Almost every Christian knows the story of Pentecost. The Apostles were hiding in the Upper Room (The Same one where the Last Supper took place) for fear of the Romans. The Holy Spirit appeared as tongues of fire over their heads and the 11 went out and preached the Gospel.
Pentecost is widely known as the birthday of the Church, the day when the Apostles received the Holy Spirit and were ready to give the Good News to the world. This is officially what happened according to the RSVC:
1 When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. 2 And suddenly a sound came from heaven like the rush of a mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. 3 And there appeared to them tongues as of fire, distributed and resting on each one of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.
5 Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. 6 And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in his own language. 7 And they were amazed and wondered, saying, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? 8 And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language? 9 Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, 11 Cretans and Arabians, we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.” 12 And all were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” 13 But others mocking said, “They are filled with new wine.”
14 But Peter, standing with the eleven, lifted up his voice and addressed them, “Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and give ear to my words. 15 For these men are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day; 16 but this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:
Peter goes on to give an amazing speech and converts 3,000 people on the spot. I’m gonna try to not give the cliché talk about Pentecost that you here every year, so I’ll begin to head in a slightly different direction.
But first, in almost any New Testament story, you can find a parallel or foreshadowing event in the Old Testament. In Genesis 1, it says that “a wind from God swept over the face of the waters” (NRSVC). It wasn’t a gentle breeze or a light zephyr. It was a powerful blast. At the beginning of the story of Pentecost, it says, “And suddenly a sound came from heaven like the rush of a mighty wind”. Wind can obviously be seen as a symbol of the Holy Spirit. One of the cooler Old/New Testament references is the Gift of Tongues. I’ve already explained how the Apostles spoke in tongues (He might be speaking one language, but everyone else hears is own language). Does anyone remember the Tower of Babel? Humans were trying to build a tower that would reach all the way up to heaven. And what happened next? They all couldn’t understand each other because God made each of them speak a different language so that they couldn’t communicate. The Holy Spirit reversed it, just like Baptism reverses what happened in the Garden of Eden. Remember, Pentecost didn’t happen just once, it happens all around us (I’ll explain later). So where is the one language thing today? Have you ever heard of the universal language of the Church? Latin. Almost every single priest or religious can speak a lot of Latin. Even almost every Catholic knows the basic ‘amen’. I read this amazing book called “Eclipse of the Sun” by Michael O’Brien about the end of the world. There are two priests talking to each other. They don’t want the young boy in the back seat to hear the bad news so they converse in Latin.
I heard an amazing story during this morning’s homily from the deacon. It was a story his father, a doctor, told him when he was just a kid. It goes like this:
“In the mid 70’s, there was a Catholic doctor working in Florida named Dr. Molina. One day, a woman came in to the Emergency center in very bad condition. She was panicking so bad, the surgeons couldn’t even operate. They tried to calm her down, but it was obvious that she did not speak English at all. They called Dr. Molina over to help. He said a prayer in Spanish and she calmed down. The surgeons were able to save her life. A week later she was released from the hospital. Dr. Molina was approached by the woman and her sister. The sister, who apparently spoke English, told him how grateful the woman was for calming her down and saving her life. But she had one question. Where did he learn to speak Czech?”
Pentecost is still alive, it wasn’t a past event like World War II. It’s not a recurring event like an annual marathon either. It happens every day in every corner of the world. We just celebrate it once a year. You receive the Gifts of the Holy Spirit every time you go to communion worthily (for more on the 7 Gifts, visit my post on them). The gifts are meant to be used in evangelization, not to better keep your patience with your siblings (although that would be extremely helpful). When Luke Skywalker got his father’s lightsaber in Star Wars, he didn’t go home and use it to chop vegetables. He used it to help overthrow the evil Empire. Likewise, Pentecost is a call to action. The Apostles were sitting in the room, scared, probably super bored too. The Holy Spirit told them to get off their butts and start preaching the Gospel. That’s what you need to do. Another person should be able to watch you at work or school and say,”Jeez, what’s with that guy? He’s always so happy and merciful, always so Christian.” G K Chesterton is extremely good at coming up with little quips that hold an immense amount of wisdom. I could probably quote one sentence from him and get in everything I have just said. Anyway, one of my favorite Chesterton quotes is this:
“Sitting in Church does not make you a Christian anymore than standing in your garage makes you a car”
I could write a super long post just consisting of his quotes, and it would be amazing. Maybe I’ll do that. If you would read that post, make sure to comment about it. Anyway, being a Christian is more than going to church. It’s more than not doing wrong, it’s about doing good. It’s about being joyful and loving. Any community that is lacking joy is missing something inherently Christian. Christians need Pentecost. They need the Gifts and Fruits of the Holy Spirit (Fruits: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control). Christianity needs you. The job of the laity is evangelization. To proclaim the word of God in everyday life to everyone you meet.
Here is a prayer I always like to say on Pentecost. I think it holds a special meaning today.
Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created. And You shall renew the face of the earth.
I’ll finish off with one more G K Chesterton quote. “The sign of a good religion is if you can joke about it or not”. Obviously, the joke must be in good taste. And courtesy of catholicmemes.com, I have found such a joke.
Well, that sums it up for today. God Bless! Go in peace to love and serve the Lord!