People say that puns are the lowest form of humor, but clerical jokes are just as bad. Thirty-odd years ago, by changing the Mass readings for the day after Easter, the Church deprived us of one of our chestnuts. For centuries the Gospel had been St. Luke’s account of the two disciples who had run away to Emmaus on Easter day. That provided us with our joke. As soon as our Easter Masses were over we priests would get lost, leaving word with the housekeeper to tell anyone looking for us that we had gone to Emmaus.
The Church replaced that story of going to Emmaus with the one of the risen Jesus appearing to the two Marys. That is a beautiful story, but there is nothing funny about it.
Today’s first reading is a Pentecost story, not an Easter story, but indirectly it has something wonderful to say about Easter. The reading has Peter making an explanation to the crowds on Pentecost day. He was telling them how it came about that the speech of the Apostles was easy for foreigners to understand. He said it was because the Holy Spirit was on them.
The wonderful thing was how it came about that the Spirit should be on them that day, when previously they had not been open to the Spirit.
If we go back to Chapter Seven of John’s Gospel we hear Jesus telling the crowd that he would provide “rivers of living water” to his believers. (St. John, who wrote that Gospel, interrupted the account of what Jesus was saying to make his own explanation. Let me quote what John said, “Jesus said this in reference to the Spirit that those who came to believe in him were to receive. There was, of course, no Spirit yet, because Jesus had not been glorified”)
Our first reading today concludes with Peter’s explanation to the crowds at Pentecost. He said, “Exalted at the right hand of God, he pored forth the promised Holy Spirit that he received from the Father, as you both see and hear.”
For giving his life Jesus was rewarded by being exalted to the right hand of God where he received the power to bestow the Spirit on his believers.