Today in the Catholic Church we celebrate Pentecost Sunday.
Pentecost comes from a Greek word meaning “fiftieth day.” In the Jewish tradition, Shavuot or the Feast of Weeks celebrated the time between Passover and the giving of the Law (Torah) to Moses on Mt. Sinai, a period of 50 days. It was the Hellenistic (Greek) Jews who referred to this feast as Pentecost.
In the Christian tradition, however, the meaning is different. Fifty days after Easter, Christians celebrate Pentecost as the day when the Holy Spirit descended upon the Apostles (See Acts 2: 1-41). Pentecost has been referred to as the birthday of the Church.
Knowing the history of the Apostles and their actions / reactions to the Passion and Death of Jesus is significant here. Judas betrayed Christ and then hanged himself (Mt. 27: 3-10). Out of fear, Peter denied Christ (Mt. 26: 69-75). Also out of fear, all of the other Apostles (Mt. 26:56), except for John, fled from the cross. Yet, after receiving the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, Peter, acting as the spokesperson for the other Apostles, addressed the crowds fearlessly:
You who are Israelites, hear these words. Jesus the Nazorean was a man commended to you by God with mighty deeds, wonders, and signs, which God worked through him in your midst, as you yourselves know. This man, delivered up by the set plan and foreknowledge of God, you killed, using lawless men to crucify him. But God raised him up, releasing him from the throes of death, because it was impossible for him to be held by it . . . . God raised this Jesus; of this we are all witnesses . . . . Therefore let the whole house of Israel know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Messiah, this Jesus whom you crucified. (Acts 2: 22-24, 32, 36)
Obviously, something significant changed Peter and the other Apostles. First, they experienced the Risen Lord Jesus. They saw that He was alive despite everything that was done to torture and kill Him. He is alive. Next, they were filled with the gift of the Holy Spirit. They received supernatural gifts to strengthen them with their mission of preaching, teaching and witnessing to Christ’s Resurrection.
I believe in the power of the Holy Spirit. If the Holy Spirit can be responsible for the growth of the Church against all odds from its seemingly impossible beginnings to become a Church of over a billion today worldwide, can we underestimate what that same Spirit can do to renew the face of the earth? Pray to the Holy Spirit for guidance and strength. Pray for the gifts and fruits of the Holy Spirit to be more fully present in your lives.
Don’t ever underestimate what the Holy Spirit can do if we invite Him into our lives (give Him permission) daily.
Fr. Ed Namiotka