Pentecost Sunday

May 19, 2024

May 19, 2024


May 19, 2024

Pentecost Sunday





When Pope Francis came to the United States – to my native City of Philadelphia no less – I knew that I just had see him. I wanted somehow to enter into the sacred dimension of the hullabaloo.

So I created a pilgrimage that linked my university to the center of the action downtown. I gathered about 50 pilgrims. Along our walk we stopped at churches, murals, and even a synagogue. As we got closer to site for the Papal Mass, we joined other groups of pilgrims from all over the world who had come to Philadelphia for the World Meeting of Families. There were people singing in different languages, groups carrying banners proclaiming things I couldn’t read, little kids waving flags of different countries. Shoulder to shoulder in this happy chaos we felt the swell of energy approach us as his pope mobile got closer, pressed in to wave and cry, and then sat down on the curb for liturgy. The responsorial psalm stays with me: taste and see the goodness of the Lord.

The graces of that pilgrimage come to mind as I reflect on today’s reading from the second chapter of the Acts of the Apostles where we hear the familiar story of Pentecost. Of course, there are the obvious parallels: get out of your upper room, grab other disciples and head to the streets, encounter people who speak different languages, experience familiar traditions in new ways, share the joy of God’s presence among us. But as I look back on it, I think what I was really longing for that day in 2015 was to be of part of a people: not a crowd of spectators or even a merry band of pilgrims… but a people.

A people are those who share a vision and a desire to work together toward it. A people decide to go through hard things together, confident they will be different on the other side. In Let us Dream, Pope Francis explains this notion of being a people in images loaded with Pentecost meaning: “’A people’ is a category capable of generating sympathy out of disconnection, of harmonizing difference while preserving distinctiveness.”

This year, in the Pentecost account I hear in our texts a three-ingredient recipe for becoming a people.

So first, remember. When the disciples head out of the upper room they enter the holy chaos of the Jewish festival of Shauvot unfolding in the streets of Jerusalem. Shauvot is yet another feast of remembrance – in this case, commemorating Moses receiving the 10 Commandments, the law which helped transform a once enslaved population into a people oriented to living in right relationship with God, each other, and creation. Jesus adds his own saving dimension to covenantal justice: love with radical inclusiveness. Leave no one out. Todos, todos, todos as Pope Francis says. So, when anchored in its Jewish roots, the story of Pentecost teaches us that to become a people, we too need to remember God’s saving acts of breaking the bonds of oppression and Jesus’ ministry of loving us into wholeness.  

Second, the litany of peoples who encounter Jesus’ disciples on those streets of Jerusalem, hailing from across the Roman Empire, highlights not just the diversity of people gathered there, but the internal diversity of the Jewish tradition itself. Can you imagine the various interpretations, expressions, and physical embodiments of Judaism, all in one place, all remembering the significance of God’s mighty acts for them across the generations who have kept faith with the covenant? Pentecost teaches us that becoming a people invites us to get curious about the diversity within our own Catholic tradition. We need to taste and see God’s goodness being revealed to us through encounters with actual people who faithfully live our tradition differently than we do.

Finally, to become a people, we need to tell our stories of God’s mighty acts in our lives. I imagine the details of those personal accounts the disciples shared – stories of being chosen and healed, received at table and being forgiven, being beloved and commissioned. These autobiographical bits – about why Jesus’ mighty acts mattered to them - lent their stories compelling credibility. This early act of evangelization challenges our preoccupation with doctrine as the primary way to assert our identity as Catholics. Rather, to become a people, we need to risk telling our stories and also risk believing others stories about why Jesus matters.

We know that this becoming a people business isn’t easy. Ask anybody who is in anyway connected to the global Synod process unfolding in our Church, Pope Francis’ gamble that in remembering God’s saving mission, in embracing the internal diversity of our tradition, and in encounters with each other through story, we might become a people. It’s not easy.

Which is why Jesus sent us the Advocate, who we need more than ever. I hear the words of the 500-year old Veni Creator Spiritus with fresh ears this year this Pentecost:

·      When things get uncomfortable…You of comforters the best

·      When our work exhausts us… rest most sweet

·      When friction rises or tempers flare…Grateful coolness in the heat

·      When our skepticism makes us afraid to hope… Solace in the midst of woe

·      When past traumas make the future impossible to imagine… heal our wounds, our strength renew

·      Past wrongdoing paralyzes us… wash the stains of guilt away

·      When we head in the wrong direction… guide the steps that go astray

·      When we are convinced of our own righteousness… bend the stubborn heart and will

The prayer doesn’t pull punches – it names the contradictions and tensions and ambiguities of becoming a people and assures us that the Holy Spirit will send us what we need to stay in the cacophony long enough to create harmonies. We need the Spirit more than ever. Come, Holy Spirit. Make us Your people.

First Reading

Acts 2:1-11


Ps 104:1, 24, 29-30, 31, 34

Second Reading

1 Cor 12:3b-7, 12-13 or Gal 5:16-25


Jn 20:19-23 or Jn 15:26-27; 16:12-15
Read texts at

Maureen O'Connell

Maureen O'Connell

Maureen H. O’Connell is Associate Professor of Christian Ethics in the Department of Religion and Theology at La Salle University. She holds a BA in History from Saint Joseph’s University and a PhD in Theological Ethics from Boston College. She authored Compassion: Loving Our Neighbor in an Age of Globalization (Orbis Books, 2009) and If These Walls Could Talk: Community Muralism and the Beauty of Justice (The Liturgical Press, 2012), which won the College Theology Book of the Year Award in 2012 and the Catholic Press Association’s first place for books in theology in 2012. Her current research project will be forthcoming with Beacon Press in 2021 and explores the interplay between being Catholic and “becoming anti-black” across five generations of her family’s history in the City of Philadelphia. She received the Distinguished Lasallian Educator award in 2017 from both La Salle University and from the District of North Eastern North America, one of the provinces of the Brothers of the Christian Schools. She is a member of the national Lasallian Education Council,  where she chairs a national ad hoc committee on advocacy. She is a member of POWER (Philadelphians Organizing to Witness, Empower, and Rebuild), an interfaith coalition of more than 50 congregations committed to making Philadelphia the city of “just love” through community organizing. She serves the Board for the Society for the Arts in Religious and Theological Studies; Cranaleith Spiritual Center, a ministry of the Religious Sisters of Mercy in Northeast Philadelphia; and Rosemont College, where she is a member of the President’s Commission on the Legacy of Slavery.


Download our FREE Synodal Preaching Guide

Since the Synod on Synodality began in October 2021, Catholics have been invited into a new way of being church. Rooted in and flowing from the vision articulated in the Second Vatican Council, synodality offers a powerful vision of how to be the Body of Christ together, grounded in practices of respectful listening and sincere dialogue, centering the importance of shared baptismal dignity, and trusting that the Holy Spirit is the protagonist that guides discernment. Preaching is one area that can and must be informed by this invitation to synodality.

Catholic Women Preach offers this Synodal Preaching Guide as a resource for communities to practice synodality, nurturing it to take root locally. It is our hope that it will serve preachers and community leaders and members who break open the Word of God in their communities.

Download Your Copy of Our Synodal Preaching Guide

Advertise with Catholic Women Preach: email Russ at