Just before Jesus ascends to Heaven, He gave His disciples instructions:
“Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.” (Lk 24:46-49)
The disciples are to proclaim repentance and the forgiveness of sin, and to wait in Jerusalem and pray until Jesus sends the Holy Spirit upon them. The proclamation of the Good News remains exactly the same as by John the Baptist and Jesus at the start of their public ministry. There is a continuity here, which speaks powerfully of what the church is called to proclaim. The disciples are told to wait for the Holy Spirit, that same Spirit of God which moved over the waters at the beginning of Creation.
Today is the feast of Pentecost, which is celebrated some fifty days after the Passover. In Hebrew Pentecost is called Shavuot, the feast of weeks, a week of weeks, or fifty days. It is a feast which celebrates both the grain harvest in Israel, and Moses giving the Law to Israel on Mt Sinai. It is a time when Jews would come from all over the world to be in Jerusalem. What they would have experienced 2000 years ago could be described as something like the undoing of the Tower of Babel in Genesis 11:1-9. Instead of division, there is unity, and all the peoples of the world can hear and understand the proclamation of the Good News of Jesus Christ, the promised Messiah, the Son of God, who died for our sins, rose on the third day, ascended into heaven, and has sent His Holy Spirit.
It is this same Holy Spirit which Christians receive at Baptism, Confirmation, and Ordination, and which makes us children of God and co-heirs with Christ. We are part of God’s family, and through Christ we have an inheritance, the hope of heaven. This is good news indeed! The same Holy Spirit, which brought about the Incarnation in the Annunciation to the Blessed Virgin Mary, through which Christ became incarnate in His mother’s womb, to be born for us, has been given to us. We have been filled with the same Spirit: you, me, every one of us here. By means of the Holy Spirit God can work wonders in and through us, just as the disciples were able to do extraordinary things after being filled by the Spirit.
On the day of Pentecost something wonderful takes place: The Good News is proclaimed in a host of different languages. The Jews in the Acts of the Apostles are amazed to hear the Good News spoken in their own language, by a rag-tag assortment of Galilean fishermen and other ordinary folk. It is incredible. It is miraculous. And it points towards our present reality, where there is not a country on this earth which has not heard the Good News of Jesus Christ. There is still work to do and it is wonderful to learn that the Bible is currently being translated into 250 new languages.
Thus, the work of spreading the Good News is not finished. It is thanks to the preaching of the Gospel started by the Apostles at Pentecost that we are Christians today, and that millions of people have come to know, love, and serve Jesus Christ. As people who are in Christ, who have entered the Church through our Baptism, we have an important job to do. We need to tell people about Jesus.
The Christian Church is wonderful in its diversity. We are all different, we do not speak the same language, or have the same culture. However, we are all equally empowered through having received the Holy Spirit at our Baptism, in our Confirmation, indeed through all the sacramental actions of the church, which are the outward and visible signs of the inward and spiritual grace. This is how the Holy Spirit works, how it builds us up in love. Through the Eucharist, through prayer and through Scripture we are nourished spiritually to keep doing all that God desires of us.
God wants us to love Him and each other. Love is who God is, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We see God’s love in the entirety of Jesus’ Life, Death, Resurrection, and Ascension. All that Jesus is and does is a demonstration, a manifestation of God’s love for us. God longs to give us His love, so that it can transform us into His likeness, the likeness in which we were created, so that we might become children of God and heirs, to our inheritance of Heaven.
Malcom Guite, poet and priest, sums up the meaning of Pentecost in his sonnet ‘Our Mother-tongue is love’:
Today we feel the wind beneath our wings
Today the hidden fountain flows and plays
Today the church draws breath at last and sings
As every flame becomes a Tongue of praise.
This is the feast of fire, air, and water
Poured out and breathed and kindled into earth.
The earth herself awakens to her maker
And is translated out of death to birth.
The right words come today in their right order
And every word spells freedom and release
Today the gospel crosses every border
All tongues are loosened by the Prince of Peace
Today the lost are found in His translation.
Whose mother tongue is Love in every nation.
Today we rejoice in the fact that God continues to pour out His Holy Spirit on the world, and pray that we may be filled with the love of God, so that we may share this love with others, so that all may sing the praises of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. To whom be ascribed as is most right and just all might, majesty, glory, dominion, and power, now and forever. Amen.