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 tongues,
as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim. Acts 2:1-4
It probably won’t become a major civil holiday until some clever promoter can come up with a reason why people should send out piles of greeting cards and buy up tons of merchandise.
But Pentecost Sunday remains a major feast for Christians, including Catholics around the world.
The day comes 50 days after Jesus’ resurrection on Easter Sunday and marks the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the apostles. (Pentecost in Greek means “the fiftieth.”)
The scene painted for us in the Acts of the Apostles is truly astounding. But, of course, not everyone who sees and hears all the hullabaloo is impressed. Some “scoff” at the incident and conclude of the apostles, “They have had too much new wine.” (Acts 2:13).
There had been a time – say, in the Garden of Gethsemane or in the courtyard on Holy Thursday evening – when the apostles would have succumbed to that criticism and scattered, denying in their departure that they had ever even known Jesus.
But those days are over.
Take just a moment to compare Peter’s behavior in the courtyard during Jesus’ passion (Mark 14:66-72) with his behavior after the Spirit has descended on him and the other apostles (Acts 2:14-41). Peter has been transformed from a coward into a bold advocate of the Gospel.
Peter’s transformation is a fine Pentecost model for us – especially if we have been struggling with any fear in our lives that holds us back from being all that God intends for us to become.
We don’t have to proclaim our Savior from the rooftops (even Peter didn’t go to that extreme), or even publicly proclaim our faith in words at all. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that.) But we certainly should focus on proclaiming our faith in deeds.
Specifically, we should focus on proclaiming our faith by worshipping with our Catholic community on the weekend. We should proclaim our faith by reaching out to materially help others in need, by advocating for just social conditions, by living up to our commitments, by telling the truth, by embracing the rejected, by acting with integrity and mercy whatever our circumstances happen to be.
In a phrase, we can be brave, putting our fears of failure and rejection behind us because we know that we are immersed in the everlasting, absolute and unconditional love of God.
This Pentecost we should contemplate the consoling words of St. Paul: “What will separate us from the love of Christ? Will anguish, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or the sword? ... No, in all these things we conquer overwhelmingly through him who loved us.” (Rom 8:35, 37)
Happy Pentecost! Fearless Pentecost! Celebrate Pentecost!