Pentecost: The Forgotten Feast

Author: Fr. Simon Penhalagan

Picture: TigerTy/Pixabay

Pentecost: The Forgotten Feast

Pentecost is not simply a one-off feast, but a living power to transform our lives and the whole world with God's love, says Fr. Simon Penhalagan.

The power of Pentecost first impacted me about twenty years ago. 

I had been part of the Sion community for a few years and was leading missions in secondary schools.  I had been baptised in the Holy Spirit, and was growing in my relationship with him as the third person of the Trinity.

I had also heard phrases like ‘Pentecost is the birthday of the Church’, but did not quite understand what that actually meant.

I remember sitting in a large school hall on Pentecost eve. We were praying together as a team and preparing to lead a school mission. As the leader led us in a reflection on Wisdom 7: 22 – 8: 1, the wonder of the person of the Holy Spirit and his impact on the Church on Pentecost day suddenly struck me powerfully. 

That passage revealed that the Holy Spirit is too wonderful to be summed up in a few words or a sentence.  He who is beyond our human ability to comprehend or describe was breathed into the apostles two thousand years ago, and has been breathing into the Church ever since. 

A Living Force of Love 

Like many people, I had understood the importance of Easter and Christmas. However, I had not grasped, until that moment, the significance and power of Pentecost: the celebration of the living force of that love choosing to dwell within us, and mobilising us to love like the Trinity. 

The Church was birthed on that day, and continues to be birthed every moment we are open to this living force.

In the Eucharist, in our prayer, we live an ongoing Pentecost as the Spirit flows in and out of us, enabling us to love God and each other, whilst drawing the world into the family of love that the Church-– including our parishes today – was birthed to be. 

Just think: our parishes being the families of love they were created to be.  This is what the first disciples did, bearing the good news of God’s all-consuming love  to a hostile and sceptical world. And the Holy Spirit continues to equip us for this today.

A New Pentecost

In opening the Second Vatican Council, Pope St John XXIII prayed for ‘a new Pentecost’. Just after its close, Pope Blessed Paul VI said:

The Church’s first need is always to live Pentecost… The Church has a need for the Holy Spirit: a basic need, an existential need, a need that cannot be satisfied with illusions, with substitutes… If we really love the Church, the main thing we must do is to foster in it an outpouring of the divine Paraclete, the Holy Spirit.

Let us live and celebrate Pentecost this year and every year. Ponder Wisdom 7, as well as the accounts of Pentecost in Acts 2 and John 20. May each person be equipped by the Holy Spirit to be the ‘missionary disciples’ Pope Francis is encouraging us to be.

Let’s make the prayer of Pope St John XXIII our own this Pentecost:

Renew Your wonders in this our day, as by a new Pentecost. Grant to Your Church that, being of one mind and steadfast in prayer with Mary, the Mother of Jesus, and following the lead of blessed Peter, it may advance the reign of our Divine Saviour, the reign of truth and justice, the reign of love and peace. Amen.

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