Happy Pentecost! Today, the Church celebrates the Feast of Pentecost. The term “Pentecost” literally means “fiftieth.” Originally, the Jewish Pentecost was a post-harvest thanksgiving feast celebrated on the 50th day after the Passover feast. Later, the Jews included the holiday in the remembrance of God’s Covenants with Noah after the Deluge and with Moses at Mt. Sinai on their way to the Promised Land.
In the New Testament, the Feast of Pentecost is celebrated 50 days after the Feast of Easter, the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. The feast fulfills the promise that Jesus made in Luke’s Gospel: “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you; but stay in the city, until you are clothed with power from on high” (Lk. 24:46-49). This “clothing with power” came with the bestowal of the Holy Spirit upon the Church at Pentecost.
The Gospel teaches us that on the day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit descended upon the apostles who were gathered in an upper room with Mary, the Mother of Jesus. The reading says the occupants locked the door because they were afraid. However, the reading doesn’t just refer to the physical doors to the rooms where the disciples were enclosed, but also to the closed, interior lives of the apostles, for the disciples had not yet made room in their hearts for the risen Lord. Recognizing their fear, Jesus appeared to them and offered peace; He breathed on them and gave them a mission: “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retained are retained.” This commissioning marks the beginning of the Church. Therefore, this day is also celebrated as the Birthday of the Church.
The Holy Spirit gave the apostles gifts of grace through which they would undertake the evangelizing mission of the Church. On the day of Pentecost, the apostles were given the miraculous “gift of tongues”—so that everyone from every country understood the message of salvation as if they were hearing it in their own language. Thousands were converted by the preaching of Peter and the other apostles. The Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, summarized this beautifully in one of his homilies: “This Solemnity makes us relive the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the Apostles and the other disciples gathered in prayer with the Virgin Mary in the Upper Room. Jesus, risen and ascended into Heaven, sent His Spirit to the Church so that every Christian might participate in His own divine life and become His valid witness in the world.”
The feast also reminds us of the roles and presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives. The Holy Spirit is known as the indwelling God, and, as an indwelling God, the Holy Spirit makes us His Living Temples. As a strengthening God, He supports us in our fight against temptations and in our mission of bearing witness to Christ by living transparent Christian lives. As a sanctifying God, He makes us holy through the Sacraments: a) He makes us children of God and heirs of Heaven through Baptism; b) He makes us temples of God, warriors and defenders of the Faith, through Confirmation; c) He enables us to be reconciled with God by pardoning our sins through the Sacrament of Reconciliation; and d) He gives us spiritual nourishment through the Holy Eucharist, the Body and Blood of Christ. As a teaching and guiding God, He clarifies and constantly reminds us of Christ’s teachings. As a listening and talking God, He listens to our prayers and enables us to pray, and He speaks to us mainly through the Bible. And, as a Giver of gifts, He gives us His gifts, fruits and charisms to live a holy and authentic Christian life.
With the feast of Pentecost, we will conclude the glorious season of Easter—the celebration of the Resurrection of Christ—and will begin Ordinary Time in the liturgical calendar. The liturgical color for Ordinary Time is green, and the focus of the readings will be the ministry of Jesus. The Paschal candle will be removed from the sanctuary and will be brought back at the time of baptism so that from its flame the candles of the baptized may be lit. The candle is also placed near the coffin at funerals to signify that our death is a true Passover.