A word from Pope Francis ~ “Peace is about receiving the Holy Spirit. The peace bestowed on the apostles, the peace that does not bring freedom from problems, but in problems, is offered to each of us.”
Today we celebrate the feast of Pentecost – the 50th day of Easter. Pentecost began as a Jewish celebration of the wheat harvest in the late spring. No specific date was set, so it took place when the harvest was ready. Gradually it became customary to celebrate the feast 50 days after Passover. (The word pentecost is Greek for 50th day). Jewish scholars believed that their ancestors arrived at Mount Sinai approximately 50 days after leaving Egypt. It was there that God made his covenant with them: “I will be your God and you will be my people.” Pentecost became a time for the Jewish people to celebrate the covenant that made them God’s chosen people.
For the Christian community, Pentecost has two sides. First, we remember the event in history when Jesus fulfilled his promise to send an Advocate – the Holy Spirit – upon the Apostles. This happened several weeks after Easter when the Holy Spirit was sent in the form of a mighty wind and tongues of fire. The First Reading today from the Acts of the Apostles tells the story. This is a past event though. It happened once in history. Just as on a birthday we do not become an infant again, so too this first sending of the Holy Spirit does not happen again.
But there is another side to Pentecost. We also celebrate Jesus’ constant sending of the Holy Spirit to his disciples, beginning on Easter night (our Gospel reading) and continuing into our own day. Despite their hiding behind locked doors, he quietly came to them, reconciled them after their desertion on Holy Thursday night, calmed their fears, and “breathed” the Holy Spirit upon them. Pentecost is really an ongoing event and not just past history. We do more than remember something that happened to someone else at another time, but we take part in what is happening for us today.
The Spirit of God is truly alive and at work in our lives today as we seek to grow as disciples of the Lord Jesus. St. Paul tells us that the gifts of the Spirit are “love, joy, peace, patient endurance, kindness, generosity, faith, mildness and chastity” (Galatians 5:22-23). The presence of these gifts is a sure sign of the presence of the Spirit.
Jesus continues to send his Spirit in our time. Living our lives as disciples of the Lord Jesus is not an easy task. We struggle and try to make his values and principles a part of our lives more and more each day. And we know that we cannot do this on our own. Fortunately, we have the Spirit to strengthen us in our efforts. Today, we ask the Father to send the Spirit upon us in a deeper way than we have ever experienced before. If we ask for the gifts of the Spirit, God will give us these – and more.
With today’s feast of Pentecost, we mark the end of the Easter Season. Beginning Monday, we return to the season of Ordinary Time (10th Week), picking up where we left off on Ash Wednesday. Throughout the 50-day Easter season, the Easter Candle burned next to the pulpit – the fire was a symbol of the presence of the risen Lord among us. Now, the Easter Candle will be “retired” to the Baptistery and used only for baptisms and funerals.
May God continue to bless us with all that we need, and more.
Father Jim Murphy