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Next week, we celebrate the birthday of the Church on Pentecost. Pentecost remembers the 50th day after Jesus's Resurrection, when He sent down the Holy Spirit upon His apostles to go out and build up the Kingdom of God on earth.

After Jesus rose from the dead, He stayed on earth for 40 days - a symbolic number that appears many times in the Bible (eg. Noah on the ark, Moses on Mt. Sinai, Jesus in the desert). He then ascended into heaven, and Mary, the apostles, and other disciples gathered in an upper room, unsure of what their next steps should be. Ten days later, Jesus sent down the Holy Spirit upon them, as promised - “While meeting with them, he enjoined them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for ‘the promise of the Father about which you have heard me speak; for John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the holy Spirit’" (Acts 1:4-5). The room was filled with a wind, and tongues of fire descended upon each one of the apostles, giving them the ability to converse in different languages. The Holy Spirit filled them with the confidence to go out into Jerusalem and proclaim the Gospel. Within the first day, more than 3,000 people were converted, transforming the small Jesus movement into a legitimate, growing community of believers. This began the Catholic Church as an institution. However, this growth caught the eye of the Jewish leaders, who were wary of the movement. They jailed the apostles, who miraculously were released from their cells by an angel, and soon turned to violence. In these early days, a deacon named Stephen was the first to fall as a martyr. 

Despite early resistance, the Church continued to grow, thanks to the Holy Spirit working through the apostles. The Holy Spirit bolstered not only the Church as an institution but also the individual members of the Church, allowing them to embody the faith and share in Christ's roles as priest, prophet, and king. We therefore commemorate Pentecost not only as the birthday of the Church, but also as the institution of the Sacrament of Confirmation.

The Holy Spirit often seems the most distant Person of the Trinity to us; God the Father and God the Son are much easier to picture and relate to. However, He is just as necessary; it is through the workings of the Holy Spirit that fruits of our faith surface. The Holy Spirit helps us individually to live out our faith, and guides the Church so that she does not teach error. On Pentecost, let us thank God for His institution, the Church, that protects and defends the faith on earth and ask the Holy Spirit for His guidance in our everyday lives.

Prayer to the Holy Spirit

Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful
and kindle in them the fire of your love.

Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created,
and you shall renew the face of the earth.

Let us pray.

O God, who have taught the hearts of the faithful
by the light of the Holy Spirit,
grant that in the same Spirit we may be truly wise
and ever rejoice in his consolation.
Through Christ our Lord. Amen.


By Anna Neal

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