What happened at Pentecost?
Why does it matter to me?
The Acts of the Apostles narrates the experiences of Jesus’ followers after His post-Easter appearances and ascension. During that time Jesus asked the small community to wait for the promise of the Father to be baptized in the Spirit (Acts 1:4-5). Then, on the day we call Pentecost, in a second-floor guest room in Jerusalem, the Church and its mission were born.
Pentecost commemorates this moment when the followers of Jesus were gathered together and a blowing wind filled the room and tongues of fire came to rest on each of them. The Apostles were filled with the Spirit and began to speak in other languages (Acts 2:1-4). Can you imagine!? After such an experience, I would have also continued “steadfastly in fellowship, in breaking of bread, and in prayers” (Acts 2:42). That said, the practical importance of Pentecost is not always clear. What does remembering this event mean for living a Christian life now? What are we to celebrate?
The coming of the Holy Spirit infused the earliest Christian teachers with a courage and peace that enabled them to share their experiences with others. The early leaders of what would become the Church of Jerusalem were sent out to live and share the Good News they had experienced. We preserve this memory because it signals a transition. When the Church came into existence, so did our missionary vocation.
At Pentecost, mission activity shifted from Jesus the Christ, to the community committed to follow His Way – the Church. We celebrate the feast of Pentecost to realize our responsibility to live in such a way that allows the Spirit to enter our lives. Pentecost might have begun in the upper room, but the Holy Spirit has not stopped delivering Its gifts to the faithful. We each have the opportunity and responsibility to let the Spirit flow through our minds, hearts, and hands.
The feast of Pentecost reminds us of the power and responsibility we have been given to create a community of love and solidarity, one where all languages are spoken and are welcome. The more unified the human family becomes, the more each of our identities are strengthened. The more we each are involved in our communities, the more our individual gifts emerge to serve each other. The more we grow in understanding our unique gifts, the more we can live in collaboration with the whole Body in Its mission.
How do we do this exactly? We do it with others.
The earliest Church celebrated together in ways that resemble what we do today in parish Masses. They gathered and remembered Jesus' self-gift with a meal among friends and members “with one heart and one soul” (Acts 4:32). At the origins of our Church's local life is what some have called “basic ecclesial communities.” These small groups of believers came together for prayer, Scripture reading, catechesis and discussion of human and community issues with a view to shared commitment. Our parish life mirrors these key elements of a local Church community. Communities like these are still a vital starting point for a new society based on a “civilization of love” (Redemptoris Missio n. 51).
As we do today, these early communities believed that their mission in the world would be carried out by all the faithful through a common baptism and vocation. All followers of Jesus were sent to do as Jesus had done – to tell of the liberating message of God's presence among us, thereby spreading God’s peace and unity.
Our responsibility, if the feast of Pentecost means anything, is to do that.
MISSIO offers themed-quizzes in MissioBot to examine your religious knowledge - and this blog by James Nagle, PhD to reflect on questions of faith.