Pentecost: celebrating the richness of a perennial event
Solemnity of Pentecost, Year B (John 20:19-23)
May 20, 2018
By Fr. Sal Putzu, SDB
AN extraordinary outpouring of the divine Spirit on all mankind had been foretold by the prophet Joel (see Jl 3:1-5), but the effect of the fulfillment of such a prophecy went beyond every expectation. PENTECOST was not just a matter of people speaking previously unknown foreign languages or having visions. It was A NEW CREATION. It brought into existence A NEW MANKIND, a new People of God—THE CHURCH.
The new creation and the new people of God started with the handful of some 120 disciples of Jesus. (See Acts 1:15.) It effected in them a radical change, both as individuals and as a group. The bystanders were struck by the fact that those unschooled Galileans could express themselves in foreign languages. (See: Acts 2:7-12.)
But what mattered most was the inner transformation that had taken place in those simple folks: from fearful, they had turned daring; from ignorant, they had become learned; from being a confused and scattered crowd, they had been fashioned into a well-knit community, characterized by brotherly love, with an inspiring leadership and a deep sense of mission.
This new creation, like the first, was to go on till the end of time. And we are part of it. All through the centuries, the Spirit has continued to enliven the Church with His presence. It is from Him that the sacraments derive their sanctifying efficacy; the leaders are enlightened in the fulfillment of their pastoral duties; the martyrs are strengthened in the confession of their faith; and all the faithful experience His indispensable assistance in the fulfillment of their duties in their daily life. It is from the Spirit that the Church continually feels the need of, and draws the inspiration and courage to undergo conversion.
The Spirit is the origin of all the great movements in the Church which, in every generation, enriches it with initiatives and institutions that are like fresh shoots bursting forth from the ancient “trunk” that no passing of centuries fossilizes or destroys.
It is the gifts of the Holy Spirit that empower each individual believer to walk the road of holiness and bring about in oneself that wonderful transformation that configures a person to Jesus—the divine model. Finally, it is the Holy Spirit who enriches us with his seven gifts, and who brings about in us that abundance of virtuous dispositions that we call his “fruits,” and which are the signs and means of an authentic life of discipleship.
Pentecost, then, is not the nostalgic commemoration of an extraordinary event buried in the sands of the past. Rather, it is the yearly culminating celebration of a perennial event— the life-giving presence of the Spirit in the Church today.