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Feast of Pentecost calls us to accept God’s spirit

The celebration of Pentecost is certainly one of the great feasts in the liturgical or church year, along with celebrations of the resurrection and the Birth of Christ. Its importance arises from the fact that the Spirit of God, promised many times by Jesus, came upon the apostles that day, and because that spirit was among them, the Church was born. Frequently, the Feast of Pentecost is considered the birthday of the Church. The apostles, as soon as they were empowered by the Holy Spirit, left their places of hiding and came on to the streets of Jerusalem to carry on the mission that Jesus had given them.

Can you imagine yourself among the apostles on the Day of Pentecost? Pentecost, meaning 50th, was already an important feast or holy day for people of the Jewish faith. It was the 50th day after Passover and it recalled the giving of the Mosaic Law on Mount Sinai and the establishment of Israel as God’s own people. Most likely the apostles were gathered in a large room, they had already seen Jesus depart from them on Ascension Day, and they were wondering and waiting when the promised Spirit of God would come, and what impact the Spirit would have on them.

The holy Scriptures tell us (Acts 2:1-11) “When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled, they were all in one place together. Suddenly, there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house in which they were. Then there appeared to them tongues of fire, which parted and came to rest on each of them. And they were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the spirit enabled them to proclaim.”

Notice that the signs of the Holy Spirit’s coming were described in similar words to Old Testament signs of God’s presence — strong wind that shook the house, tongues of fire coming on them, and a sense that their minds and hearts were filled with that spirit. The promise of the Spirit given by Jesus assured the apostles they would be reminded of all of Jesus’ teachings, they would have the words they needed, they would not be afraid of opposition and they would be empowered to carry on the work of Jesus.

Consider the immediate impact of the Spirit on the apostles. It became clear to them what their task was, and they felt confident they could do it. Very soon they were out on the streets preaching and teaching. Furthermore, the large gathering of people from different countries and with different languages discovered they could hear the message in their own languages. It was as if their teaching on that first day was reaching a universal audience.

Consider the power and energy of the Spirit, first coming on Pentecost Day, has enabled the teaching and preaching of Jesus to reach to the ends of the earth. The apostles traveled to all the known world.  All but one were martyred because of their faith and teaching. Millions of people have lived holy and Godly lives in the Name of Jesus. Most of us can think of the names of heroes of the faith such as Mother Teresa (and many like her) of India serving the world’s poor, Pope John XXIII who convened the Vatican Council, great church leaders and holy people.

In remembering and celebrating the feast of Pentecost, we are reminded that the same Spirit is offered to us; we are promised all the gifts of the Spirit; and we are expected to live as persons guided by the Spirit. My personal experience of the Holy Spirit is getting the grace to recognize God’s presence in my life, to forgive people who hurt me or injure the Church, to continue doing the work of the Church even when I’m tired, and to have the confidence from God to do what is right and to treat my neighbors fairly and justly always.

I want to offer you, my reader, encouragement to look for signs of the risen Lord in your life. Do you find a few minutes each day to talk and listen to God; do you make it a priority (outside of this Virus time) to attend your church on weekends to honor your God; do you try to avoid making judgments, criticizing or being jealous of others; do you ask for God’s help when faced with a big decision? Lastly, in this horrible pandemic time, are you acting as a good neighbor? These are ways we can make Pentecost happen this year in our lives. May you experience the fullness of the spirit of God in your life!

THE REV. DAVID O’CONNOR is pastor emeritus of St. Mary Basilica and Assumption Church. He can be reached at email: doconnor@cableone.net.