This Sunday we celebrate Pentecost, which rounds out the Easter season. At one level Pentecost was a glorious event that occurred almost two thousand years ago.
Ten days after the Ascension, Mary, the Apostles and about 110 other disciples were gathered together in the same Upper Room where Jesus had celebrated the Last Supper. While they were at prayer, the Holy Spirit came to them under the appearance of a mysterious fire in the air and a thundering wind inside the house. It would have reminded them of the glory of God that descended upon Mount Sinai about 1500 years earlier, when Moses received the law and wisdom from heaven. Moses wanted all of the people of God to receive that same power of the Holy Spirit. See Numbers 11:29. And the prophets spoke of a day when this prayer would be answered. See Jeremiah 31:31-34; Joel 2:28-29.
On that first Pentecost, this prayer and these prophesies were fulfilled and the early Christians were no longer afraid, confused about the words of Jesus or squabbling among themselves about who was the greatest. Instead, with the power of the Holy Spirit, they went forth into the world strong, united and wise. As Acts of the Apostles and early Church history indicates, the powers of the world opposed them, but could not suppress the Gospel. In the face of much opposition, those early Christians brought the faith to all of the Roman Empire and beyond.
But the glory of Pentecost did not end 2000 years ago. The Holy Spirit comes to each one of the faithful; and, if we are willing, we are filled with that power from on high as Jesus promised the Apostles. We receive the Holy Spirit in baptism; through the Holy Spirit, we continually achieve freedom from sin in the sacrament of Reconciliation, and the life of Christ in the Eucharist. And, in Confirmation, we receive the fullness of the Holy Spirit as those early Christians did long ago. Of course, there will be opposition in the world, for this earth is a contest for the faithful. But Jesus is with His people always, especially in the midst of trials and suffering. The jaws of death can never overcome His Church. Matt. 16:28. Rather, as Jesus promised, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs in the kingdom of heaven.” Matt. 5:10.