The Holy Spirit is “poured out on all flesh,” Peter tells the crowd at Pentecost. The Spirit is like water poured out, St. Cyril of Jerusalem tells his hearers:
Some wonder if our talk about God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit; about the story of Pentecost which we celebrate today, means anything at all. Is it just an old tale that has nothing to do with life and life’s challenges today?
Let’s look at this great story told in our first reading. (Acts 2,1-22) The Spirit of God came down on some people in Jerusalem over two thousand years ago, our story says. Who were these people? Those mentioned first were disciples of Jesus gathered together in one place, as we are today. They had previously seen Jesus die and then they saw him risen from the dead.
They were gathered in Jerusalem on the Jewish feast of Pentecost, when the Jews celebrated the blessings of the harvest that gave them food for life and the words of God that guided them.
On this feast of Pentecost a new blessing of life would be given, a blessing from Jesus, risen from the dead.
A fierce wind shook the house, tongues of fire fell on them– symbols of light and power–and those in the house were filled with new hopes, new dreams, new thoughts, new energy, new words.
The Spirit of God was given to them.
But notice that the Spirit of God is given to others as well, not only to those in the house, but those outside. There were visitors from all parts of the world in Jerusalem for the feast and they experienced this blessing too.
When they ask Peter what’s happening, he says the Spirit of God is being poured out on all flesh, “and your sons and your daughters will prophesy, and your young men will see visions and your old men will dream dreams.” (Acts 2.17-18) Even your slaves, the poorest among you, will be blessed by God’s Spirit, Peter says, quoting from the Prophet Joel.
Pentecost is a world feast, therefore. We not only celebrate the birth of the church as this feast signifies. We celebrate God’s abiding promise through Jesus Christ to recreate the world. “Lord, send out your Spirit, and renew the face of the earth.”
Christians can easily become too parochial, as if God were our private God, given only to us. But the Feast of Pentecost reminds us that God reaches with divine blessings to the ends of the earth. The Spirit has been poured out on “all flesh,” on all our world.
Strong winds and tongues of fire may not be the signs of his presence everywhere, but the Spirit of God dwells in our world all the same, blessing it with power and truth.
On this feast God opens the horizons of our minds to a greater world where God’s Spirit is at work.