Pentecost, the birthday of the Church, started off with great fireworks. These fireworks are much needed in our weary world today. We need to give back to God His power over our lives, so that He renews the face of the earth. He has the power, but He doesn't have our permission.
It all started with Jesus on Easter Sunday night when He appeared to the frightened apostles and disciples in the upper room. He said, "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent Me, so I send you." Then "He breathed on them and said to them, 'Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.'"
This was Pentecost for the apostles. The feast of Pentecost itself is the wider manifestation, intended for the whole Church. It took the apostles 50 days of prayerful reflection to come to a deeper understanding of what it means to be baptized in the Holy Spirit. In this time of prayer, they were gathered with Mary, the Mother of God, praying for the coming of the Holy Spirit upon the wider Church.
What transpired on Pentecost Sunday is well described in the first reading from the Acts of the Apostles. First of all, there are the external signs: "And 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."
These extraordinary external signs were intended to witness to all present, Jews and Gentiles, that they were experiencing a heavenly visitation. The external signs were followed by internal transformation. "They were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim."
This got the attention of "devout Jews from every nation under heaven staying in Jerusalem. At this sound, they gathered in a large crowd, but they were confused because each one heard them speaking in his own native language."
I have attended large gatherings of people speaking various languages, but each listener had a headset with translation in their native tongue. Since Pentecost, the Holy Spirit is the headset who helps individuals understand.
Now you might say that today we do not need the gift of tongues; however, we all need to hear better voices than the voices we are hearing from the world. We need to hear what God is saying. We need the gifts of the Holy Spirit, especially the gift of prophecy, the gift of tongues and the gift to interpret tongues.
Once when I was teaching on the gift of tongues, a person raised her hand and said, "I don't need the gift of tongues. I can say everything I need to say in perfect English." I said, "That's wonderful, but do you ever cry?" She said, "Of course I do!" So I said to her, "Why do you cry? Why do you not put that into English?" She replied, "It is too deep for words."
This is the same explanation St. Paul gave to the Romans when he stated, "In the same way, the Spirit too comes to the aid of our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit itself intercedes with inexpressible groanings. And the one who searches hearts knows what is the intention of the Spirit, because it intercedes for the holy ones according to God's will."
We live in a world turned in on itself, and we need something to jolt us out of our self-centered way of thinking and orbit us into God's way of thinking. We need to give to God power over our lives and world. The revolution started on Pentecost Sunday.
This power had regenerated civilizations for nearly 2,000 years, but we need a new awakening. This new awakening started in the Catholic Church in a new way 50 years ago when seven Catholics making a retreat on the Acts of the Apostles were baptized in the Holy Spirit.
Since that time, more than 100 million Catholics have been baptized in the Holy Spirit, and the numbers are growing. This Pentecost Sunday, Pope Francis is gathering leaders of this renewal to the Vatican so as to encourage them in their work. We are truly honored to have here in St. Louis Jane Guenther, a gifted woman who will represent North America, Central America and the English-speaking Caribbean at this gathering with Pope Francis.
Pope Francis is very aware of the significance of this new movement of the baptism of the Holy Spirit. His predecessor, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, on the Feast of Pentecost in 2008 said, "I wish every Catholic were baptized in the Holy Spirit."
Baptism of the Holy Spirit is available to every Catholic. It will profoundly change the lives of those who seek it. We all need the power of God unleashed in our lives. We need to give God the freedom to use our lives as witnesses to those around us who are lost but searching. I received the baptism of the Holy Spirit on the Feast of the Transfiguration in 1972. After ordination to the priesthood, it was the greatest thing that ever happened in my life. If it can happen to me, it can happen to anyone. Pray to receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit.RELATED ARTICLE(S):I thought you should know | Jesus invites us to ask Him for His help