The First Pentecost
The first Pentecost was a day of high drama in Jerusalem. Savour the power in this text!
‘Suddenly there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind. It filled the entire house. A tongue, as of fire, rested on each of the disciples. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to speak in other languages. The gospel was preached to all the world’ (see Acts 2:1-4; 5-13).
The first Pentecost made the fire of the gospel spread round the Mediterranean world. A mighty wind blew it from Jerusalem to Rome, and then outwards and down through the centuries and across the world to wherever city, town or quiet place where you are reading these words today. Be careful, or you may catch fire!
What is Pentecost?
Pentecost comes from the Greek word for ‘five’. It was an old Jewish Feast, 50 days after Passover, celebrating the gathering of the Spring harvest. Pentecost for Christians occurs on the 50th day after Easter. They understand it as a Feast of major significance for the whole world.
In the scripture passage above, Saint Luke is trying to describe this extraordinary, mind-blowing event which changed the lives of people forever. We’re talking about the coming of the Holy Spirit, and when God breaks in on your life, all is changed. Imagine that you are a very ordinary person, leading a humdrum, dull life. Suddenly you find that the most wonderful person in the world falls for you, wants to be your friend, perhaps wants to marry you! This transforms your life. Nothing will ever be the same again. This gives a hint of what this Feast celebrates.
But who is the Holy Spirit?
The Holy Spirit is God, the third Person of the Blessed Trinity. God comes to meet us in differing ways: in the form of Jesus, whom the disciples could see and touch, share a meal with, listen to. But now God comes to them in another way – not limited by space and time, but present to everyone, everywhere, always! If Jesus is the visible form of God, the Holy Spirit is the opposite. The Spirit dwells within our hearts, and operates from deep within us. So although we never see the Spirit, we do experience movements of the heart that draw us toward God. That’s enough to assure us that we possess the Spirit, or even better, that the Spirit possesses us.
Helpful Images of the Spirit
The Internet:A contemporary image of the Spirit isthe Internet. The world-wide web reaches people everywhere. The Internet is meant to be a power for the world’s good, through the sharing of knowledge. Further, social media are meant to strengthen relationships among people. IN a parallel way, the task of the Spirit is to lead us into truth, to heal our fragmented existence, and to create community. Surely we can say then that the Spirit is in the Internet!
Breath:But the first Christians had to use the images of simpler times. Their best image washuman breath: if a person is breathing, they are alive. If they are not breathing, they are dead. So ‘breath’ was understood as the great source of life. Thus, God is said to breathe the breath of life into the nostrils of Adam, so that he becomes a living being (Genesis 2:8). When Jesus wants to give his disciples the Holy Spirit, he breathes on them (John 20:22). This indicates that now God is inside us, like life-giving air, enabling us to live the life of God.
Pentecost in Practice
When you feel an inner urge to be kind, constructive, forgiving or compassionate, that’s the Spirit at work in your heart.
When you settle down to pray, that’s the Spirit bringing you into the world of God.
When you take up a demanding task because you feel it is the right thing for you to do, that’s the Spirit.
When you’re searching with others for the best thing to do in a difficult situation, that’s the Spirit using you as a spokesperson.
When you find yourself watching out for the needy, that’s the Spirit.
When you protest against injustice or falsehood, that’s the Spirit protesting in you.
When you stand for gospel values and try to be inclusive , that’s the Spirit.
When you experience deep-seated joy without any special reason, that’s the Spirit.After all, we have high connections, we belong in the best of company. We are VIPs who truly share God’s DNA!
Once you begin to catch on, you find that the Spirit is everywhere. You begin to attend to your inner promptings, asking, ‘Is this a nudge from the Good Spirit?’Life takes on new colour, and ceases to be boring and predictable. You become free to dance with the Spirit.