John 20: 19-23
We are told in Acts that on Pentecost the Apostles and Disciples were gathered in the upper room. The same upper room were the Apostles shared the Last Supper with Jesus, where they fled to and hid in fear after Jesus was arrested, crucified, died and was buried. It was behind the locked doors of this Upper Room where the Risen Lord appeared twice to the Apostles, greeting them each time by saying; “Peace be with you.” This Upper Room that contained so many memories for them seemed to have become their refuge, and even after their experience of seeing the Risen Lord it seems like it was their tomb. They continued to return there and lock themselves away until Pentecost.
At the Ascension Jesus told the Apostles to return to Jerusalem “until you are clothed with power from on high.” Luke 24;49. Tradition has it that they returned to Jerusalem where they gathered in the Upper Room, and scripture tells us that, “they were continually in the temple praising God.” Luke 24; 53. At the Ascension Jesus didn’t tell them how long they were to wait until the Holy Spirit would be given to them, just to wait and to pray. I imagine that every day after the Ascension as they gathered together they wondered, “is this the day?” They did this for 49 days during which nothing extraordinary happened, and on the 50th day everything changed. This was the Jewish Feast of Pentecost, which was celebrated fifty days after Passover. Jerusalem was full of pilgrims from everywhere who came to celebrate the Feast. It was on this day that the Apostles and Disciples experienced the great outpouring of the Holy Spirit. It changed them instantly and they left the tomb they had made in the upper room and went out to boldly preach the Risen Lord. The Holy Spirit took away their fear and blessed them with the gifts they needed to boldly proclaim the message with great joy. This first Pentecost is sometimes referred to as the birthday of the Church, and we joyfully celebrate our birthday as church every year.
It was in the unity of the gift of the Holy Spirit that the believers faith in the resurrection of Jesus, and the love of the Father. Their experience of each person of the Triune God was life changing in such a powerful way that not only were their lives changed, but they couldn’t keep their experience to themselves. They went forth to tell everyone, and as Jesus instructed them before he ascended, they Baptized in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
As we celebrate this great outpouring of the Holy Spirit today it is important for us to keep in mind that the Holy Spirit that came to the early church never left the church. This Holy Spirit has been with the church for two thousand years and continues to bless us with the gifts we need and to call us to unity. In the Sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation we received and experienced the Holy Spirit so the gifts and power are within us. This Feast is a time for us to give the Holy Spirit permission to work more powerfully in our lives, and to call upon the Holy Spirit to take away anything that stands in the way of us experiencing his presence more in our lives. To help us come forth from whatever tombs might be holding us back. The Holy Spirit did great and marvelous things to those first Christians, and he can do great and marvelous things for us. Come, Holy Spirit and fill our hearts!
Father Killian Loch, O.S.B.
Image: Father Vincent de Paul Crosby, O.S.B., wall hanging. Used with permission.