Putting Pentecost into Practice
“Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice, and proclaimed to them.… ‘Jesus the Nazorean was a man commended to you by God with mighty deeds, wonders and signs.… This man, delivered up by the set plan and foreknowledge of God, you killed, using lawless men to crucify him. But God raised him up.… Therefore let the whole house of Israel know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Messiah, this Jesus whom you crucified” (Acts 2: 14, 22-24, 36).
Whence comes this boldness? Just fifty days ago, the Apostles were locked in the Upper Room, fearful of suffering as Jesus had. Let us also recall a few episodes that took place before Jesus’ Passion, death and Resurrection….
After one journey, Jesus asked the disciples, “‘What were you arguing about on the way?’ But they remained silent. They had been discussing among themselves on the way who was the greatest” (Mk. 9:33-34).
Another time, the mother of James and John approached Jesus with the request, “Command that these two sons of mine sit, one at your right and the other at your left, in your kingdom.” James and John went right along with her. “Jesus said in reply, ‘You do not know what you are asking. Can you drink the cup that I am going to drink?’ They said to him, ‘We can.’” (Incidentally, St. Augustine excuses the mother, because, after all, every mother wants the best for her sons. But the sons, clearly, had much more to learn as disciples of Jesus.)
At the Last Supper, Peter said to Jesus, “Though all may have their faith in you shaken, mine will never be…. Even though I should have to die with you, I will not deny you.” And, St. Matthew tells us, “all the disciples spoke likewise” (Mt. 26:33, 35).
So, what accounts for the Apostles’ new confidence? The Holy Spirit—Who came at Pentecost to transform these followers of Jesus into missionaries. He is the source of the Apostles’ boldness and confidence. Now when the Sanhedrin tries to censure them, Peter is not afraid to respond: “It is impossible for us not to speak about what we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:20). The Twelve are on fire for the spread of the Gospel.
Pentecost marks the end of the Easter Season, but not the end of the Holy Spirit’s work. That first Pentecost was a new beginning for the Apostles, now sent, empowered by the Spirit, to preach the Gospel to the whole world. And so, for us, the graces received this Pentecost, May 31, 2020, are gifts given by the Lord, not to be set aside gathering dust, but meant to grow and bear fruit—in our world and our time.
I, for one, am grateful that the Gospel accounts tell us of the Apostles’ weaknesses. Because I can relate: I understand what it is to be fearful, self-seeking, self-reliant…what it is to be a sinner. On the other hand, I am consoled to see the Apostles’ transformation. It gives me hope that “perfect love casts out all fear” (1 Jn. 4:18), that I can learn the greatness of serving as Jesus served, that, though apart from the Lord I can do nothing (Jn. 15:5), with Him all things are possible (Lk. 1:37). And that the Holy Spirit can continue to transform me into a clearer witness of Jesus.
Our “worlds” still seem small, as we cannot travel and do the things we are used to, and we may feel “stuck at home” for the time being. But, even within these small worlds, we, in cooperation with the Holy Spirit can be great missionaries. Think of the possibilities: sharing the hope of heaven with a friend who is discouraged, proclaiming the love of God to a family member who is bewildered, speaking the Holy Name of Jesus to a co-worker you have never dared to share your faith with…. We will need to be creative, utilizing our own resources within our own circumstances. Given to and directed by the Holy Spirit, these resources—even if they seem so little—can become tremendously fruitful for souls. No less than the Apostles, we are called to be missionaries. Let us “put Pentecost into practice,” and allow ourselves to be transformed by the Holy Spirit to confidently bring Jesus to a world in great need of Him.
Sr. Cecilia Francis, CFR