George F. Riley, O.S.A.
Saint Thomas Monastery
Ps 104:1, 24, 29-30, 31, 34
1 Cor 12:3-7,12-13
Pentecost was the second of the three great Pilgrimage Festivals celebrated by Israel, feasts which imposed a pilgrimage to Jerusalem upon Israelites. The other two were the Feast of Passover and the Feast of Tabernacles. The Passover commemorated the sparing of the Israelites when God’s avenging angel passed by their homes and slew the first-born of the Egyptians (Exodus 11:1-10). The Feast of Tabernacles (also called the Feast of Booths) was a harvest festival, celebrated in the fall. Pentecost, the Feast of Weeks, was also a harvest feast, but it marked the spring harvest, and was called the day of the first fruits (Numbers 28:26-31). It was a day of Sabbath observance, marked by prayer and sacrifice. This was the feast, the harvest feast, which Christ’s followers were celebrating, when “suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house in which they were. Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them. And they were all filled with the holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim” (Acts 2:1-4).
Here we see the first farmers and the first harvest of the new Church. Tongues of fire, moving like ripe wheat in the wind, showed the inward gift of the Holy Spirit. When that first community was baptized with fire at Pentecost, Luke tells us that they “began to speak in different tongues” (Acts 2:4), and so could be understood by the pilgrims gathered in Jerusalem from all across the Mediterranean and beyond. As soon as the gift of the Spirit is poured out upon them, those first disciples begin to proclaim the Gospel. Here begins the harvest of men and women for Christ. Here begins the gathering of sinners into the barns of the Kingdom of God.
In our daily Christian life we must remember: “There are different gifts but the same spirit; there are different ministries but the same Lord; there are different works but the same God who accomplishes all of them in everyone” (1 Corinthians 12:4-6). At Pentecost, the followers of Christ received the gift of tongues, that they might proclaim, exhort, warn, comfort, and teach. The Spirit made them into farmers of men. All of us were baptized by the same Spirit. All of us have died and risen with Christ. All of us have gifts given to us for the good of others.
Pentecost passed, and then came the Feast of Tabernacles, and then Pentecost again.
Harvests and feasts pass and return, as the earth is renewed in its ancient office of bringing forth life. And certain as these seasons and harvests and feasts, the opportunity to forgive and to counsel comes again; the chance to build up and to comfort comes again; and the privilege to serve the poor, visit the sick, and pray for the lost comes, again and again.
The harvest is all about us, lying in hospitals, sheltered in cardboard and concrete, lost in alcohol and drugs, broken by divorce, pursuing wealth without good purpose, seeking pleasure without true love, longing for distant family and absent friends. The harvest is all about us, but the laborers are few. Let us put our hands to the plow, and by lives of steadfast mercy and joyful obedience, let us gather for the Lord a rich harvest of worship and service.