On Pentecost Sunday, Christians are accustomed to finding birthday wishes all over the internet—in celebration of the Church, of course. And really, who can be blamed? Most people love birthdays. Plus, anything with icing tends to be pretty popular with the kids. #liturgicallivingwin
But, reflecting on the Scripture readings for this celebration, we know there’s much more to the day than cakes and candles.
Pentecost celebrates the life of the Holy Spirit throughout the whole world. In the Responsorial Psalm, we sing, “Lord, send out your Spirit, and renew the face of the earth” (Ps. 104). In the Acts of the Apostles, we see a vivid image of wind and fire descending on Christ’s disciples. In John’s Gospel, the Spirit makes God’s presence known through the breath of God.
“Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you. . . . As the Father has sent me, so I send you.’ When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. . . .’” (Jn. 20:19; 21-22)
Easter is a celebration lasting fifty days. Pentecost, meaning “fiftieth day,” concludes this celebration and looks ahead to what’s to come. While birthdays tend to be short-lived, Pentecost seeks to light us on fire.
To help us sustain the flame of this feast day, here are six Spirit-filled ways to think about Pentecost!
6 Spirit-filled Ways to Think about Pentecost
It’s a day for the Holy Spirit to shine.
The Holy Spirit is often considered the forgotten third Person of the Trinity. And it’s true. We pray to the Father and call on Jesus Christ the Son. But outside of liturgy, reciting the Glory Be and the Sign of the Cross is sometimes the only attention we give to the Spirit.
The Trinity—three persons in one God—is a mystery. It’s a belief we hold through the grace of God. While we may not fully understand this, Christ commissions us to engage with our faith. This is “faith seeking understanding,” as St. Anselm would say.
As we seek to know God more and more, we can look to the Holy Spirit to guide us. This is the Spirit who breathed life into creation at the beginning of time, who descended upon Mary to bring forth Christ, and who now walks in our midst, as Jesus Himself walked the earth.
God the Holy Spirit is near and close and within, seeking to draw us into the life-giving love of the Trinity.
The Church celebrates the life of all Christians.
Pentecost isn’t just a Catholic thing. It’s for Christians everywhere! If we’re celebrating the birthday of the Church, we’re celebrating the Church of all Christians.
“There is one body and one Spirit . . . one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.” (Eph. 4:4-6)
As Catholics, we believe God fully reveals Christ through the Catholic Church. But too often, we fall into an “us and them” mentality. Bitterness and a wrongful sense of Catholic entitlement often accompany our feelings towards other Christians.
Jesus’ Church is His own body. While Christians are divided, we are breaking Christ’s body. This is not the will of God and is a great sadness for Christians everywhere.
Pentecost reminds us that the Holy Spirit we are baptized in is the same Spirit giving life to every Christian. We are brothers and sisters. We need one another in order to fully live out our vocation as the Body of Christ.
“If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honoured all rejoice together with it.” (1 Cor. 12:26)
We should actively work to heal divisive wounds and form authentic connections through our collective hope in Christ.
The Church calls on us to remember our shared human bonds.
Pope St. John Paul II encouraged us to know God as “the common Father of all.” The Spirit who gives life to Christians also gives life to all people.
“And he died for all, that those who live might live no longer for themselves but for him who died and was raised for them.” (2 Cor. 5:15)
In Gaudium et Spes, the Church tells us that “the Holy Spirit in a manner known only to God offers to every man the possibility of being associated with this paschal mystery.” As God calls us to be one body of believers, God similarly calls us to unity with all people of the world. Through the Holy Spirit, this is possible.
Are we open to this unity?
We can commemorate our Confirmation.
For those of us who received the sacrament of Confirmation, we’ve undergone our own special Pentecost. Like the disciples’ experience, the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Confirmation strengthens followers of Christ to live fully Christian lives.
Within liturgy, we regularly renew our baptismal promises. However, we rarely think back to our Confirmation. In the early Church, Baptism and Confirmation were a single sacrament of Christian initiation. Knowing this, Catholic theology today tells us that Confirmation is a completion of Baptism. We become “sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit,” as the bishop or priest states during the sacrament’s conferral.
Pentecost is the perfect opportunity to reevaluate our openness to the Holy Spirit, that the grace received through both Baptism and Confirmation may transform our lives.
God summons our unique gifts to action.
As we reflect on our Confirmation, we can likewise reflect on the unique talents God has entrusted us with. The Holy Spirit plays a special role in imparting these gifts, or charisms.
“Whether extraordinary or simple and humble, charisms are graces of the Holy Spirit which directly or indirectly benefit the Church, ordered as they are to her building up, to the good of men, and to the needs of the world.” (CCC 799)
Each of us has specific responsibilities and vocations within our daily lives. God provides the means to carry them out.
“To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.” (1 Cor. 12:7)
Focusing more on our gifts and less on our deficiencies, perhaps we can begin to see the abundant grace that the Holy Spirit offers.
Pentecost guides us through the whole season of Ordinary Time.
Moving from Easter to Ordinary Time, Pentecost is a pivotal moment of transition. Throughout the Easter season, we’ve received and celebrated new life in Christ. The Spirit now comes to us at Pentecost, offering and affirming God’s constant faithfulness.
“When the work which the Father gave the Son to do on earth was accomplished, the Holy Spirit was sent on the day of Pentecost in order that He might continually sanctify the Church.” (LG 4)
The season of Ordinary Time focuses on recognizing God in what seems regular and mundane. It also focuses on responding to the daily call of Christ in our lives. By leaning deeply into Pentecost, this special feast day can color and shape the whole long season ahead. Its message of missionary activity and continued conversion seeks to ignite our hearts with Christian virtue.
Pentecost shouldn’t be an afterthought of Easter, and it’s more than a birthday celebration that marks how far we’ve come. Pentecost actively beckons us into Ordinary Time and all the time to come, empowering and inspiring us to continually serve the world by remaining in the presence of the Spirit.