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Our own evil inclinations are far more dangerous than any external enemies.

— St.Ambrose

Pondering Pentecost

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Jesus told his disciples to wait in Jerusalem “for the fulfillment of the Father’s promise… John baptized with water, but within a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” (1)

Together they devoted themselves to constant prayer.

They gathered in the upstairs room. “Together they devoted themselves to constant prayer. There were some women in their company, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers…When the day of Pentecost came it found them gathered in one place. Suddenly from up in the sky, there came a noise like a strong, driving wind which was heard all through the house where they were seated. Tongues as of fire appeared, which parted and came to rest on each of them. All were filled with the Holy Spirit. They began to express themselves in foreign tongues and make bold proclamation as the Spirit prompted them.” (2)

Psalm 150

Alleluia!

Praise God in his holy place,

praise him in his highest heavens.

Praise him for his powerful deeds,

praise his surpassing greatness.

O praise him with sound of trumpet,

praise him with lute and harp.

praise him with timbrel and dance,

praise him with strings and pipes.

O praise him with resounding cymbals,

praise him with clashing of cymbals.

Let everything that lives and that breathes

give praise to the Lord. Alleluia!

 

God Times Events The Way He Wants

As I was pondering Pentecost, and the literal meaning of 50, and the fact that we celebrate the feast 50 days after Resurrection Sunday I thought of how God places importance on the timing of events. Pentecost is the Greek name for Shavuot which commemorates the spring grain harvest and the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai. The Jews celebrate Shavuot 50 days after the Passover. This was happening as the disciples experienced the Holy Spirit.

Our Lord’s interest in dates and when events need to happen steered my heart toward the timing of a major event in my family, the birth of our youngest of seven in 1999, Rosemary. Three of our children were born in January and three were born in August. Rosemary was born in May. Not just any day in May, but on Pope John Paul II’s birthday, May 18. Adding to this is the fact that the prime of my Catholic life and marriage was lived from 1978 (wedding in 1979) to 2005, the reign of this saint and Marian pope. He was also the first Polish pope and I taught for 16 years at St. Mary’s Catholic School in Wilno, Ontario, the first Polish settlement in Canada.

With all of these memories and thoughts, I wanted to highlight a piece of Saint John Paul II’s writing on Pentecost. What follows is taken from his 1997 homily at Rome’s St. Athanasius Church May 18, his birthday on the Solemnity of Pentecost.

 In the Acts of the Apostles, St Luke describes the extraordinary manifestation of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost as a communication of the very vitality of God who gives himself to men. This divine gift is also light and power: light, to proclaim the Gospel, the Truth revealed by God; power, to infuse the courage of witnessing to the faith, which the Apostles begin at that very moment.

Power Given To Go and Witness

However dazzled and jaw-dropped everyone was the purpose of the extraordinary manifestation of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost was not to dazzle onlookers, or prove that indeed Christ is now united with the Father in glory.  The Holy Spirit drove Peter to speak to the onlooking Jews who thought they had too much wine:  “You must realize that these men are not drunk, as you seem to think. It is only nine in the morning! No, it is what Joel the prophet spoke of: ‘ It shall come to pass in the last days, says God, that I will pour out a portion of my spirit on all mankind: Your sons and daughters shall prophesy, your young men shall see visions and your old men will dream dreams…’ ”  Peter quotes all of Chapter 3 of Joel speaking boldly and confidently about Christ’s death, resurrection, and an outpouring of His Spirit on them.  “Therefore let the whole house of Israel know beyond any doubt that God has made both Lord and Messiah this Jesus whom you crucified.”

This was Peter’s first courageous and passionate witness caused by the Holy Spirit taking possession of him. The results were immediate:  “When they heard this, they were deeply shaken.” (3) They asked Peter and the other apostles what they should do, whereupon Peter told them to reform and be baptized so that their sins would be forgiven; they would receive the Holy Spirit.  About three thousand accepted this and entered the community of faith.

Just before his Ascension, Jesus told them why he was sending the Holy Spirit: “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes down upon you; then you are to be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, yes, even to the ends of the earth.” (4) Peter was the first to demonstrate this powerful witnessing.

Pope John Paul II: The witness of the Spirit of truth must become one with that of the Apostles, thus fusing the divine and human witness into one saving reality. From this fusion flows the work of evangelization, begun on the day of Pentecost and entrusted to the Church as her task and mission down the ages.

1  Acts 1: 4,5

2  Acts 1: 14; 2: 1-4

3  Acts 2: 15-17; 36-37

4 Acts 1: 8