Biblical meditation: Let’s play with fire!

Sunday June 5, 2022, Pentecost Day, four texts will be read.
First reading Book of the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 2, 1-11).
Psalm 103.
Second reading Letter of Saint Paul to the Romans (Rm 8, 8-17).
The Gospel according to Saint John (Jn 14, 15-16.23b-26.).

Acts of the Apostles Ac 2, 1-11

When the day of Pentecost came,
at the end of the 50 days after Easter,
they were all gathered together.
Suddenly a noise came from the sky like a violent gust of wind:
the whole house where they were sitting was filled with them.
Then appeared to them tongues that one would have said of fire,
which were divided, and one alighted on each of them.

All were filled with the Holy Spirit:
they began to speak in other tongues,
and each spoke according to the gift of the Spirit.
Now there was, residing in Jerusalem,
religious Jews, from every nation under heaven.
When they heard the resounding voice,
they gathered in crowds.
They were confused because each of them
heard in his own dialect
those who spoke.
In amazement and wonder, they said:
“Are these people who speak not all Galileans?
How come each of us hears them
in his own dialect, his mother tongue?
Parthians, Medes and Elamites, inhabitants of Mesopotamia,
of Judea and Cappadocia, of the province
of Pontus and that of Asia, of Phrygia and Pamphylia,
of Egypt and the lands of Libya near Cyrene,
Passing Romans, native Jews and converts,
Cretans and Arabs, we all hear them
speak in our languages ​​of the wonders of God. »

The Apostles in prayer with Mary

So that this famous passage ignites, on us and in us, even more fire, it is good to hear what was said in the previous chapter, the very beginning of the Acts of the Apostles, this book that Saint Luke wrote to follow his Gospel. In this inaugural chapter, it is said that the apostles usually meet together in diligent prayer with Mary, mother of Jesus, and others (Acts 1:13-14). Thus, Luke began his Gospel by presenting Mary who receives the Holy Spirit and becomes pregnant with Jesus, the Christ (Luke 1, 30-38); he now begins the Acts by emphasizing the presence of Mary, surrounded by the disciples of her Son.

Mary indeed knows the Spirit and she knows that through him are born the Sons of God. After being pregnant with the Son by the action of the Spirit, she is at the heart of the expectation that will make disciples sons with the Son, sons of the Father. This is also what Jesus announced to the apostles after his resurrection: “I send upon you the promise of the Father (…). You will be clothed with power from on high” (Luke 24, 49).

All, men and women, receive the Holy Spirit

When the Spirit comes upon the disciples, it is therefore on men who are prepared, waiting, that he descends. Men whom Mary and other women have accompanied and formed (perhaps the women who had announced the Resurrection to them in the past without their listening to them, Luke 24, 9-11). In any case, these disciples who pray and finally receive the Spirit enter into the same process as that of Jesus.

Also in the Gospel of Luke, it is said that after having been baptized, Jesus put himself in prayer; it is then that the Spirit descends on him in the guise of a dove (Luke 3, 21-22). On this day of Pentecost, the disciples, who usually pray with Mary and the women, receive the same Holy Spirit. It also descends upon them, but this time in the form of tongues of fire.

The Strengthening and “Filling” Spirit

Now, the Word must be brought by the Spirit! And it must be on fire! The prophet Jeremiah already said it, many centuries before Christ: if the prophets do not welcome a Word that comes from God, “they will be carried away by the Spirit”, as if by a scattering wind. The Spirit strengthens the flesh when we welcome the words he brings. He reduces it to the state of straw when we remain refractory to these words.

Now, these words, they burn! As the Lord said to Jeremiah: “I put my words in your mouth like fire” (Jeremiah 5, 13-14; see again 20, 9). ” In your mouth “ : because the Spirit ” fill “, as our text says, those who receive it. Through him, the Word received from God also becomes our Word.

In this, the ancient Jewish feast of Pentecost is the appropriate feast! It celebrates and makes present two great realities: it is a feast of the first harvests of which the first fruits are offered to God (Exodus 23, 16); it is also the feast of the gift, made by God to his people, of the Torah (Exodus 3, 3-9), a new stage of salvation after the exodus from Egypt that the feast of Easter celebrated. The apostles form this new harvest, which has finally come to maturity. The Torah, the teaching of the Lord becomes alive, real, in them.

Philippe Lefebvre is a Dominican friar, professor of Old Testament at the Faculty of Theology of Friborg (Switzerland) and member of the Pontifical Biblical Commission. He notably published Joseph, the eloquence of a taciturn (Salvator) and The Bible’s Intrusive Words on the Family (Stag). He just published how to kill jesus (Stag).

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Biblical meditation: Let’s play with fire!

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