If you ask Christians the meaning of Pentecost, a popular answer would be: The Descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles or The Birth of the Church. Both answers are correct. Pentecost was actually a Jewish celebration and it was called the Feast of Harvest.
Pentecost from the Greek word ‘pentecoste’ means fiftieth day after Easter and was originally a feast when Israel celebrated the establishment of the covenant with God on Mount Sinai. It was like the anniversary of the giving of God’s law to Moses. Through the Pentecost event in Jerusalem, it became for Christians the feast of the Holy Ghost. To this day, the Holy Spirit is the ‘Soul’ of the Church.
From a Christian point of view, three unusual things happened at Pentecost – the rushing wind, the tongues of fire and the actual speaking of tongues. If however, the emphasis is only on these peripheral signs, we might be missing the true meaning of Pentecost. The descent of the Holy Ghost was the most important event.
On Pentecost Day, the Holy Ghost descended on the apostles and transformed them from fearful, timid, doubting, hesitant, apostles into courageous witnesses of Christ. It was the Holy Ghost who transformed ‘Peter the denier’ into ‘Peter the preacher’ and ‘Thomas the doubter’ into ‘Thomas the missionary’.
We need this truth in our lives today. We have been asked to pray for the seven-fold gifts of the Holy Ghost: Wisdom, Understanding, Counsel, Fortitude, Knowledge, Piety and Holy Fear – but how many of us actually do? How many of us yearn for and welcome the Holy Ghost into our lives? The gift of tongues for example is a gift to be a witness, the courage to evangelise, to tell people about Jesus Christ, about what Jesus Christ has done for all of us. It is a gift of purpose to build the Kingdom of God.
When we make the sign of the Cross, we say “In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost”. The Trinity God! They do not exist without each other – the Holy Spirit leads us ever deeper into communion with the Triune God. It is important to recognise that the Holy Spirit comes into our hearts so that we, as children of God, might know our Heavenly Father.
The Gift of the Holy Ghost is a powerful one. It is a gift of purpose. It is not power to do weird things or to speak in tongues. It is a power to be a witness, a power to evangelise, a power to tell people about Jesus Christ and what Jesus Christ has done for you. Every believer of Christ has received the Holy Ghost. If Jesus is the vine and we are the branches, then the Holy Ghost is the sap equipping us for the Catholic life. He no longer comes and goes but remains permanently in us. He seals us in Christ – proof of the promise that we are forever in God’s presence.
May this Pentecost bring us to an even deeper assurance of God’s abundant love for each one of us. May the Holy Spirit fill us with a fresh understanding and renewed courage to share His love with those around us. This is our mission!