Msgr. Joseph A. Pellegrino
The Solemnity of Pentecost: The Power of the Spirit
For the last number of years, I have been attending college lectures without going anywhere. There are college courses available from a company called The Great Courses which sells CD’s and DVD’s of college professors lecturing in all sorts of subjects. I like to listen to the CD’s in my car or stream the courses on my phone when I exercise. I enjoy their history and music courses. They have a few courses in religion that I also like, such as one on St. Francis of Assisi, a couple on St. Augustine, one on great Christians, and a really detailed and wonderful course on the history of the Church. Some of the religious courses are not very good though. Some of the professors seem to have an anti religious viewpoint, or an anti Catholic bias. They seem to take as a starting point that Christianity was imposed on people who had lived wonderful lives before they were convinced to become Christians. The only religious courses that I find worthwhile are those that are taught by people whose faith is evident even if it isn’t particularly stated. The other courses lack the spirit necessary for explaining the miracle of Christianity.
Intellectuals who lack faith will never achieve their potential because they are not open to allowing the Power of God to enlighten their intelligence.
This is true for all people, not just professors. It is important that we learn what our faith is. We need to know what we believe. We need to know how we are to live the faith. But dogma, the articles of faith, and morality, the way we live the faith, are insufficient in themselves for leading us to God. We need the very Power of God to draw us closer to Him. We need the Holy Spirit.
They kept the door to the Upper Room barred, those eleven remaining disciples of the Lord. They did this even after they experienced the Resurrection. The disciples knew that Jesus was the Son of God. They witnessed His Resurrection. They knew how they were to conduct themselves. They had heard Jesus’ sermons; they had seen how He lived. But they still kept the door barred. They were afraid, afraid that they too would be arrested and killed, probably also crucified. Besides, how could they fulfill the Lord’s mandate to proclaim the Kingdom to all people? They were just simple men. They really didn’t understand the most significant event in human history. And they were afraid. The disciples did not have the Power of God necessary to draw others to Christ.
Then on Pentecost Sunday, the Holy Spirit came upon them. They prophesied. They spoke in tongues. They went out of that locked upper room, no longer cowardly, but willing to risk their lives if only they could draw others to Christ. And that day people from all over the world heard the disciples, now apostles, speaking in their own languages. They felt the Power of God working through these eleven common, every day men. Immediately, 3,000 of them converted to Christ. The spread of the Kingdom had begun. The Church was born.
The Kingdom continues to grow throughout the world due to the power of God, due to the Holy Spirit. We all have experienced the working of the Spirit in our own lives. Why do we believe? Why are we Catholic? Is it simply because many of us were born into the faith? Or, perhaps, because many here married a Catholic and made the decision to practice their spouse’s faith? Do we believe because someone made a great argument to us that we couldn’t refute? Are we Catholic because we have seen so many Catholics being kind and generous to those in need?
All of these are ways that we have been exposed to the faith, but none of these alone, or even all of these together, draw us to Christ. There is something within us which calls us to Jesus Christ. This may be a burning desire for God. Or it may be a still small voice telling us where we can find our peace. Thunder or whisper, there is something, no, there is Someone within us. The Holy Spirit is there deep within our lives, leading us to the Lord. It is the Holy Spirit that leads us from knowing about God to knowing God, to experiencing God. It is the Holy Spirit that drives us to shout out to the world, “Jesus lives. Life has meaning when lived in union with Him. Life is beautiful!” It is the Holy Spirit that leads us to convince others that they are good, that God loves them.” It is the Holy Spirit that fills the world with the love and compassion of our merciful God.
“Lord, send forth your Spirit and renew the face of the earth,” we pray in Psalm 104:30. Then the words of Joel 3 will be realized, “Your sons and daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions; even upon the servants and the handmaids, in those days, I will pour out my spirit.” With the Holy Spirit, we are transformed from the bones and lifeless bodies that Ezekiel saw on the plain, to a living army for the Lord.
Pentecost is not merely a historical event. It is a continuing reality. The Holy Spirit continues to come upon people for the sole purpose of leading all to Jesus Christ. We are all in the Upper Room as the wind blows and the tongues of fire descend on our heads. We posses the Spirit of God.
We call upon the Holy Spirit today. We ask Him to continue to work through the Church in general and through each of us in particular. We ask him to help us continue the mandate of the Lord: May we, like the first apostles and all the fervent Christians throughout the ages, lead others to Christ.