|Image of the Spirit in St. Peter's Basilica|
The word “Pentecost” comes from a Greek word meaning “fiftieth” – the fiftieth day after the passover.
In the Christian tradition, Pentecost celebrates an aspect of the paschal mystery – which includes the death, resurrection, ascension and the descent of the Spirit upon the disciples.
The Book of Acts describes how the Jews had come to Jerusalem to celebrate Pentecost. And suddenly the Spirit -- described in images of wind and fire (images that symbolize power and energy and vitality) -- was poured out on the disciples and fired them up to proclaim the Gospel courageously.
The letter of Paul to the Christian community at Corinth in Greece speaks about the different gifts the Spirit bestows upon us – all for the common good, the community.
In the Gospel according to John, the author describes a post-resurrection appearance of Jesus where he breathes upon the disciples (as God breathed life into man in the second chapter of Genesis) and bestows the Spirit upon them.
Pentecost proclaims that we are alive with the life of the triune God.
What makes you feel alive? Experiencing the awesomeness of Niagara Falls or the Grand Canyon? Holding a baby in your arms? Accomplishing a challenging task at work?
Pablo Casals, the great cellist, experienced at age 90 severe arthritis and emphysema. But when he sat to play Bach or Brahms, his body slowly came alive with music. What energizes us?
What does it mean to be alive in Christ? In early Christianity, candidates for baptism were often immersed in a pool of water. When the candidate stepped down into the water and came up on the other side, that gesture symbolized a dying to a self-centered life and a rising to a God-centered life.
In the beginning, man and woman walked with God, they had friendship with God and one another. Somehow they lost that friendship, fell from grace. God became flesh in Jesus, embodying the friendship of God with us. And through the waters of baptism we are alive in Christ.
And how really alive in Christ are we? The Spirit of God is within us. That Spirit calls us to continue the saving work of Jesus Christ. We are indeed His “hands and feet and eyes and ears and voice.” And the Spirit of God empowers us to reflect in our daily lives love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
We are alive with the life of the triune God—that is the lesson of Pentecost. Let that life of God breathe within us every day of our lives.