A SURPRISING ASSOCIATION

Most people are familiar with word association tests. Someone says a word and we have to say the first thing that comes to mind when we hear that word.

For example, if we heard the word “blue,” we might respond by saying “sky” or “bird” or “feeling.” If we heard “car” we might respond with “Toyota” or “loan” or “drive.”

Suppose someone said the word “Pentecost.” We might say “Holy Spirit” or “fire” or “wind.” Certainly each of those words would be expected responses and ones related to this Sunday’s First Reading (Acts 2:1-11) for the Solemnity of Pentecost.

However, there is another word that might also be associated with “Pentecost,” the final day of this Easter Season – a word that we would probably not mention even if we named a dozen words related to “Pentecost.” That word is “annunciation.”

“Annunciation” brings to mind the announcement to Mary by the angel Gabriel that she had been chosen from among all women to bear a son who would be great and be called the “Son of the Most High.”

If we reflect on the Solemnity of the Annunciation and the Solemnity of Pentecost there is a connection, one that can help us to more fully appreciate the meaning of Pentecost.

At the Annunciation, the angel told Mary that “the Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God.” (Luke 1:35)

With Mary’s positive response, the incarnation took place. “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.” (John 1:14)

Luke’s account of Pentecost has certain parallels to his account of the Annunciation. The Holy Spirit that overshadowed Mary dramatically overshadows the disciples at Pentecost. The Spirit’s coming is announced not by a message from an angel but rather by “a noise like a strong driving wind” and by “tongues as of fire.”

Empowered by the Spirit, the disciples burst forth from where they are gathered in prayer and go forth to proclaim the Gospel. We might say they come out of the “womb,” their place of security, and they make the Church, the living Body of Christ, present in their flesh and blood.

Because of the Annunciation, Christ the Savior was born. Because of Pentecost, the Church was born. Both “births” took place through the power of the Holy Spirit.

The Pentecost event that we celebrate this Sunday is something that continues to this very day. That happens as the Holy Spirit overshadows those who are baptized and confirmed, makes them part of the Church, and sends them forth into the streets of our world to be the living presence of Christ

While we might not readily associate “annunciation” with “Pentecost,” there is a connection. Recognizing that association will help us to better appreciate what we celebrate this Sunday and better appreciate the importance of our responding to the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

© 2019 Rev. Thomas B. Iwanowski