By Father Ed Dougherty, M.M.
Pentecost is a miraculous time in the life of the Church. At the first Pentecost, the disciples gathered in Jerusalem during a harvest festival for the Jewish people. Many would travel to Jerusalem during this time and were there to witness the tongues of fire descend upon the apostles.
Christ had promised that the Holy Spirit would clothe them “with power from on high” (Luke 24:49) and instructed them to wait in the city for this occurrence so they could be prepared to go out and preach the gospel to all nations.
One can only imagine how astonishing it must have been when the disciples began to speak in the various languages of all those people visiting the city from foreign lands. What an amazing miracle God chose to perform in this moment, breaking down barriers to communication and allowing the disciples to share the good news of Christ’s resurrection. Visitors to the city would then return to their homelands and share the story of this miraculous occurrence and be prepared to give witness to the transformative power of Christ.
The miracle of Pentecost exemplifies how the Holy Spirit works in our lives by empowering us to communicate in effective ways with all those in need of hearing Christ’s message of hope. Whenever we find ourselves in situations where barriers to communication exist, we need to pray for the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. He is with us from our Baptism, we strengthen our bond with him in Confirmation, and the more we strive to remain in a state of grace, the more that bond will grow.
Though many in the crowd on that first Pentecost marveled at the miracles of the Holy Spirit, some were more skeptical, and it was in response to this skepticism that Peter delivered his first homily. Referencing the Old Testament, Peter showed the people how Joel had foretold this moment of the Holy Spirit descending upon them, just as David had foretold the coming of Christ. Upon hearing Peter’s inspired words, many converted that day and more joined their number in the following days as the apostles continued to preach and perform wonders and signs. Their community grew and they lived in fellowship, sharing in the miracle of the breaking of the bread.
The Church was born under these miraculous circumstances, and it bears remembering that the miracle of the Holy Spirit still guides all who follow Christ. It’s also important to remember the way of life that many were led into through this miraculous moment. It was a way of peace and love, and a way of simplicity. Pentecost reminds us of God’s awesome power, but the miracle of that special day also comes alive within our hearts every time we break bread together in a spirit of love and forgiveness and every time we seek the wisdom to know just what to say to others to open their minds and hearts to Christ.
Pentecost is a day we should give thanks for the Church and the fellowship we find in our Christian community. It’s a time to pray for that fellowship to be strengthened, to be purified, and to grow with the same awe-inspiring conviction as it grew among those first followers. Let’s pray for tongues of fire to burn forever in our hearts and in the hearts of all Christians so that we can find the inspiration to share our faith effectively with the world.
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Father Ed Dougherty, M.M., is a member of the board of directors for the Christophers.