9 June 2019
Pentecost is celebrated on the seventh Sunday after Easter to commemorate the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles and their followers, and the beginning of their earthly ministry to make disciples of all nations.
The word ‘Pentecost’ is Greek and it means ‘50th day’. Originally, Pentecost was a Jewish holiday that was held 50 days after Passover as one of the major Jewish feasts.
As described in the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 2:1–31) the Apostles and their followers were gathered in a room in Jerusalem to celebrate Pentecost. A great wind blew and a flame appeared as a tongue of fire, which split itself into many individual flames above the heads of all those present. The Holy Spirit came upon these people and each began to speak in tongues. Despite the fact many had no common language, they were able to understand one another.
Pentecost – a moment of transformation
and a call to serve
Penekota – he Wā mo te Huringa
He karanga ki te whakarato
The Pentecost festival, celebrated as the birthday of the Church, makes a clear statement that our Church is God’s Church; that the Spirit that gives her life is not of human origin but a guarantee of divine presence.
Presence is a very active word; being present implies awareness and recognition; being in the presence of another can be a time of great awe and respect. The good news of Jesus is his assurance that God is with us and that in the presence of one another we are in the presence of God.
We are the Church through our baptism, but not her life force. Pentecost reveals that life force through a transforming power, turning fearful, hesitant and ill-equipped individuals into a world-beating team. The Spirit of God breaks through the surface or superficial level at which most of our contact with one another is done – and makes contact with the inner core of our humanity.
Made in the image of God, every person is a genetic map of the divine. When the Word is proclaimed in faith, the Holy Spirit is released to read the keys of that map, and to reach the home for which it was made.
Last month, Br Guy Consolmagno sj, Director of the Vatican Observatory, and referred to as ‘the Pope’s Astronomer’, spoke to several groups and communities through New Zealand. He delivered fresh insights concerning our understanding of the Universe and Creation, climaxing with the exclamation from Psalm 8 that human beings are just a little less than God.
This approach highlights the wonder and beauty of humanity’s privileged position and the potential we each have to partner God in bringing creation to completion.
One of the most important teachings of Jesus is that God does not force his attentions on anyone. God does not MAKE us do anything. But when we open ourselves to God, when we recognise the God image within us, the core of our being responds, releasing an energy that gives our ordinary life new meaning.
The Church began at Pentecost – fifty days after the Jewish Passover – because the Apostles found the courage to unlock the doors of their fear and guilt and let their new life in Jesus be seen; a life that championed unity, harmony, reconciliation.
“The Apostles stepped over the boundaries of the comfortable and the known and dared to share the change in their lives. They were to discover the world was looking for this kind of life. God’s Spirit had long been at work and all it needed was the human spark to start the fire.”
They stepped over the boundaries of the comfortable and the known and dared to share the change in their lives. They were to discover the world was looking for this kind of life. God’s Spirit had long been at work and all it needed was the human spark to start the fire.
Pentecost continues to speak to those who believe in Jesus. It urges us to live the unity we profess; to serve one another with an unselfish generosity; to let our world see the horror of its slavery to self-interest.
Cardinal John Dew, in his vision for the Archdiocese of Wellington, is calling us to channel our desire for wholeness by uniting with others in both a spiritual and a social connection, building friendships and witnessing joy and hope to our world. He sees a new Pentecost dawning and wants each of us to grasp this opportunity.
Jesus told his small group of disciples to take the good news to the whole of creation. How big a task was that? Their numbers were very few. But they believed in their mission and the presence of the Spirit and set off – and the path opened for them.
‘The Eucharist feeds our baptism with the nurturing, healing and energising presence of a God who comes to us disguised as our lives.”
We, too, are few in numbers, but the Holy Spirit of God is given to us as well, and in this presence we are empowered to turn our individual faith into a mighty stream of life-giving loving service. The ingredients are here – not just at Pentecost, but whenever we gather in the name of Jesus. Think of it this way: the Eucharist feeds our baptism with the nurturing, healing and energising presence of a God who comes to us disguised as our lives. How can we not respond to that!
This wonderful presence, transforming our ordinariness, is the ultimate gift of the Spirit. Celebrate that presence in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health.
The God of the Universe, revealed in Jesus and within us through the Holy Spirit, wants nothing more than our happiness. Believe this and believe in one another, and become a birthday gift to better serve the world so loved by God – the reason why the miracle of Pentecost is still with us.
James Lyons – priest of the Archdiocese of Wellington.
“Behold I send the Promise of My Father upon you.” Luke 24:49
The Coming of the Spirit
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 languages, as the Spirit enabled them to express themselves. – Acts 2: 1-4
Published in WelCom June 2019