The Upper Room at Pentecost and in Our Personal Lives
The liturgy at Pentecost vividly takes us again into the Upper Room in Jerusalem. It was there that Jesus celebrated the Last Supper with the Apostles, and where the Lord instituted the sacraments of the Eucharist and Holy Orders.
The first reading at Mass for this solemnity tells how suddenly the Holy Spirit filled the Upper Room and the whole house “with a noise like a driving wind” and then appeared to the Apostles, Mary and other disciples as tongues of fire and resting on each of them. Having been filled with the living breath of the Spirit, the Church was born. Strengthened now with the Spirit, the Apostles would then and for the rest of their lives go and boldly preach the Good News of the Risen Christ (Acts 2:1-11).
In the Gospel reading as well, we are present in the Upper Room as Jesus appears to the Apostles after his Resurrection and says, “Peace be with you.” The Lord then breathed on them and gave us the sacrament of Penance, saying, “Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained” (John 20:19-23).
With all this holy activity, the Upper Room is perhaps the most important room in all of Christendom observes Monsignor Peter Vaghi in his recent book, “Meeting God in the Upper Room.” What is more, he adds, each follower of Jesus today can come to the Upper Room themselves and participate in those three moments in the life of the early Church in a way that changes lives. We can come and encounter the Risen Christ and live in the Holy Spirit through prayer and by receiving the Eucharist at Mass, by going to Confession, reading God’s word, and by loving and serving others.
The Apostles once huddled together timidly in the Upper Room, but the Spirit changed everything. From that room, the Apostles – and by extension all of us – actively became missionaries, emboldened to take the Good News to the ends of the earth. Like the early Church at the first Pentecost, we have been empowered as Spirit-filled evangelizers to go forth boldly and bear witness to Jesus to the world (Evangelii Gaudium, 259).
Today, it is important for us to reflect on and indeed to seek the Upper Room in our own lives – it is not simply a historical location and Pentecost was not a one-time historic event. We in the Church today likewise experience an outpouring of the Holy Spirit which can transform lives. The Pentecost story is our story. The early Church’s experience in the Upper Room is our experience. With our own hearts renewed and strengthened, we like the Apostles, can change the world.