A message from Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M.
“After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the Word of God boldly” (Acts of the Apostles 4:31).
The Easter Season for 2021, like 2020 before it, is unlike any others in our memory due to the impact of the worldwide pandemic. This season comes to an end on May 23 as the Church celebrates the Solemn Feast of Pentecost, traditionally called the “birthday of the Church.”
Before returning to his Father, Jesus promised in the Gospel of John that he would “send the Holy Spirit to those who believe in him” (John 7:39); that he “would ask the Father to give us another, the Advocate, to be with us forever – the Spirit of Truth” (John 14:16-17); that he would not leave us orphans: “I will come to you” (John 14:18), that when the Spirit comes, “he will guide you into all Truth” (John 16:13). As Jesus ascended into heaven, described in the Gospel of Matthew, he proclaimed, “Behold, I will be with you always, even until the end of time” (Matthew 28: 20).
The birth of the Church at Pentecost, announced by Peter in the Acts of the Apostles (2:14-36) and liturgically celebrated 50 days after Easter, is the fulfillment of Jesus’ promises and we are the eternal beneficiaries. The Holy Spirit, proceeding from – and one with – the Father and the Son as we profess each Sunday in the Creed, offers us spiritual gifts and powers to live the Catholic Christian life of faith.
Throughout the year, the Bishop and his Episcopal Vicars travel throughout the parishes of the Diocese to administer Confirmation. The Sacrament of Confirmation is truly our own Pentecost, the occasion for baptized Catholics to celebrate our ownership of these gifts and powers. The Sacrament can only be received once, but its effects, its gifts and grace, are meant to last for a lifetime.
Wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety and fear of the Lord – these are the “seven gifts” the Holy Spirit offers. The “nine fruits” of the Holy Spirit, enumerated in the Letter to the Galatians (5:22-23) – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control – are the powers the Holy Spirit shares with us for living the Catholic Christian life.
We read in the Acts of the Apostles, “When the day of Pentecost came, they [the Apostles] were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the place where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them” (Acts 2:1-4). What an amazing scene that must have been!
The Holy Spirit continues to make God’s presence felt in the Church in all the moments of our lives, giving his gifts, empowering the community of faith. “The Holy Spirit truly transforms us. With our cooperation, he also wants to transform the world we live in (Pope Francis).”
Pentecost is a “forever experience” that touches us deeply, guiding us to “all Truth” as we make our way through life. We still pray and sing “Come Holy Ghost” because the Spirit invites us over and over again, each and every day, to open our minds and hearts to discern God’s movements in what we think and feel, in what we desire and seek, in what we hope to accomplish, and in how we live and love in this world. “The one who has hope lives differently (Pope Benedict XVI).”
Reflecting on Pentecost, we who are a people of hope, “born of the Spirit,” come to realize – like the Apostles in the Upper Room – that “the wind blows wherever it pleases” (John 3:8). We humbly bow, then, before the power of the Holy Spirit of God.
On this “birthday of the Church,” Pentecost, we should be grateful for the gifts of the Holy Spirit and should strive to show anew and always, by the way we live as Catholic Christians, the “love of God poured into our hearts.”