Jesus seemed to be gone forever, but when the Holy Spirit rushed upon the Apostles like a wind and appeared over their heads like tongues of fire, his presence among them and within them was impossible to dismiss. This coming Sunday we will celebrate Pentecost, the occasion on which God’s Holy Spirit empowered the first believers with the gifts and conviction they needed to bring the Gospel to the ends of the earth.
The Jewish feast of Pentecost that coincided with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit was a holy day set aside to celebrate God’s giving of the Covenant and Law contained in the Torah to Israel on Mt. Sinai. Rather than do away with that Covenant, the gift of the Holy Spirit to the Apostles on that same feast renewed God’s promise to make of Israel a “treasured possession among all peoples” (Ex. 19:5).
The same Holy Spirit that breathed life into Adam and Eve, brought order to the chaos of the world as it was created, conceived Jesus within the womb of Mary, and later resurrected him from the dead, anointed and empowered the early Church to bring the good news of salvation in Jesus to the rest of the Jewish people and to the world.
From our perspective in time and as Christians, we might not realize that the Jewish tradition did not have a concept of the Holy Spirit as the third person of the Trinity. Instead, it spoke of the “spirit of God” or the “spirit of the Lord.”
But with the experience of Pentecost, God chose to reveal himself to us fully, and the Church began to understand more clearly what Jesus meant when he said that he would send us “another Advocate to be with you always” (Jn. 14:15). “The Advocate, the holy Spirit,” Jesus explained, “will teach you everything and remind you of all that [I] told you” (Jn. 14:26). Through this teaching and guidance of the Holy Spirit, our hearts, minds and souls are rejuvenated in Christ, and through his power our bodies can also be healed.
This is exactly the truth that we need to hear in this period of history we are living through, a time that is marked by fear, illness and instability. The life of the early Church before Jesus’ Resurrection and the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost was also a time of turmoil. That is why St. Peter wasn’t preaching about Jesus in the synagogues until after Pentecost. Before that, he and the other disciples were hiding in fear. But with the outpouring of grace on Pentecost, he boldly proclaimed Jesus, and 3,000 people became believers that day. This transformation illustrates the truth that when we place our trust in God’s strength and not in ourselves, miracles can happen.
This coming weekend we have a chance to trust in God by returning to Mass in person. Together with Bishop Sheridan and Bishop Berg, I have decided to reinstate the Sunday obligation to attend Mass, with exceptions for those who cannot do so for health or other grave reasons. This presents each of us with a chance to surrender any fears we might have to the Lord and ask for the boldness of the Holy Spirit to value what he values, to worship the Lord and receive his grace at Mass.
The preacher for the Papal Household, Cardinal Raniero Cantalamessa, once observed that the “apostles and saints prayed in order to know what to do,” rather than just asking God to bless whatever they already had planned. Let us adopt the same approach with this Pentecost celebration and the return to Mass. Let us ask the Holy Spirit to guide us in trusting Jesus.
For more information about returning to Sunday Mass, please visit: https://archden.org/return.