Pentecost Sunday

Sunday, May 31, 2020
Pentecost Sunday

First reading: Acts 2:1-11

When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled, they were all in one place together. And 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.

Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven staying in Jerusalem. At this sound, they gathered in a large crowd, but they were confused because each one heard them speaking in his own language. They were astounded, and in amazement they asked, “Are not all these people who are speaking Galileans? Then how does each of us hear them in his native language? We are Parthians, Medes, and Elamites, inhabitants of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the districts of Libya near Cyrene, as well as travelers from Rome, both Jews and converts to Judaism, Cretans and Arabs, yet we hear them speaking in our own tongues of the mighty acts of God.”

Second reading: 1 Cor. 12:3b-7,12-13

Brothers and sisters: No one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit.

There are different kinds of spiritual gifts but the same Spirit; there are different forms of service but the same Lord; there are different workings but the same God who produces all of them in everyone. To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit.

As a body is one though it has many parts, and all the parts of the body, though many, are one body, so also Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, slaves or free persons, and we were all given to drink of one Spirit.

Gospel: Jn. 20:19-23

On the evening of that first day of the week, when the doors were locked, where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.” When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.”

In other words Fr. Dionisio M. Miranda, SVD (President, University of San Carlos, Cebu City)

Elections are over; another round of promises is awaiting disappointments. Why do we never learn to unmask the organized falsehood that comes with every election? Beyond elections, why is it so hard to challenge the lies we hear daily? Perhaps because we have always been ambivalent about seeking and finding the truth? Given individual personalities it is natural to see the world in unique and different ways. In moments of disagreement with people we respect and love eventually we concede to each other the right to have different perceptions of the truth; we agree to remember different things; we consent to tell the same stories in different ways.

This attitude of tolerance for versions of truth, however, differs from relativism, which Pope John Paul II attacked vigorously in his encyclicals. Relativism in turn differs vastly from today’s fake news, where the truth is consciously, deliberately, and maliciously distorted. Organized groups even employ trolls whose exclusive task is to fabricate falsehoods for systematic manipulation. Politically some have become ingenuously creative in enhancing images via Photoshop, dubbing over an audio file, citing misleading URLs, manipulating graphics, etc.

What is new in the age of populist rulers is that hate speech has become normal at the very top levels, prompting scholars to research on it seriously. Psychologists explain that fake news succeeds when facts are selectively presented to advance an ideology, when authority co-opts the narrative, and when critique is trivialized. Pope Francis felt compelled to explicitly address it in his message for World Communications Day of 24 Jan 2018. Instead of using information to create a world of meaning which facilitates fellowship, fake news is used “to advance specific goals, influence political decisions, and serve economic interests.” The untrue is presented as plausible and believable; appeal is made to stereotypes and prejudices; emotions of anxiety, contempt, anger, and frustration are exploited. The “other” is discredited, presented as enemy, and demonized. Intolerance is heightened, and hate spills over into conflict.

False news can be countered with legal controls, media education, conscientious journalists, technical restrictions, etc. At the core, however, the only meaningful remedy, following Pope Francis, is to grasp the logic of the snake. Pretending to be a friend concerned for her welfare, the Father of Lies seduces Eve with a half-truth, awakening her baser instincts and thirst for power. How can we recover truth? By refusing to lie and deceive ourselves, by striving to become transparent to ourselves, by firmly referring our lives to Jesus who is Truth Himself, and whose truth alone can set us free. The answer to fake news is not technological, but moral—we can recover the good in us by building up character, along strategies analogous to those of fake news: deliberately, without guile, in full transparency.

The Pope stresses a point often missed: truth is not a philosophical abstraction but rather the existential basis for relating between persons. Without truthfulness, trust and bonding become impossible, for it is falsehood which isolates, divides, and opposes. Not only must our words be true, but our acts must be trust-building if we ourselves are to become trustworthy. Trust based on truth is a work in progress; it must be nurtured by listening and dialogue; its fruit and touchstone is peace.

We are not designed in the likeness of a twisted serpent who is the source of all that is false, corrupted, and ugly. We are made in the image and likeness of a God who is the source of the true, the good, and the beautiful. Pentecost is a reminder of God’s Spirit of Love, of Unity, and of Peace based on Truth.

Tags: Bible reflection, Witness to the Word