A reflection for the feast of Pentecost

Madison Chastain reflects on the readings for May 19, 2024.
Catholic Voices

Readings (Year B):

Acts 2:1 – 11
Psalms 104:1, 24, 29 – 30, 31, 34
1 Corinthians 12:3b – 7, 12 – 13 or Galatians 5:16 – 25
John 20:19 – 23

Reflection: What is the right way to live in a body?

There are two options for second readings this Pentecost. Both involve bodies. What are we to make of our flesh? What is the right way to live in a body? These same readings also ask questions about community and belonging. This is not a coincidence. So often we use metaphors of the body to talk about belonging, because our bodies are often our first places where we learn about acceptance and difference. Do we look like our neighbors? Do we look the way society says we ought to look?

In the letter to the Galatians, we hear about works of the flesh and works of the Spirit. The flesh, says Paul, is immoral, impure, lustful, jealous, and hateful. In contrast, the Spirit is kind, patient, generous, faithful, gentle. Is this reading telling us that there is something explicitly wrong with our human bodies? Do we have to overcome our skin and bones to focus on the Spirit? 

Recently, I’ve been really struggling with feeling like I don’t belong in my body. I have PCOS, a metabolic disorder that impacts everything from hormones to hair to muscle mass. My body composition and energy levels fluctuate a lot. It’s easy to feel like my body is wrong, so I am wrong.


But when Paul writes that human flesh “has desires against the Spirit”—what if we thought about the big “S” Spirit and big “B” Body? The movement of God in the world and in our hearts that produces peace, kindness, generosity: that Spirit doesn’t know hatred or abuse, of ourselves or of others. It is not the individual human body that must be overcome: It is all our bodies, our human tendencies, and the society we create together that breed inaccessibility, harm, and injustice.

The other option for a second reading for today, from 1 Corinthians, provides the vision of this beloved, Spirit-led community: Differences aren’t just embraced, they’re necessary. Our differences allow us to manifest the different gifts of the spirit. Regardless of gender, religion, country of origin, ethnicity, or ability. Each member of the Body of Christ is different, and crucial.

In a time of such intense violence and injustice across the Earth, we each must do our own unique part in exactly the bodies we’re in. Whether you are a student, a parent, an artist, an activist, a religious brother or sister, every individual has a role to play in resisting the lure of power and combatting hatred and greed.  

When the time of Pentecost was at hand, all the disciples were in one place. But then, each was given a unique gift to speak to a specific, diverse audience of the good news. Each of us has flesh that speaks—whether or verbally or not—exactly what those God has placed around us most need to hear. 

About the author

Madison Chastain

Madison Chastain writes about the body, faith, and culture. You can find more of her writing at madisonchastain.com, and on Instagram at @maddsienicole.

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