A reflection for Pentecost Sunday

Vanesa Zuleta Goldberg reflects on the readings for May 23, 2021.
Catholic Voices


Acts of the Apostles 2:1–11
Psalm 104:1, 24, 29–30, 31, 34
1 Corinthians 12:3b–7, 12–13 or Galatians 5:16–25
John 20:19–23 or 15:26–27; 16:12–15

Reflection: Lean into the Spirit

I have heard the story of Pentecost thousands of times: from the pulpit, during confirmation classes, while working on my master’s degree in theology. I have always been drawn to its focus on human experience and divine revelation.

I love imagining the dimness of the upper room and the way the disciples huddled together embodying human fear to which we can all relate. I love imagining what it felt like to feel the wind break through the windows, to rub away the shock from their eyes and see tongues of fire over each of their heads. I love thinking about the way in which the Holy Spirit was coursing through their veins, the glances that they gave each other before bursting out of this dark room into the light of day.

Reflecting on the story of Pentecost compels me to pray for that Spirit that allows for every language present to be spoken and heard, that Spirit that breaks through human boundaries and creates a space where everyone present is welcomed—a Spirit that is a force of liberation, a force of movement that empowers the disciples despite their fear to leave the upper room and share the gospel.

I often find myself wishing we talked more about the Spirit, this catalyst of liberation and force of unconditional love that makes its way through each of us, drawing us closer into communion with our communities and in turn with God.


I volunteer with a welcoming committee at the border in El Paso. We are often the first people migrants meet when they walk through the doors and enter the United States for the first time. In those embraces—with tears and the sharing of stories in community—I have found bits of Pentecost fire kindling around me. These encounters draw me back to the darkness of the upper room and its fear, and then to its light, its love, and liberation. With various languages present, with laughter and embraces, these moments at the border are truly part of the Spirit of Pentecost.

Pentecost is a moment in history that continually unravels itself within our lives. In a day and age when we are marked by social evils and systemic injustice, we need to lean into the Spirit. We need to find and help others find liberation in the movements and the rhythms of a Spirit that 2,000 years ago burst through an upper room and changed the course of history forever—a Spirit that convicts us to stand with the marginalized, reminds us of the unlimited diversity of God, and gives us strength when our human flesh fails to speak and act in accordance with the love and liberation that is gifted to us through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

I want to be part of a community—of a Body of Christ—that does not restrain the Spirit but rather embraces its restless and wild nature.

About the author

Vanesa Zuleta Goldberg

Vanesa Zuleta Goldberg has worked in youth ministry for 13 years—as a youth minister, Franciscan Youth Volunteer, worship leader, and speaker. She received her bachelor's degree in theology from Providence College and her master's degree in theology and ministry from Boston College School of Theology and Ministry, concentrating on how a Pentecost revival is occurring with the lives of Latinx youth in the Catholic Church.

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