When we hear the word “Pentecost,” what are some of the first thoughts that come to mind?
I asked this question to a group of men at our last CRHP gathering. They responded:
…Speaking in tongues, fire, Spirit of Truth, mystical, wonder, what’s next?
In today’s Gospel, John writes about that “first evening” of Easter, when the doors were locked and Jesus stood in the midst of the Apostles and breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” Bible scholars sometimes referred to this as John’s Pentecost (Jn 20:19-23) – a foreshadowing of the coming of the Holy Spirit.
And during this encounter with Jesus, the Apostles received the Holy Spirit. They were empowered to act in his name. They became our first ordained priests and received the power to forgive sins which was a vital part of their role of sanctifying the people. Jesus sent them forth into the world to continue his mission of spiritual healing.
Historically, Pentecost was one of the greatest feasts of the Jewish calendar. Originally an agricultural feast, but in the latter centuries of the Old Testament it became the celebration in remembrance of Moses receiving the 10 Commandments on Mt. Sinai.
For this occasion, like for the Passover, many Jews from all countries came on pilgrimage to Jerusalem. That is why all the people of different countries and languages were in Jerusalem. It was an occasion to celebrate and recall the day when God made his Covenant with his chosen people.
Furthermore, it was just three years earlier that John the Baptist announced a “baptism of fire” upon Jesus (Luke 3:16). And now this fire occurs for the second time in Salvation History with “tongues of fire” from the Holy Spirit.
God sends the Spirit of the Son to the people gathered at Pentecost, and with this, the Church is born. — Happy Birthday!
God wills that all people of every nation know him, and in this case, witness this event. We all understand the importance of an eye witness…it helps overcome doubt with truth.
The Spirit comes to give life to the Church. It also comes to confirm or affirm the believers. (Our Sacrament of Confirmation, the baptism of fire, the laying on of hands, the Chrism oil. They are all rooted from this Pentecostal day.)
Our faith and our hearts are infused with the power and love of the Holy Spirit.
Inspired by the Spirit, we see how Peter is transformed. He now knows the truth and believes. This is why he can boldly proclaim the good news of Jesus and His resurrection (Jn 15:26 and 16:13).
The miracle of Pentecost is not in the fact that the apostles, all of Galilean/ Palestine origin, began to speak in foreign languages, but in the fact that all the foreigners heard the proclamation of God’s wonderful works in their own language. That was the miracle of Pentecost. They heard the voice of God. And, not only did they hear God’s voice, they responded to His call.
They responded through faith in Jesus and desiring to become members of His Church. Moreover, they were not required to renounce their language and their culture, as converts of the old law were required to do.
God wishes to be praised by people of all languages and cultures. In this way, the diversity of the members in the body of Christ is visible for all to see.
St. Paul’s letter to the Corinthians (1 Cor 12:-13…our second reading) speaks to this point…For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body.
St. Paul continues by preaching that there are different kinds of spiritual gifts, but of the one Spirit. There are many types of service, but of the same Lord. In other words, our gifts differ from one person to the next according to the grace given to us but we remain one body in Christ.
The Holy Spirit draws us into the mystery of the living God. He wants us to open the doors and go forth to proclaim and bear witness to the good news of the Gospel
…to communicate the joy of faith…to encounter with Christ.
The Holy Spirit is the supreme gift of the risen Christ. He wants that gift to reach everyone. We are not to keep it to ourselves. We are not to be timid and stay huddled in an upper room.
What’s Next? (recalling this comment from my CRHP discussion group)
My challenge for all of us is this…
How are we imploring the gifts we received from the Holy Spirit?
How are we going about doing God’s work?
From my perspective, I do see our parish family displaying their faith through their good works. However, can we do more? Can we be a little bolder in living out our faith in ways typically outside our comfort zone? For example:
When we take the initiative to better understand scripture through parish bible study, do we keep that new found knowledge and appreciation to ourselves? Or do we share this passion with others, with family members that have fallen away from the Church?
When we talk with a friend who is in need of prayer, we often reply that we will pray for them and then go about our daily lives. Can we take this a step further? Perhaps we can stop what we are doing and pray with them at that very moment.
Last week, we held a rummage sale in our parish. As we thank people for their patronage, maybe we could have pass along a prayer card with a Mass schedule. You never know when God places someone in your path that may be lost and/or unchurched. Perhaps a personal, open invitation to worship with us may be the beginning of a new friendship to share Jesus.
These are just a few examples on how we might use the gifts of courage and counsel; the virtues of joy and charity. It’s never too late to implore the help of the Holy Spirit.
May the Holy Spirit strengthen us to be a little bolder in proclaiming our love for Jesus through our words and deeds.
Close with prayer by St. Augustine
Breathe in me, O Holy Spirit, that my thoughts may all be holy.
Act in me, O Holy Spirit, that my work, too, may be holy.
Draw my heart, O Holy Spirit, that I love but what is holy.
Strengthen me, O Holy Spirit, to defend all that is holy.
Guard me, then, O Holy Spirit, that I always may be holy. Amen.