Today we celebrate one of the key feast-days in the liturgical cycle, alongside Christmas Day (the incarnation), Good Friday (the cross) and Easter Sunday (the resurrection). Today we celebrate Pentecost, the birth of the Church.
The first believers were in Jerusalem awaiting the coming of the Holy Spirit - the gift from on high which Jesus had promised. It is sobering and noteworthy to realize that, until the coming of the Spirit and despite having witnessed the Risen and Glorified Lord, the apostles remained afraid and impotent. They had the message but lacked the power. To use an analogy, they had the car but didn't have the petrol. The car was, to develop the analogy further, parked in the garage and hadn't yet been taken out onto the road. The pouring out of the Spirit on the feast of Pentecost is, then, a vital, nay crucial ingredient in the birth and life of the Church. For on that day an event happened which not only changed the lives of those gathered in the Upper Room but changed the world forever.
The Day of Pentecost was, if we can express it like this, a naked outpouring of the Spirit of God. By this we mean that the Spirit was not ministered through the institution of the Church in the sacraments and through the mediation of a priest but rather came down from above and revealed himself - and, my, did the sparks fly! Even a superficial reading of the account of the event in Acts highlights many signs, wonders and manifestations we find strange and even 'off the wall', so to speak: the blowing of a violent wind, tongues of fire, people speaking in tongues and being accused of being drunk at only 9 o'clock in the morning (2:15).
Such things probably won't happen at Mass today but, if they do, you could be forgiven for thinking that it was the Holy Spirit at work again! However we interpret these things, what is clear is that after Pentecost the apostles were transformed men. We can expect the Spirit to transform us too. We cannot box the Spirit in or constrain or limit the work of God because the wind of the Spirit blows where it wills. We pray for a new Pentecost, a new outpouring of the Spirit upon ourselves and the whole Church.
Come, Holy Spirit, come and renew the face of the earth.
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