The Feast of Pentecost

Artists often depict Pentecost as the outpouring of the Spirit on the Apostles gathered in a large room with the Blessed Virgin Mary at the center in the form of a dove, with its wings outstretched, and tongues of fire dividing and resting on the heads of each Apostle.
The word “Pentecost” means “fiftieth day.” In most Christian traditions, Pentecost Sunday occurs 50 days following Easter Sunday (counting Easter Sunday since it is the first day of the week). Those 50 days span seven Sundays after Easter, so Pentecost is the seventh Sunday after Easter (seven weeks times seven days = 49 days, plus Pentecost Sunday).
Pentecost was originally an Old Testament festival since the time of Josephus calculated as beginning on the 50th day after the beginning of Passover. In the Christian Calendar, it falls on the seventh Sunday after Easter. It was called the Feast of Weeks (Shavuot) and in the Old Testament, was originally an agricultural festival celebrating and giving thanks for the “first fruits” of the early spring harvest (Leviticus 23; Exodus 23, 34).
By the early New Testament period, it had gradually lost its association with agriculture and became associated with the celebration of God’s creation of His people and their religious history. By the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70, the festival focused exclusively on God’s gracious gift of the Torah (the Jewish Law) on Mount Sinai. It continues to be celebrated in this manner in modern Judaism.
While there are other references to Pentecost in the New Testament, such as I Corinthians 16:8, it is most significant in Acts 2:1-12 and the familiar scene of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on those in the “upper room.” The New Testament writers associate the events of Acts 2 with Pentecost and relate the feast to the prophecies of Joel 2 and the promises of Jesus in Acts 1:8. In both Joel and Acts, the emphasis is on an empowerment through the Holy Spirit that enables the people of God to witness boldly to Jesus the Christ.
The Holy Spirit gave the Apostles gifts of grace through which they would undertake the evangelical mission of the Church. At Pentecost, the Apostles received the miraculous gift of tongues so that everyone from every country understood the Christian inspired message of salvation as if they were hearing their own mother tongue. Thousands were converted by the preaching of Peter and the other Apostles.
Pentecost is, however, much more than a remembrance of what happened to the disciples many years ago. It is also about us – you and me. We too, are invited to be together in order to share the love of Jesus. If we believe in Jesus and are baptized, then we are part of the body of Christ. Being a part of it means that each one of us has the Holy Spirit at work in us. This also means in turn, that like the first group of Apostles, we too have tasks and responsibilities to spread the good News of Salvation. What all this points to is that the liberating spiritual event of Pentecost was but the first fruits of something that continues to this day and beyond – something that will ultimately draw all men to Christ.
May our celebration of Pentecost, therefore, be to each one of us, an opportunity to renew our focus on what God wants us to do as to create peace, share love, promote justice and forgiveness and above all, draw people back to God through Jesus Christ.

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