On Sunday May 24, we will celebrate Pentecost Sunday. The day we remember the Holy Spirit coming down into the world and into our hearts. The feast that we celebrate is considered by many to be the birthday of the Church, and for good reason. An amazing miracle took place that day; the miracle of the establishment of the Church itself. Think for a moment: the Church was established by a band of poor and illiterate fishermen. They prevailed not by wealth of money, nor wisdom of words; but by divine power that was within them through the Holy Spirit and was activated that day.
The portrait of the Disciples between Good Friday and Easter Sunday was one of fear, doubt, broken promises, despair and betrayal. They even bolted the door to that attic room where they were hiding for fear of the Jews. They had witnessed the bitterness and the hatred by the Jews, who orchestrated the death of Jesus. They were very much afraid that they might be next. Then on Easter night, Jesus was suddenly in their midst. He didn’t climb the stairs, he didn’t knock, he didn’t unbolt the door…..he just appeared.
When Jesus appears, He gives them five important gifts:
- He gives his followers the gift of his presence at a time when they needed him the most.
- He gives them the gift of peace, “Peace be with you,” He says. (John 20:21)
- He gives them a mission…, “as the father sends me, so I send you.” He gives them the task of establishing the Church, spreading the gospel message around the world. They were being sent with God’s authority to preach, teach and work miracles and to make Jesus’ and his message clearly visible to the world.
- He gives them the gift of forgiveness of sins. He says, “If you forgive men’s sins they are forgiven them, if you hold them bound, they are held bound.” (John 20:23)
- Most importantly, gives them the gift of a companion to help them in their work. He breathes on them and says, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” (John 20:22)
The disciples were in fear of death, but Jesus didn’t tell them or give them any assurance of their safety. Instead he blessed them with peace. We want to have tangible assurance of safety when we are in fear, but Jesus gives us assurance of peace in our minds rather than tangible safety. Before he died he had taught his disciples with many parables and stories, but now he didn’t teach them anymore. There was no explanation about what happened to him. Jesus knew that any verbal explanation could not help them believe his resurrection. Instead of giving them more teaching he gave them his breath and told them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” We too have experienced his breath on us and received the Holy Spirit on the day of our baptism.
So then what happened? After his resurrection Jesus stayed on earth for a while to encourage His disciples and friends to believe and try to understand His resurrection. He made a few more appearances, but most of the time they were left alone; alone with their thoughts, prayers and the indwelling of the Spirit that Jesus had given them. My guess is they experienced times of understanding, hope, and joy as well as times of confusion, doubt and despair. However, the disciples waited, because Jesus told them to wait for “the promise of the father.” In fact, they waited for seven weeks and while they waited, the “Advocate” did his work.
Then, “when the time for Pentecost was fulfilled,” meaning that, when the Holy Spirit had completed His work, He made his presence known. After the wind and the tongues of fire, Peter, once timid and prone to denial, is now bold and on fire with the love of the Lord. He throws open the doors and begins to give his first sermon, since he “received the keys to the Kingdom,” from Jesus. Accordingly, under the power and influence of the Holy Spirit (which appeared too many as drunkenness), Peter shares three important keys to the Kingdom of God:
- Repent: reconsider your lives; change your direction
- Be baptized and be forgiven of your sins
- Be open and receive the gift of the Holy Spirit
What happened? What so changed Peter and the other disciples? It was Pentecost; the “filling up of the Holy Spirit.”
When we allow our souls to be filled with the Holy Spirit, when we allow the Holy Spirit to take control of our lives and to confess Jesus as Lord (1 Cor 12:3), He empowers us to serve God with supernatural power (1 Cor 12:4-11), binds us together as the body of Christ (1 Cor 12:12-13), helps us pray (Rom 8:26), and even intercedes for us with God the Father (Rom 8:27). The Spirit guides us (Gal 5:25), helping us to live like Jesus (Gal 5:22-23).
So how does Pentecost affect us? Are we going to let Pentecost become real for us? Pentecost is a day of reflection on the way we live our lives. It is a reflection of what happened on that day when Jesus showed us how the Advocate could help us. As we begin to reflect on the Holy Spirit, He begins to move in our lives. In baptism, Christ lives in each of us through the Holy Spirit. But, just as the disciples waited, prayed and reflected; until you recognize that and invite Him to be a part of your life, you won’t ever know his power. He is just waiting for your call. And, when you do call on Him, your life, like Peter’s and the other disciple’s, will never be the same.
All the members of the Church (the body of Christ) are ministers of the Gospel. Whether you like it or not, we are all under a call….a mandate….a commission through our baptisms, to minister to and serve one another and the world. The same responsibility for spiritualism, morality and for the proclamation of the Gospel that rests on your parish priest, rests on each of us.
Mass each week is NOT a lecture series, the music isn’t a concert or entertainment….if you judge the experience only on the basis of whether or not you enjoyed the sermon or were turned on by the music or you like the flowers on the altar….then you are missing the whole point of our worship together as a Church. You should be concerned if you leave mass week after week as though nothing important has happened.
The Spirit of God is in us; the same Holy Spirit as in the Gospel. He is in our midst and brings us together as a community of Faith, to nourish and strengthen us as a “ministerial team” if you will.
Simply put, Pentecost is a reminder that each of us has received the gift of the Holy Spirit. It is our job to invite him to provide us with the power that has been promised to complete Jesus’ mission here on earth. If we as laymen and women, who are the Church, understood and truly believed that…..the world would soon become a different place.