more familiar word iglesia in Spanish comes.
Ecclesia is a combination of ek (out of) and kaleo (I call). Its etymology tells us that the Church is a community of believers called by God for a mission with the gifts and power of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit-filled Church is missionary. To be called Church, it must possess the Holy Spirit and do its mission, which is Christ’s mission.

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SOURCE: “365 Days with the Lord,” ST PAULS, 7708 St. Paul Rd., SAV, Makati City (Phils.); Tel.: 895-9701; Fax 895-7328; E-mail: publishing@stpauls.ph; Website: http://www.stpauls.ph.