Today's Preface praises God because he poured out the Holy Spirit on this day, 'and so brought the Paschal Mystery to its completion'. Today's gift is the completion, the purpose, of the Paschal Mystery. Jesus passed over ahead of us, through death to abundant life, so as to purchase the gift of the Spirit. At the Last Supper, Jesus explained, "If I do not go away, the Paraclete will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you."
Telling us of Jesus's death, John says, "He bowed His head and handed over the Spirit." And in today's Gospel, the risen Jesus breathes the Holy Spirit on his disciples. Because Jesus has gone from this world through his death and resurrection, the Spirit is given. Pentecost is the result of Good Friday and Easter; it makes visible, audible, on the public stage, what was achieved fifty days earlier.
The Jewish feast of Pentecost celebrated the harvest and the gift of the Law. For us it celebrates the gathering in of the harvest Jesus produced by dying, and the gift of the New Law. The Paraclete is the Friend to accompany us with advice and encouragement, the Law we have to follow. He attunes us to Jesus, whose sacrifice is also our Law.
After pointing out how the Spirit comes because Jesus redeemed us on the Cross, Pope John Paul II explains that 'the Spirit is Love and Gift in Person'. This insight is based on the Spirit's work. What the Spirit does at Pentecost gives us a glimpse of his 'personal character'.
As today's Preface puts it: "The Spirit gathered into fellowship the variety of tongues that they might profess a single faith." At Babel, because of pride, human communication was fragmented. Pentecost overcomes Babel -- but not by suppressing the rich variety of human language and culture. Rather, the Spirit purifies each culture, and brings it home into a Catholic Church where the same truth is proclaimed in the accents of many places and times.
Likewise, St. Paul tells us, the Spirit makes us one Body. He gives each member gifts to be used for the common good. His great gift is Charity, that love which makes us serve each other, even leave space for others' gifts.
Further, in today's Gospel we hear that the Spirit enables us to forgive sins, to be a community of reconciliation -- though we also hear a warning: if we fail to forgive, we get in the way of the forgiveness of which we should be channels.
In the Spirit's power, we live as one -- and we go out as heralds of the truth, as ministers of forgiveness. "As the Father has sent me, even so I send you. Receive the Holy Spirit." At Pentecost, the Sprit began to impel the Church on her universal mission.