Have you ever wondered why the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the apostles and disciples is called Pentecost? To answer that question, we need to refer to the Hebrew Scriptures, Exodus 34: 22.

The harvest was seen as an outpouring of God’s blessing upon the land which was the outward sign of the covenant between God and his people. This outpouring of blessings upon the Land by God required a response from the people and Exodus describes that outpouring of thanksgiving on the part of the people. “You shall keep the Feast of Weeks with the first of the wheat harvest at the close of the year.” The first of the wheat was the first fruits of the harvest which would be offered back to God in thanksgiving for the outpouring of the blessing of the crops. The land, which the people of Israel occupied, was a dry and arid land before Israel took possession. Then the Lord blessed this promised land and it became a land flowing with milk and honey. The Jewish Feast of Weeks, as this feast became known, also was known as Pentecost which means outpouring of God’s Blessing. Today the Feast of Weeks is known in the Hebrew as Shavuot. For Christians, Pentecost, is the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on God’s people.

Our own celebration of Pentecost is in relationship with the Jewish Feast of Pentecost; they are both an outpouring, one an outpouring of God’s blessing on the harvest and the other an outpouring of God’s blessing of the harvest which will be made possible by the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the Church. This outpouring of the Holy Spirit is known to us as Pentecost. We are the workers in the field who have been blessed by the outpouring of the Holy Spirit as we gather the harvest. And we are the harvest itself made possible by the outpouring of God’s spirit. We then are offered back to God as the first fruits of the harvest. How do we offer ourselves back to God in thanksgiving? By the turning over of our lives to the Lord. We must empty ourselves so that the Holy Spirit may fill us with the gifts and the fruits of the Spirit.

Jesus is the outpouring of those first fruits on the cross. It is from the cross that all blessings flow. On the night before he died, he promised his disciples in John 14: 16-17, “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always, the Spirit of Truth.” It will be through the sending of an Advocate, the Holy Spirit, that will bring about a great blessing of the harvest of souls. When he appears in the upper room to the disciples, “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.’ ” (John 20: 20-22) We have received the first fruits of the Holy Spirit; now how shall we thank God for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit? By offering ourselves as the first fruits of the harvest to God in service to the Church.

It is the Holy Spirit that gives us the ability to not only offer ourselves as the first fruits of the harvest; the Holy Spirit allows us to gather others so that they may become the first fruits of the harvest as well. The gifts we have been given are not simply given for our own use, rather they are given to build up the entire Church.

“There are different kinds of spiritual gifts but the same spirit; there are different forms of service but the same Lord; there are different works but the same God who produces all of them in everyone.” (1 Cor. 4-6) St. Paul writes those words to the Church in Corinth (l Cor. 12: 3b-7, 12-13) to remind each of them that they are called to a ministry based on their gifts from the Holy Spirit. These spiritual gifts are poured out on all the baptized. “To everyone, the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit. To one the Spirit gives wisdom in discourse, to another the power to express knowledge. the same Spirit who produces and distributes all the gifts. St. Paul goes on to say, “For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body.” (1 Cor. 12: 12) These gifts of the Holy Spirit are given to renew the face of the earth. (Psalm 104)