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The Spirit: fancy to power

Pentecost was an ancient Jewish holiday. It commemorated the arrival of the people of Israel at Mount Sinai where, God handed the 10 Commandments to Moses. The Israelites were really proud of this gift. They said that before them, God had offered the Law to other peoples. They had refused it, preferring to continue with their vices and excesses. To thank God for this predilection, the Israelites had set up a feast: the Pentecost. Saying that the Spirit descended upon the disciples on the day of Pentecost, Luke wants to teach that the Spirit has replaced the old law and became the new law for the Christian.

The sacred authors used images to present the outpouring of the Lord’s Spirit. They said that the Spirit is a breath of life (Genesis 2:7), the rain that irrigates the land and transforms the desert into a garden (Isaiah 32:15; 44:3), a force that restores life (Exodus 37:1-14), the rumble from the sky, wind that strongly blows, thunder, tongues of fire (Acts 2:1-3). All vigorous images that suggest the idea of an uncontrollable bursts of strength!

 Where the Spirit comes radical upheavals and transformation always happen: barriers fall, doors are opened wide, passivity and quietism disappear; initiatives are developed and courageous decisions are made.

 If the old law was given in the midst of thunder, lightning, flames of fire… how could Luke present the gift of the Spirit—the new law in a different way? If he wanted to be understood he had to use the same images.  

John has placed the outpouring of the Spirit on the day of Easter to show that the Spirit is the gift of the Risen One. After having twice addressed them the greeting, “Peace be with you!” (vv. 19, 21) Jesus gives his Spirit to the disciples and confers them the power to forgive sins (vv. 21-23). The disciples are sent to fulfill a mission, “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”

Through the mouth of the prophets God promised the gift of a new spirit, “I shall give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you” (Ezekiel 36:25).

  On Easter day these prophecies are fulfilled. In a symbolic gesture—Jesus breathed on them—the Spirit is consigned. This breath recalls the moment of creation, when “the Lord God formed man, dust drawn from the clay, and breathed into his nostrils a breath of life” (Genesis 2:7). The breath of Jesus creates the new man. This man is no more a victim of the forces that lead to evil but is animated by a new energy that drives him to do good.

 λ Father Fernando Armellini

         Claretian Publications