Where were we when the day of Pentecost arrived? We were still awaiting the Father’s call to birth. He brought us into being so that we too could experience our own Pentecost.
The apostles didn’t receive the Holy Spirit because they were holy. They received the Holy Spirit because they were sinners who needed the Holy Spirit to make them holy. This was God’s surprise gift to them — and to each of us.
It’s one thing to receive a Christmas gift. It’s another thing to open the gift and enjoy using it. We all received the gift of the Holy Spirit in baptism, but have we asked God to unpackage this gift for us to use in our daily lives? Reflecting on the readings from Pentecost help us to move in that direction. This is a never-ending and a joy-enhancing experience.
On the day of Pentecost, the Father gathered the apostles and disciples together for prayer in one place. Then, the Holy Spirit visited them with a life-changing experience. “And suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind, and filled the entire house in which they were.”
Jesus earlier told Nicodemus, “The wind blows where it wills, and you can hear the sound it makes, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes; so it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
The first reading states: “Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each 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.”
The apostles and disciples had simply gathered to pray, and God filled their hearts with the Holy Spirit.
One of the most joyous experiences I have ever had of the Holy Spirit moving in a group gathered in prayer took place in Arrowhead Stadium in July 1977. Fifty thousand Christians of different denominations were gathered in prayer. Suddenly, the entire stadium erupted in praying in tongues, and it lasted for five to seven minutes. I wouldn’t be surprised if several thousand people were baptized in the Holy Spirit at that moment. It isn’t that they didn’t have the Holy Spirit, but rather that He was released in a dramatic, life-changing way. One of the people who experienced this was the future chaplain of the papal household, Father Raniero Cantalamessa.
Since that time more than 100 million Catholics worldwide have experienced the release of the Holy Spirit received in baptism.
God’s desire is that every believer receive the release of the Holy Spirit. With the release of the Holy Spirit come the charismatic gifts of the Holy Spirit. These are gifts that evangelize.
For example, at Pentecost, when the people were surprised at the outbreak of tongues and exultant praise, some of the people, scoffing, said, “These people have had too much wine.” Peter got up and said, “These people are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning.” He went on to point out that the prophet Joel had said, “I will pour out a portion of my spirit upon all flesh…” Because of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit and because of Peter’s speech, 3,000 people were baptized that day — not bad results for Peter’s first homily.
In the second reading Paul writes: “There are different kinds of spiritual gifts but the same Spirit; there are different forms of service but the same Lord; there are different workings but the same God, who produces all of them in everyone. To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit.”
The charismatic gifts are simply given to encourage others to turn to God to receive salvation from on high.
In the Gospel, Jesus appears to the apostles on Easter Sunday night and says to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them and whose sins you retain are retained.”
The Church teaches that on Easter Sunday night the apostles received the fullness of the Holy Spirit, and Pentecost was the wider manifestation of the Holy Spirit coming upon the entire Church.
So what does Pentecost mean to you, an ordinary Catholic? It means that God loves you just where you are, but He doesn’t want you to stay there. He needs witnesses to receive His Holy Spirit gifts and to use them to bring others to know Jesus.
Receiving the fullness of the Holy Spirit isn’t about you. It is about the Heavenly Father using you as a witness to Jesus. The more you are open to the gifts of the Holy Spirit, the more the Father can use you to witness Jesus to others.
If you want these gifts and can’t get to a Life in the Spirit Seminar to learn more about them, don’t worry. Jesus knows where you live and will make a house call. Simply say to Him over and over again, “Jesus, I know I am a sinner and do not like myself as I am. I surrender myself totally to you and ask forgiveness for all of my sins, and I ask you to baptize me in the Holy Spirit and give me all the gifts of the Spirit, including the gift of tongues.”
Pray that every day from your heart. It’s a prayer that Jesus and the Father can’t resist.