Just before the Liturgical calendar turns back to Ordinary Time, we celebrate an extraordinary event: Pentecost.
On the first Pentecost, the Holy Spirit came into the world, descending upon the apostles 50 days after the Resurrection of Jesus Christ and 10 days after His bodily Ascension into heaven. The Catholic Church traces its history to Pentecost, with Peter as our first pope.
The Holy Spirit’s arrival was dramatic. He descended upon the apostles with wind and tongues of fire, giving them the ability to proclaim the Good News by simultaneously speaking in multiple languages. This astounded onlookers from many different countries gathered in Jerusalem, but hearing the apostles speak in their languages also led to suggestions Jesus’ followers were hammered.
”They were all astounded and bewildered, and said to one another, ‘What does this mean?’ But others said, scoffing, ‘They have had too much new wine.’” (Acts 2:12-13)
Peter set them straight. It was only 9 a.m. in the morning — too early to drink and too early to be drunk. He told them the wind, fire and everything else marked the arrival of the Holy Spirit, as prophesied in the Old Testament. He advised them to “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the holy Spirit.” (Acts 2:38)
In the Holy Spirit, God remains present for us now and in the future. “Come, Holy Spirit” may be ready to roll off our tongues, but we really don’t have to ask. The Holy Spirit already is here with us, on the job 24/7 to call us and guide us on the journey toward eternity.
Seminarians, priests and religious often talk about “God’s providence” leading them to vocations, with key, unexpected circumstances pointing the way. Spouses talk of chance encounters growing into lifelong commitments. Friends, business associates and many others have similar stories about relationships growing from nothing.
That’s the Holy Spirit in action, though sometimes in secular society such circumstances are referred to as merely coincidences. Catholics know better. Our shepherd, Archbishop Robert J. Carlson, refers to these happy encounters as “God-cidences.”
God-cidences may be chance meetings, Eureka-moments, inspirations, sparks or ideas. The extraordinary or ordinary, either way, it comes from God through the Holy Spirit.
We celebrate this on Pentecost, which closes the Easter season but doesn’t mark the end. In a sense, it’s always Pentecost, with the omni-present Holy Spirit guiding us as we celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus Christ at every Mass. In other words, even Ordinary Time is extraordinary.