This year, the Church celebrates the great feast of Pentecost on May 20. As recounted in the second chapter of the Acts of the Apostles, Pentecost occurred when the followers of Jesus were clustered together in a room and were suddenly surprised – overtaken is not too strong a word – by the dynamic presence of the Holy Spirit in their midst. Strong wind and flame seemed to sweep the room, and the Apostles were so filled with the gifts of the Spirit that they emerged to speak in multiple languages to the throngs who had come to Jerusalem to celebrate a Jewish festival.
In our secular culture, Pentecost goes largely unobserved. “Pentecost” cards don’t pop up on store shelves weeks in advance, and there’s no merchandising that remotely compares to Easter and Christmas.
“The Holy Spirit brought courage to replace fear, understanding to replace confusion, faith to replace doubt.”
Yet make no mistake. To Christians, Pentecost is a great celebration, sometimes called the birthday of the Church. The word Pentecost has its roots in the Greek word for “fifty;” Pentecost comes fifty days after the Resurrection on the seventh Sunday after Easter.
Why was Pentecost such a watershed event in the life of the Church? As Christian stewards, we know we are called to be missionary disciples. This calling has its roots in the momentous events of Pentecost. Up until that time, the followers of Jesus were still a somewhat disorganized band of believers, still in shock over the events of the crucifixion, still confused about the meaning of the sightings of the Risen Lord.
Pentecost abruptly and forever changed that. Suddenly, missionary disciples were born, followers both called and sent forth. Like us, they were called together, in community. They became aware that their great mission was to reach, not just their Jewish brothers and sisters in Palestine, but the disparate crowds who visited Jerusalem and beyond. Like us, they were called to bring Jesus to the world.
The Holy Spirit brought courage to replace fear, understanding to replace confusion, faith to replace doubt. The same Holy Spirit moves in our own lives, perhaps not always with the drama of that first Pentecost, but with the same grace. The Spirit calls us within our Church community to share Jesus with others, just as the disciples were called.
Let’s celebrate Pentecost this year as heirs to this great moment in the life of our Church, as stewards inspired to be missionary disciples for the life of the world.