Fifty days ago we celebrated the core belief of our faith, the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus on the feast of Easter. Today the church’s Easter season comes to a close with the great feast of Pentecost. In ancient times, Pentecost, literally means the “fiftieth day,” was a harvest celebration. Newly harvested grain was ground into flour and baked into bread as an offering to God.
For us, we remember that Jesus told the disciples that when he left them after his resurrection and ascension he would send the gifts and power of the Holy Spirit. As we heard last Sunday on the Feast of Ascension, he didn’t abandon them, orphan them or leave them alone. He promised to be with them, be with us, always until the end of the age. No longer does God work through a single prophet, teacher, disciple or leader; rather God works through the people who receive the power of the Holy Spirit, first at Baptism, then at Confirmation and throughout their lives.
The scriptures describe this first outpouring of the Holy Spirit in dramatic fashion in the Acts of the Apostles: “and suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house where they were… they were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues….” It is not so much that the disciples literally spoke in each nation’s language, but that each person could hear them in their native language.
Imagining that scene on the first Pentecost fills the mind with improbable images and yet there is the reality of strong driving winds in hurricanes, typhoons, and yes, even tornadoes. We don’t think it was literally such a natural phenomenon, but the sound was distinctive and noticeable. Receiving the Holy Spirit led the disciples to a new sense of courage proclaiming their faith to others, imparting to them a sense of wonder in God’s presence and through the Spirit the disciples continued the mission of Christ to build up the early faith community.
Clearly there is a need for and room for the workings, action and promptings of the Holy Spirit in our world today, in our church, and especially in our families. We pray for the Spirit to work through people to negotiate for peace among those affected by violence, work for unity between those divided by borders, and empower people to give witness to their faith in order to continue building up the church.
We pray that as God breathed over the waters in creation, the Spirit breathes on the church, breathes on men and women of faith now to raise up new leaders, catechists, prophets and teachers to inspire others to become followers of Christ. I believe we need the Spirit to stir up new faith in us, move us from a level of complacency, and light a passionate fire among those who claim the name – Christian. Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful; en-kindle in us the fire of your love.