© Third Millennium, LLC
Deacon Keith A. Fournier
"When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled, they were all in one place together. And 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 as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim." Acts of the Apostles, Chapter two.
They were not the most confident lot, this group of early followers of the One who was crucified and then raised from the dead. Even though they had seen Him defeat the final enemy, death, they were afraid as they gathered in that upper room. Right before He ascended He had promised that He would not leave them orphans but would send another comforter once He returned to the Father. He told them they would receive power from on high and be able to continue His work on earth until He returned.
In that Cenacle, along with His mother, they gathered in prayer, waiting and hoping. She probably understood more than most of them. After all, she would have remembered another day when she heard an angel tell her to not be afraid. On that day, when she was first overshadowed by that same Holy Spirit of God, the Word became flesh, heaven touched earth, and the work of redemption began. Now, in the Church of which she was a member, the Body of her Son and Savior, she awaited the same Holy Spirit to overshadow them.
This promised outpouring of the Holy Spirit came upon this nascent Church, just as He had promised. Through the Church, clothed in the power of Pentecost, Jesus Christ did continue His mission. They left that upper room as a different community. They turned the world upside down with their message. Many even watered it with their own shed blood. When the Holy Spirit came upon them, they became the bearers of the life and promises of God to a needy world.
The leader of the group, who had once denied the Lord out of fear for his own life, went out into the streets and preached to a hostile crowd. He was no longer afraid. Three thousand came to believe upon hearing his words. Someone else now spoke through him. Countless billions have followed since then, reborn through the waters of Baptism, they have been incorporated into the Body of Jesus Christ. Jesus did what He had promised. He sent the Holy Spirit. That same Spirit has overshadowed the Church for two thousand years, because Pentecost continues.
The Christian Tradition has long referred to this day as the Birthday of the Church. It was a Jewish feast, when faithful Jews celebrated the fruits of the harvest. The Christian Church is the seed of a kingdom that is to come. The sons and daughters of the Church are first fruits of what was sown by the Grain of Wheat Who fell to the ground and was raised up - the Lord Jesus Christ. The Church, taken from his wounded side on that Hill called Golgotha, was clothed for mission in the upper room by the Holy Spirit and that same Spirit still animates, inspires and empowers her to this day, because Pentecost continues.
In his Encyclical letter "The Lord and Giver of Life" (Dominum Vivicantem), Pope John Paul the Great reminded us: "The Church, therefore, instructed by the words of Christ, and drawing on the experience of Pentecost and her own apostolic history, has proclaimed since the earliest centuries her faith in the Holy Spirit, as the giver of life, the one in whom the inscrutable Triune God communicates himself to human beings, constituting in them the source of eternal life"
The Church of our age is in need of more the Holy Spirit. So too, is every one of her members. It is God the Holy Spirit, the third Person of the Blessed Trinity, who still convicts of sin, consoles, comforts, converts, inspires and clothes ordinary men and women with extraordinary graces and power. It is the Holy Spirit who brings light and life to a world filled with shadows and turns dead men walking into new creatures in Christ. It is the Holy Spirit who leads men and women, thirsting for meaning, to the fountain of truth and reveals the mysteries of the living God to mere mortals, because Pentecost continues.
The God whom we Christians profess gives Himself away in love to men and women. No mere principle, theory or distant Deity, the God revealed in Jesus Christ can be known personally and intimately, through His Holy Spirit. Through the Spirit he invites all men and women into a communion of love. The great Western Church Bishop Augustine wrote: "What the soul is to the body of man, the Holy Spirit is in the Body of Jesus Christ which is the Church. The Holy Spirit acts in the Church as the soul acts in the members of a body."
It is the Holy Spirit who still acts through the Church, because Pentecost continues. God communicates Himself to us and then - through us - gives Himself away to the world! In us, the Holy Spirit bears His fruit, so that we might live in holiness of life and become a manifestation of Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit continues the mission that began on that day of Pentecost in our day. Those who were once afraid are still clothed with power from on high and sent forth from the Fount to join in the march through time to eternity.
Through the work of the Holy Spirit within each one of us we can still overcome our own fears and become His faithful witnesses. When we choose to live our lives open to the Holy Spirit, the experience of Pentecost becomes our own. The same Spirit that filled the apostles on the day of Pentecost fills each of us, because Pentecost continues.
"Divine Spirit, renew your wonders in this our age as in a new Pentecost, and grant that your Church, praying perseveringly and insistently with one heart and mind together with Mary, the Mother of Jesus, and guided by blessed Peter, may increase the reign of the Divine Savior, the reign of truth and justice, the reign of love and peace. Amen." Prayer of Pope John XXIII
Deacon Fournier is a Deacon of the Diocese of Richmond, Virginia. He holds degrees from the Franciscan University of Steubenville, the John Paul II Institute of the Lateran University and the University Of Pittsburgh School Of Law. He serves as the Senior Editor of Catholic Online and a Contributing Editor of Traditional Catholic Reflections and Reports.
Third Millennium, LLC
http://www.catholic.org VA, US
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