By Fr. Mike, O.P.
Happy Birthday my Sisters and Brothers in Christ!
Whenever I think of Pentecost, I am reminded of a couple of humbling and, if I recall them honestly, embarrassing incidents in my faith journey as a Dominican friar.
The first happened shortly after I was ordained as a transitional deacon on my way to becoming a priest. The parish where I was serving had a very active Knights of Columbus council. One of the things someone does to become a Knight is to take a simple oral test with the rest of the men joining the group. It was a large group. After hearing perhaps 40 other men answer their questions correctly, all of which I might add I knew the answers to without any problems, it was my turn. My question was, “When was the birthday of the Church?”
My mind went blank for a few moments. I honestly thought I had never heard that question before. After a few stammering moments, I made my best guess and answered, “Easter.” Of course I was wrong! The correct answer was Pentecost.
The second time the Holy Spirit humbled me concerning one of the most important solemnities we celebrate as Catholics occurred shortly after I was named the director of the Shrine of St. Jude. I had known a bit about who St. Jude Thaddeus was. He was, after all, one of the original 12 men Jesus picked to lead the Church, one of the original Apostles and first bishops. I was not, however, familiar with his iconic attributes, which are the symbols we see surrounding our great saints in paintings and statues. Whenever I saw statues of St. Jude, I never understood why it looked like he had a pointy red, “Alfalfa” looking pile of hair standing up on the top of his head. (If you have ever seen a small statue of St. Jude, you know of what I speak.) So, I asked one of my Dominican brothers what it was about.
After a few moments of laughter and teasing, he explained it was supposed to represent the “tongues of fire” (Acts 2:1-3) that descended upon Mary and the disciples who were present in the upper room on the day of Pentecost, on the birthday of the Church. And, what a birthday it was!
Pentecost is the time of year we celebrate the gift of God’s very own presence in our hearts and in our lives. If you have ever wondered why we hear in the Bible, in both the Old and New Testaments prior to the day of Pentecost, the phrase “… and the Spirit of God was upon him/her,” it was because the Holy Spirit was not given lightly prior to Christ’s death, resurrection, and ascension into heaven. It was reserved for only those God choose to receive special gifts and honors.
In truth it is not given lightly even now. But given it is! Given it is to each and every one of us at our Baptism and strengthened it is at our Confirmation! Enriched and replenished this wonderful gift is every time we celebrate the Sacraments of the Eucharist, Reconciliation, the Anointing of the Sick, Holy Matrimony, and Holy Orders!
And, celebrated in a special way, it is when we remember the day God called all of His followers together and gave us — all of us, all His Church — that great Gift of Holy Spirit! Pentecost is the time we celebrate our unity and blessedness! Pentecost is the time we remember and celebrate our births in Christ Jesus.
Happy Birthday brothers and sisters,