A great question came in today from a friend of mine:
Another Catholic question, Leslie. Pentecost??? What does it mean to me today?? I swear I'm going to do this to you all year and in that you will make me a better Catholic.Well, as you know, I love Catholic questions, and I am honored to be a little part of your spiritual journey, my friend! You make yourself a better Catholic for asking good questions and wanting to grow in your faith! Alright. Pentecost. Here's the scoop:
So, Jesus had died on the Cross, a bloody and horrific death, and the Disciples and Blessed Mother were really bummed, to say the least. But then Jesus rose from the dead and remained with them for forty days, which was a most unexpected and excellent surprise! Then Jesus told them that He had to go, but not to worry because not only would he be back at a day and hour unknown to all except the Father alone -- He was also going to send someone to remain with us until He got back. And that someone was known as the Advocate or Consoler -- a.k.a. the Holy Spirit!
So the Disciples and the Blessed Mother gathered together in prayer (for nine days - the first 'novena'!), and they waited for whatever it was that Jesus had promised. And then after the nine days of prayer, there they were, gathered in the Upper Room, and guess what happened?
Suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind, 2 and it filled the entire house in which they were. Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, 3 which parted and came to rest on each one of them. And they were all filled with the holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, 4 as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim. (Acts 2: 2-4).
BAM! PENTECOST happened! The Holy Spirit was out-poured, and the Church was officially born!
Have you read the book of the Acts of The Apostles? It comes right after the four Gospels in the New Testament, and it is a real action adventure! The deeds the Apostles could do with the power of the Holy Spirit are truly awe-inspiring.
Now, all of this finally brings me to your question -- what does Pentecost mean to me today?
Reflecting on what Pentecost means in my own life, I think that I primarily experience Pentecost in these three ways:
- A celebration of the Church's birthday (can you say 'cake and ice cream'???)
- A renewal of the promises I made at baptism and confirmation, and a request for all of those gifts of the Holy Spirit that I was given through those sacraments to be stirred up in my life and in my heart, so that I may more fully live the faith and be a witness for Christ. (Because that same Holy Spirit who came to the Apostles came to each of us when we were baptized and confirmed, so we have full access to the same level of gifts, powers, and graces!)
- An opportunity for renewal and grace for the entire Church, which is in great need of the Holy Spirit's power and gifts.
Now, some people only associate Pentecost with those Christians who call themselves 'Pentecostals' or certain types of prayer that are known as 'charismatic' -- praying in tongues, praying over others, being 'slain in the Spirit,' etc. As a point of clarification, 'charismatic' is anything that relates to a 'charism,' or a gift of the Holy Spirit. So in that sense, we are all called to be charismatic, to be open to the gifts of the Holy Spirit. God has given us these gifts, and we'll be judged on whether we hid them or used them for His glory and the good of the community. Not everyone is given the same gifts, but we are all given some gifts for the benefit of the whole body:
So no, not everyone has to speak in tongues, but yes, some will be given that gift. I know a lot of people who have shared with me that they are actually a bit afraid of being open to the gifts of the Holy Spirit, because they don't want to have to speak in tongues or do other 'weird' things. I always find this a little funny, though an honest fear, and my advice is to be not afraid! God is not going to give you a gift you don't want, but being open to whatever gifts He has in mind for you is not going to make you weird. Let's just be honest here -- we're probably all at least a little bit weird anyway, so we might as well be weird with God. That's my motto!
- 1 Now in regard to spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be unaware.
- 3 There are different kinds of spiritual gifts but the same Spirit;
- there are different forms of service but the same Lord;
- there are different workings but the same God who produces all of them in everyone.
- To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit.
- To one is given through the Spirit the expression of wisdom; to another the expression of knowledge according to the same Spirit;
- to another faith by the same Spirit; to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit;
- to another mighty deeds; to another prophecy; to another discernment of spirits; to another varieties of tongues; to another interpretation of tongues.
- But one and the same Spirit produces all of these, distributing them individually to each person as he wishes.
- 4 As a body is one though it has many parts, and all the parts of the body, though many, are one body, so also Christ.
In conclusion, I think that Pentecost is a great opportunity to celebrate the Church's birth, and to ask God to pour out His gifts and graces for ourselves personally, for our families, for our communities, and ultimately for the whole world!
Thanks so much for your question, my friend, and I hope this has been helpful.
A blessed Pentecost preparation to all, and to all a goodnight!
Peace and all good,