When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. 2 And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3 Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. 4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability. 5 Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. 6 And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each. 7 Amazed and astonished, they asked, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? 8 And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language? 9 Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, 11 Cretans and Arabs—in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power.” 12 All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?”

New Revised Standard Version Bible: Catholic Edition, copyright © 1989, 1993 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

The world in front of the text has two dimensions: the response of the reader who encounters the text, and the Church’s history of interpretations and use of the text.

Questions for the teacher

Please reflect on these questions before reading this section and then use the material below to enrich your responsiveness to the text.

Meaning for today/challenges

The key aspect of Pentecost is the empowerment of the disciples by the Holy Spirit. In Jesus’ own life, the Spirit was with him. In Luke 24:49 Jesus said that he would send what his Father had promised and, in accordance with this commitment, the Spirit now transforms and empowers those who carry on his mission. The challenge for us today is to continue this mission, not just in our own places but throughout the world.

It is the Spirit who is the source of the drive to press on, not only geographically but also beyond the frontiers of race and religion, for a truly universal mission.

John Paul II (1990) The Mission of the Redeemer #24

Further practical applications of this may include:

  • Sharing the story of Jesus with the students in our classroom, their parents and our communities
  • World Mission Day
  • Catholic Social Justice Teaching
  • Supporting Catholic Mission and Caritas Australia
  • Sorry Day
  • Harmony Day

All peoples and cultures have the right to receive the message of salvation which is God’s gift to every person. [Jesus’ command to preach the Gospel to all nations has not ceased], rather this command commits all of us, in the current landscape with all its challenges, to hear the call to a renewed missionary ‘impulse’.

Pope Francis Message for World Mission Sunday, 2016 (Issued on the Solemnity of Pentecost, 2016)

How should we respond to the Spirit at work in our lives?
We radiate the Spirit and by our word and example invite others to share it. The gift of the Spirit are is for ourselves: they are to be shared. After the coming of the Holy Spirit, as we have seen, the disciples did not stay in that room luxuriating in what they had been given. They burst out to tell the whole House of Israel that God has made Jesus Christ both Lord and Messiah (Acts2: 32-36).

Church interpretations & usage

These include the following:

A Key Moment for the Church
Many rightly refer to Pentecost as “the birthday” of the Church. The coming of the Spirit sent the community of disciples on mission and as a result they became the Church. This community of disciples grew in their understanding of the mission. At first the disciples did not experience Pentecost as sending them on mission beyond their Jewish community. Over the course of the Acts of the Apostles the early community under the influence of the Holy Spirit came to see that its mission is to the ends of the earth. So, in this sense, the Church more fully came into being when the Jesus community saw itself as distinct from Judaism and that its mission goes out to all peoples.

Liturgical Celebration of Pentecost
This reading always is the first reading on Pentecost Sunday. The Paschal Triduum of the Passion and Resurrection of the Lord is the most important celebration in the Liturgical Year. Pentecost, along with Christmas, the Epiphany and the Ascension, are the next most important days. The liturgical colour of Pentecost is red, reminiscent of the tongues of fire of Acts 2:3.

The Church often uses this text during the Sacrament of Confirmation during which those confirmed receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the same reason as above, red vestments may be worn for the celebration of the Sacrament of Confirmation.