Pentecost: Beyond the Upper Room

CATHOLIC STANDARD PHOTO/MICHAEL HOYT: A stained glass window at St. John Vianney Church in Prince Frederick depicts Mary and the Apostles filled with the Holy Spirit on Pentecost.

At some time in your life, you could probably relate to the feelings that the Apostles were experiencing in the upper room on the day of the first Pentecost: feelings of being alone and afraid, feelings of doubt and worry.

And then came the Holy Spirit.

As we hear in the first reading at Mass on Pentecost Sunday, “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 of the Apostles 2:1-4).

Before the Apostles were huddled together, timid, frightened, unsure of themselves. All that changed with Pentecost. All that changed when they were filled with the Holy Spirit. Then they became bold, confident, assured witnesses of all that Jesus had taught them.

This is the power of the Holy Spirit at work. Poured out into the heart of each believer in Baptism and Confirmation, the Spirit comes to make us a new creation. What is purely natural, tied to this earth and limited to the confines of the flesh, gives way to a new fullness and richness that can only be described as a new life, the life of God welling up within us. If it is nurtured and cared for, that new life will know no end.

Just like the Apostles, today individual believers – you and I – come alive through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, and so does the whole Church.

Empowered by the gifts of the Holy Spirit, we, like the Apostles, can put aside our timidity and boldly proclaim and manifest God’s kingdom in our world today. Just as the Apostles did on the first Pentecost, the Catholic Church in its unity and universality preaches the Gospel of Jesus to the world.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church in section 688 offers insight into ways that the Holy Spirit provides us with an experience of God’s presence, through the Catholic Church: by praying and reading Scripture, by studying the lives of the saints, by following Church teaching, by participating in Mass and the sacraments, by praying, by supporting the missionary and apostolic works of the Church, and by recognizing the charisms and ministries of the Church. The United States Catholic Catechism for Adults adds, “When we dwell on the great Tradition of the Church, its marvelous history and its host of saintly witnesses, we sense the Holy Spirit’s sustaining power through it all.”

It has been said that today we face the opportunity for a new Pentecost in our Church and in our world. That is why we in the Church, as the body of Christ in today’s world, are all called to carry out the New Evangelization, to deepen and share our faith, and to take up the challenge and the mission of building up Christ’s kingdom and manifesting his saving love, here and now. We know that, as at the first Pentecost, we in this new Pentecost can call on the power of the Holy Spirit, to kindle the fire of faith in our hearts, and renew the face of the earth.