‘Happy Feast’ is what we usually wish each other on Pentecost Sunday. But today is a day of new birth - birth of Christ’s Kingdom of the New Covenant Church; and this birthday celebration has its return gifts too! Let’s explore how.
We all have a fairly clear image of the Resurrection, the Ascension and even what happened on Pentecost Sunday. Pondering a little deeper on these events and their significance, will give us the complete picture.
Let’s begin from the day of the Resurrection. Today’s Gospel tells us that on the day of His Resurrection, at approximately the same time of His death (3 in the afternoon), Jesus came to the Apostles supernaturally. Locked doors could not stop Him! He breathed His Spirit (Spirit in Gk is the same as breath) on them. It is important here not to miss the significance of Jesus breathing on the Apostles. God first breathed into Adam to give him physical life (Gen 2:7) and now Christ breathes His Spirit on the Apostles and gives them spiritual life. He is sending them forth as His emissaries (Apostle means "one who is sent"), in the power of the Holy Spirit, who will make all things "new" again just as He did in the first creation (Gen 1:2). It does not stop at that; He empowers them - His chosen - with the authority to forgive sins and even retain them. This is the birth of the Sacrament of Reconciliation! He shares His authority with His Apostles and opens a door for us to be free from sin and start a new life all over.
From the first chapter of the Acts of the Apostles we learn that Jesus spent forty days with His Apostles before He left them. What did He do in those forty days? Jesus was preparing them to bear the loss of His presence through the gain of the Comforter who was to come. He strengthened and gave them hope.
After His ascension, His disciples, numbering one hundred twenty, continued to pray in the Upper room together with the Virgin Mary, as one family. And this went on for nine days (that’s how we get our 9 novena days); and on the tenth day (Feast of Pentecost) Jesus sent the gift of the Father, The Holy Spirit, that He had promised, in tongues of fire. This event also fulfills the prophecy by the 6th century BC prophet Ezekiel: “A new heart I will give you and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will remove from your body the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. I will put my spirit within you and make you follow my statutes and be careful to observe my statutes (Ez 36:26-27).” In the Upper Room, the Spirit of God manifested Himself and indwelled each member of the assembled community and gave them the gift of speech to preach the Gospel message of salvation.
The birth of a New Life through the Spirit of God! The first birthday of the Church! Happy Birthday again!
Well, the feast of Pentecost (Gk- pentekoste hermea meaning "the fiftieth day”) was not a New Festival; rather it was an Old Covenant holy day of obligation known as the Feast of Weeks, Shavuot in Hebrew, celebrated 7 weeks after the Feast of the First Fruits.
On that fiftieth day, the Feast of Pentecost, pilgrims - Jews, Gentiles, converts, from all over the Roman Empire made their journey to the temple in Jerusalem - the one place on earth where they could offer sacrifices and worship to the God of Israel. And they each heard the message of salvation from the disciples in their own language. Even today, the Spirit of God enables us to teach a message which is relevant and understandable to the lives and the concrete realities of peoples of different backgrounds. The message of Jesus is a universal one, not just because it has spread throughout the world, but above all, no one, no people is excluded from that message. No society is too sophisticated not to be able to understand the message of Jesus.
No society is too sophisticated not to need the message of Jesus Christ.
Through this great miracle of the Holy Spirit taking possession of the New Covenant Kingdom of Jesus Christ at Pentecost, God restored the family of man and transformed that family into adopted sons and daughters in the family of God. A happy day indeed!
Hence, in today's psalm, we sing in praise of God the Creator and His continuous renewal of the earth and all life in it that is animated by God's very "breath"- ruah in Hebrew- God's "life giving Spirit."
God’s life-giving Spirit empowers us with wonderful gifts described by St. Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians - wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing, working of miracles, prophecy, discernment of spirits, speaking in tongues and interpretation of tongues. These gifts are made manifest through the Spirit to everyone and must be offered back to God.
On the Feast of Pentecost in 30 AD, God the Holy Spirit baptized and indwelled the 120 New Covenant people of God praying in the Upper Room in Jerusalem, giving them the one language of the Gospel of salvation to unite all peoples of the world - undoing the confusion of tongues and the separation of peoples in the judgment of the Tower of Babel.
Pentecost is an on-going miracle in the Church as men, women and children are continually reborn into God's Holy Covenant Family through the Holy Spirit in the Sacrament of Baptism. God has invited each and every one to partake of this celebration of renewed life in the Spirit and His Spirit will certainly not leave you empty handed.
What is the gift of the Spirit that you have received?