The word “pentecost” simply means fiftieth. Our Pentecost Sunday Feast is celebrated on the fiftieth day after Easter, and it is called the “Birthday of the Church.” According to Sacred Tradition. the disciples and Mary, the mother of Jesus, were praying in an upper room waiting for the promised Holy Spirit. The disciples were terrified that they would be tortured and killed if they were known to be followers of Jesus. These disciples were being called to hold leadership roles in the new Church. How could these frightened men lead in this new Christian Community?
The Lord had promised to send them the Holy Spirit who would be their companion and guide in this new challenge. He had promised not to abandon them. Knowing their weaknesses, as well as their goodwill, Jesus sent the help they needed. He also entrusted them to His mother.
Although it was a deep interior experience, St. Luke describes the coming of the Spirit in ways that appeal to the senses. He describes the coming as like the wind. The wind can lift up and move things. He was the wind behind the back of Peter who now had the fortitude to stand up and preach to the Jews that they had put to death their Savior. Many were converted and baptized as a result.
The Holy Spirit is also described as tongues of fire. Fire can purify, and warm things. The disciples were cleansed of their cowardliness and set on fire with zeal to spread the Good News. They even had the courage to give up their lives as martyrs for the faith.
Fire provides light. The disciples are given guidance also through the light of the Holy Spirit. Today many people pray to the Holy Spirit for guidance, especially when there are important decisions to be made.
The Holy Spirit is visualized as a dove, symbolizing gentleness and love. Jesus had exhibited gentleness and love all through His divine-human life. How gentle He was with sinners who repented! His whole message was “Love” that we are to love God and our neighbor as ourselves.
Then, there was the phenomenon of people hearing things in their own native languages. The Spirit’s message is that the Good News is for people of all nations and races. These disciples were being called to bring this Good News to everyone.
Finally, there with the disciples was another wonderful gift! As he was dying on the cross, Jesus had given John and all of us, his own loving, faithful, mother to accompany us through the joys and sufferings of our own journeys through life.
Reflection on the sequence for the Feast of Pentecost is helpful for fully appreciating the Gifts:
Veni, Sancte Spiritu (Come Holy Spirit)
Come, Holy Spirit,
send forth the heavenly
radiance of your light.
Come, father of the poor,
come, giver of gifts,
come, light of the heart.
sweet guest of the soul,
In labor, rest,
in heat, temperance,
in tears, solace.
O most blessed light,
fill the inmost heart
of your faithful.
Without your spirit,
there is nothing in man,
nothing that is not harmful.
Cleanse that which is unclean,
water that which is dry,
heal that which is wounded.
Bend that which is inflexible,
fire that which is chilled,
correct what goes astray.
Give to your faithful,
those who trust in you,
the sevenfold gifts.
Grant the reward of virtue,
grant the deliverance of salvation,
grant eternal joy.
Since the Holy Spirit is not visible, the disciples have to trust in the Lord’s word that He can send His Spirit of Love, the third person of the Trinity to be with them. The apostle Philip is certainly a good example of one who placed his whole trust in Jesus and the Holy Spirit. As a result, His missionary journeys were very fruitful, as seen in his ministry in Samaria.
While the apostle Philip was in a city of Samaria, being filled with the Holy Spirit, he performed miracles of freeing possessed people and healing paralyzed and crippled people. The crowds listened attentively to him. When the apostles heard that the people of Samaria were accepting the Good News, they sent Peter and John who prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit
For the Latin rite, Pope Francis has dedicated the first Monday after the Feast of Pentecost to be the Feast of Mary, Mother of the Church to be celebrated every year. This emphasizes the sacred tradition that Mary was with the disciples as they prayed for the coming of the Holy Spirit. It also acknowledges that many Catholics through the years have honored Mary and sought her motherly care.
Reflection Question: Do I take the time to call on the Holy Spirit and/or Mary when I need, courage, comfort, or guidance?
Stephanie Morris, Ph.D. Historian, Certified Archivist, Emerita
St. Katharine wrote that “The Holy Ghost is ever within me – the presence of God.” Like the Apostles, we have received the Holy Spirit; like the Apostles, we each have our “own particular work to do for the Church.” Spending a little quiet time with the Holy Spirit, after Communion or whenever we have some quiet time, we may hear the Voice of the Holy Spirit, inviting us to work with God to do what God has asked us to do.
Pat Chiaffa, ASBS
The song, “The Prize Worth Fighting For,” by Jamie Kimmett, can be heard regularly on Christian radio. Essentially, it affirms that one will persevere through the difficulties of life by remembering the promises of Christ and His unfailing grace.
Before I headed out the door to do some errands, I read your post for the Feast of Pentecost so I could think about it during the day. I turned the radio on in the car and the above-mentioned song was playing. I was struck by the description of the challenges the songwriter was describing:
“Lately been down so low
My faith seems to come and go
Some days father I don’t know
How did my love grow cold
When every day’s just another struggle
And every choice is an act of war
Gotta pray gotta press on
To the prize worth fighting for…”
The lyrics go on to describe the depths of pain that none of us desire to experience.
The first thing that came to my mind is how blessed I am to believe in, and have a relationship with, the Holy Spirit. Next, I felt panic at the thought of not having the Holy Spirit to call on for comfort and support if I were going through a season where life felt like a battle. I realized how important it is to pray for others going through difficult times who may not know of the Presence of the Holy Spirit, that they will come to know His consoling, strengthening grace.
Richard Rohr wrote a series of daily reflections on the Indwelling Spirit and one thought that stirred me was, “When the Spirit is alive in people, they wake up from their mechanical thinking and enter the realm of co-creative power.” That sentence moved me because I recognized that, after so many decades of praying to the Holy Spirit for guidance, this is now a reality for me. As soon as I turn my attention to the Holy Spirit when I am in need, I am reminded that I have access to a higher level of thinking. When I ask Spirit for help, I can be assured of a more favorable outcome than if I had turned to my default mode of operating and tried to “fix” matters on my own.
While preparing for the day today, I was listening to talk radio and Flash Point Philadelphia was on. The topic was Suicide Awareness among teens. Suicide has tripled over the past several years in the 10 to 19-year-old age group, and Mental Health experts attribute this situation to increased exposure to social media. Depression, linked to loss of contact with others, is cited as contributing to suicides. The facilitator also mentioned the presence of self-harm videos on Instagram where practices such as cutting, draw young people into darkness that ending life is an option.
I found the program to be disturbing and I felt a profound sadness that these exquisite children fail to recognize their true value and worth. Mental health issues are unique and complex, yet I ask, against what standards do these hurting souls measure their sense of identity. These grim statistics, in my mind, provide evidence that the attractions of the world are shallow and that we have an obligation to reach young people with the message that they are loved and have available to them the intimate companionship of the Spirit of God.
As numbers of churchgoers continue to drop, where will this generation of youth hear the message of God’s love and of His Plan for them; that they matter and are infinitely precious? We are wired for God. It is who we are, and the absence of this awareness, I believe, will cause us to experience a void when we encounter struggles that cry for spiritual communion. As I call upon the Holy Spirit for guidance, comfort, and courage for myself and my loved ones, I will include in my prayers those who are in need of His assistance but unaware of His Presence in their lives.