Whitsunday: Reflection for Pentecost

Today is Whitsunday (the old English name), the feast of Pentecost. Again,I don’t want to repeat my homily at the livestreamed 9:30 Mass today (www.saintedmunds.net). I have also reposted a note from the Catholic Womens League reminding us that a large number of young people from our parish were due to be confirmed today – so we pray for them.

I have stressed quite a lot in posts during Lent and Eastertide that it’s important to remember the Jewish roots of Christianity, and that means taking seriously Jewish religion and the links between its feast days and what we celebrate as Christians. The coming of the Holy Spirit on the disciples and Our Lady, described in Acts chapter 2, happens when they’re all in Jerusalem for the Jewish feast of Shavuot, the Greek word for which is ‘Pentecostes’; it’s sometimes called the ‘Feast of Weeks’. It is fifty days after Pesach (Passover), and that’s what the Greek word means. This year, as at Easter / Passover, the Jewish and (western) Christian feast coincide (they don’t always). Shavuot, shown here on the right, is a sort of spring harvest festival celebrating the giving of the Law (‘Torah’) to Moses by God: it’s a celebration of the moral life.

This helps us understand the Christian Pentecost. The power of the Holy Spirit changes the disciples, giving them confidence to proclaim the message of Jesus Christ; and this entails knowing about the moral law; the Spirit guides us and informs our consciences, giving us discernment and wisdom and right and wrong. These are qualities and gifts we always need, not least in a time of crisis.

The event is seen as the beginning of the Church and we keep this Sunday as a special day of prayer for the Church. Ordinarily we mark this with a special collection for the charitable trust which pays for the running of the Catholic Bishops Conference of England and Wales. The work of the bishops and the departments of the conference is more important than ever at the moment – communicating the faith, researching into the effects of the pandemic on society, negotiating with government about the phased reopening of churches (I expect many of you heard the cardinal talking about this on the radio this morning – available HERE) and efforts to ensure safety in our schools as they reopen partially tomorrow. I am an adviser to one of the conference departments and work closely with the bishops and their dedicated lay staff – please pray for them today; the second collection will be later in the year: go to www.cbcew.org.uk for details of their work.

In our parish St Mary’s School and Bishop Challoner School will be partially reopening tomorrow, with stringent measures to ensure safety for pupils and staff. Please pray for them tomorrow.

Enjoy this great feast. Many thanks for the many birthday messages for Iris posted to my personal Facebook page.

God bless and take care
Fr Ashley


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