On Sunday June 12th, local Catholics of the Arlington Catholic Diocese and Catholics around the world will celebrate one of the greatest feasts of the year, Pentecost Sunday. The feast of Pentecost, dubbed by Catholics as the birthday of the Church, celebrates the fulfillment of Christ’s promise of the Holy Spirit just before he ascended into heaven “But you shall receive the power of the Holy Ghost coming upon you, and you shall be witnesses unto me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and Samaria, and even to the uttermost part of the earth” (Acts 1:8).
For nine days after the Ascension of Christ the 12 Apostles, some women disciples, and Mary, mother of Jesus, prayed for the fulfillment of that promise. On the ninth day the promise was fulfilled with a gush wind and tongues of fire. The Holy Spirit descended on the nascent Church fearfully gathered in the upper room, inflaming the hearts of the Apostles and disciples to head the command of Christ to “teach all nations: baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost” (Mt 28:19). On that day, the fire of faith was kindled, and Christianity was born.
In his homily for Pentecost Sunday in 2009, Pope Benedict XVI teaches that the gift of the Holy Spirit drives out fear.
“The Holy Spirit overcomes fear. We know that the disciples sought shelter in the Upper Room after the arrest of their Lord and that they had remained isolated for fear of suffering the same fate. After Jesus’ Resurrection their fear was not suddenly dispelled. But here at Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit rested upon them, those men emerged fearless and began to proclaim the Good News of the Crucified and Risen Christ to all. They were not afraid because they felt they were in the hands of the strongest One. Yes, dear brothers and sisters, wherever the Spirit of God enters he puts fear to flight; he makes us know and feel that we are in the hands of an Omnipotence of love: something happens, his infinite love does not abandon us. It is demonstrated by the witness of martyrs, by the courage of confessors of the faith, by the undaunted zeal of missionaries, by the frankness of preachers, by the example of all the saints, even some who were adolescents and children. It is demonstrated by the very existence of the Church which, despite the limitations and sins of men and women, continues to cross the ocean of history, blown by the breath of God and enlivened by his purifying fire. With this faith and joyful hope let us repeat today, through the intercession of Mary: “Send forth your Spirit, O Lord, and renew the face of the earth”. (Pope Benedict XVI, Homily for Pentecost Sunday 2009)
As economic fear and malaise begins to grip our country, let us remember these words and celebrate this great feast with joy and courage. Happy Feast of Pentecost!