Pentecost is a word from Ancient Greek that means the 50th Day. Christians were not the first to use this word. They borrowed it from Greek-speaking Jews who used the phrase to refer to a Jewish holiday This holiday was known as the Festival of Weeks, or more simply “Weeks” (Shavuot in Hebrew). The Jews were instructed to have a holiday seven weeks, or “fifty days,” from the end of Passover, set aside to celebrate the wheat harvest .and the giving of the Law to Moses on Mount Sinai. That is why so many people were in Jerusalem on Pentecost, people from all over the Jewish world Parthians, Medes, Elamites, et al where there for the Festival of Weeks.For Christians, Pentecost is the holiday on which we celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit on the early followers of Jesus as we hear in the second chapter of the Acts of the Apostles. Before Pentecost the followers of Jesus were hidden away unsure of what to do next. There was no movement that could be meaningfully called “the church.” Because of this Pentecost is often referred to as the church’s birthday.
The Holy Spirit, who came so profoundly that day, we call "The Third Person of the Trinity." This title can make it sound as if he is a lesser being than the Father and Son; but nothing could be further from the truth. Jesus revealed to us a God who is a Trinity, a communion of three divine persons in love: Father, Son and Spirit. When we say that God is a Trinity we do not mean that we believe in three gods. It does not mean that there are three "modes,” or ways, that God expresses himself. To say that God is a Trinity is to say that there are three, real, distinct persons within the unity of the one God. It is a mystery best described by a single word, as the apostle John did: "God is ... love." Saint Augustine would later say: “In truth to see the Trinity is to see love."
So how does that work? How is God three persons?
The Father, as John said, is love; and, he pours himself out in love fathering the Son. The Son receives himself as a gift of the Father's love, and offers himself back completely to the Father in love. The Holy Spirit is that love, the love they share; a love that gives life, proceeding from the total gift of Father to Son and Son to Father. The love in the Trinity is like the love we experience on earth. Love is always about a lover, the beloved, and the bond of their love.
This Holy Spirit, this Spirit of love, is said to be the one that empowers our faith in Jesus; as Paul says in the second reading, “No one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit.” The Holy Spirit, this love of God, inspires people to know the truth; the truth that Jesus came to die for each one of us as an act of love. All of us who embrace this core belief of the Christian faith have been led to this faith through the help – the inspiration – of the Holy Spirit. All Catholics receive the Holy Spirit through the sacraments of the Church. This Spirit of God entered your life just as he did the Apostles that day, and he will never leave you!
Kind of an awesome thought ... isn’t it?
Today is a feast day where we are called to embrace this gift that each of us has been given – His presence in our life. Many of us struggle with feeling this presences, or rather, recognizing it. But it’s there. Paul said that each of us have some individual manifestation of the Spirit given to us for some benefit. What an exciting thought! In many ways being a Christian is like a treasure hunt, we should all spend our lives discovering our gifts ...so that we can share them!
This idea, that we have undiscovered gifts, reminds me of something Charles Schulz the creator of the Peanuts cartoon once said. He said: “Life is like a ten-speed bicycle. Most of us have gears we never use.” Many of us undoubtedly have gifts of the Spirit we’ve never tried to use, spiritual gifts ... lying dormant in our lives. And the whole church is poorer because of it.
The Holy Spirit is simply God’s love in action. The love of God bringing each of us different kinds of spiritual gifts, different opportunities for service, different works given to us by God to benefit others. The Christian experience is all about the discovery of what our gifts to give are. But the truth is we will never find out, if we don’t explore our talents, if we don’t try.
In baptism every one of us received the gift of the Holy Spirit; a Spirit that is with us for life, dwelling within our hearts always.
Do we really believe this?
Pentecost reminds us that this is an opportune moment to ask ourselves:
• What do I believe about the Holy Spirt?
• What is my image of the Spirit?
• Who is the Spirit for me?
• How do we experience the Holy Spirit at work in my life?
• With what particular gifts of the Spirit have I been blessed?