"The Lord's Day" Gospel Reflection for May 31, 2020, Pentecost (Jn 20:19-23) Featured
Nicholas Pierlot gives a reflection on John 20:19-23 (As the Father sent me, so am I sending you: receive the Holy Spirit) as part of our The Lord's Day Sunday Gospel reflection series.
To assist in this time, St. Therese Institute would like to share some resources to keep your Sabbath day holy.
- Magnificat has made available a free, online subscription to their monthly publication of daily prayer, mass readings, and reflections by saints and pertinent theologians. A free PDF of the Sunday mass readings (using the NAB translation), with reflections, a form of liturgy of the hours, etc. is available at this link: ENGLISH https://us.magnificat.net/free FRENCH https://canada.magnificat.net/
As quoted from their website, Magnificat is:
"... a spiritual guide to help you develop your prayer life, grow in your spiritual life, find a way to a more profound love for Christ, and participate in the holy Mass with greater fervor."
Magnificat is a monthly publication designed for daily use, to encourage both liturgical and personal prayer. It can be used to follow daily Mass and can also be read at home or wherever you find yourself for personal or family prayer."
- Another good resource is Universalis.com. This is a free web resource that contains the Liturgy of the Hours and the daily mass readings with helpful instructions and various service. As well, one can use Canada's lectionary by selecting it in the settings.
It is our hope that these resources may support your life of prayer and devotion.
- First Reading – Acts 2:1-11
- Responsorial – Psalm 103(104):1,24,29-31,34
- Second Reading – 1 Corinthians 12:3-7,12-13
- Gospel – John 20:19-23
John 20:19-23 – Sunday Gospel Reflection – Pentecost Sunday
Nicholas Pierlot, Assistant Director of Formation, St. Therese Institute of Faith and Mission
May 31, 2020
The Gospel for this solemnity of Pentecost revisits Christ’s first resurrection appearance to the apostles. In this episode, Christ appears, grants them his peace, and then does a curious thing: he breathes on them. Breathing on people is not exactly socially regular or meaningful in this day and age. However, when the context is conside red, this is anything but a meaningless act.
Gleaning over the Old Testament, we gather some insight. In the book of Genesis, Adam’s body had been formed, but was still inanimate. The Lord then “breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and the man became a living being” (Gen 2:7). Later in salvation history, we see another incident, this time with Elijah. Stretching himself over a widow’s dead son, he breathes upon the boy, and the boy is resuscitated. Lastly, in one of Ezekiel’s visions, the prophet is brought to a valley of bones. He is told to prophesy to the bones, and flesh, sinew, and skin form themselves around each skeleton. Still lifeless, the Lord sends his breath upon them and an army, representing Israel, is mobilized (cf. Ez 37:9-10).
The significant of ‘breath’ might now be guessed at. Collectively, these examples suggest that the breath of God imparts a life force, movement, and the power of operation. However, the unique elements of each story also seem to provide another piece of the puzzle. In Elijah, we see that the breath of God is healing; it raised a boy from death to life, illness to health. In Genesis, Adam is the only creature who is made in God’s image and likeness. No other animal is breathed upon, so the Lord’s breath seems to communicate a likeness to God. And lastly, in Ezekiel we see that the bones of Israel are assembled into an army, awaiting their commission; the breath of God restores a community and bestows a mission. In summary, the breath of God denotes life, healing, divinity, and communal mission.
These key points now help us to understand the Gospel. Without question, healing and communal mission are imbued by Christ. This is especially clear when we read Christ’s words after he breathes on them: “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained” (Jn 20:22-23). The Church community is given the mission to preach good news and the power to forgive and heal from sin. But this power is not a human capacity, only God is able to forgive sins (cf. Mk 2:7). Thus Christ says “receive the Holy Spirit”.
However, the Holy Spirit doesn’t ‘come down’ sporadically. Before Christ, the breath of God came upon inanimate and dead things. The disciples were very much alive! Something new is occurring here. Christ is elevating the life of humanity to share in his very own. The Church is invited to partake in the very life of the Trinity. In breathing upon us, Christ bestows an unfathomable dignity and destiny.
Each Christian is thus called to a self-examination. Do I live according to this dignity and destiny? We have been given an incredible gift, how often am I grateful for it? It is for a reason that Pope Leo the Great once said: “Christian, remember your dignity.” Much of the Christian life is remembering our dignity given to us by Christ and asking for his forgiveness when we fall. It is never too late to turn to Christ. Because he breathed upon us, so we can live and breathe. Remembering this gift at all times is the beginning of conversion and perfection in the Christian life.
Nicholas Pierlot is the Assistant Director of Formation at St. Therese Institute of Faith and Mission in Bruno, SK, where Sacred Scripture is one of his favourite topics to instruct on. Nick holds a B.A. in Religious Studies from the University of Prince Edward Island and M.A. in Catholic Applied Theology from the Maryvale Institute in Birmingham, England. He lives in Bruno with his wife Denise, their daughter Rosé. They are expecting a new addition to the family this summer.