Happy Birthday, Church!
Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
Today the Church commemorates the Feast of Pentecost, sometimes called the “birthday” of the Church, as it recalls the account in the Acts of the Apostles of the Holy Spirit coming in power upon the budding Christian community of believers established by Jesus. The Holy Spirit, which Jesus had promised He would send to His disciples after He returned to His Father, would bring spiritual gifts to the early Church that enabled it to carry out the mission entrusted to it by Jesus.
Before Pentecost was a Christian holy day, it was a Jewish festival. Chapter 23 of the Book of Leviticus lists the seven feasts of the Lord that were to be observed. In the Old Testament, Pentecost was called the Feast of Weeks. God instructed the Jews to “count fifty days to the day after the seventh Sabbath” and that day was to be proclaimed “a holy convocation” (Leviticus 23:16, 21). In Greek, the word “Pentecost” means “fifty days”, thus the Feast of Pentecost. In Exodus 23:16 it is called “the Feast of Harvest”, because it was associated with first fruits—the early part of a harvest and the first harvest of the year in the land of Canaan.
In the Acts of the Apostles, we hear the account from St. Luke about how Jesus had told the disciples to wait for “the promise of the Father about which you have heard me speak; for John baptized with water, but in a few days, you will be baptized with the holy Spirit” (Acts 1:4-5).
As the apostles and other disciples went to Jerusalem for the Jewish Feast of Pentecost, they gathered in the upper room where Jesus had celebrated the last supper. “And suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house in which they were. Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, 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, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim” (Acts 2:2-4).
This promised gift of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of the Father, and the Spirit of Jesus, enabled the early Christians to boldly proclaim and live out what Jesus had revealed to them. Many people came to believe in Jesus that day and the Church began to grow and spread throughout the world. That same Spirit animates the Church and all believers today. Come Holy Spirit, enflame our hearts again with the joy of the Gospel!
Sincerely yours in Christ Jesus, the Way, the Truth and the Life,