Why do some people refer to today’s feast of Pentecost as the birthday of the Church? Your birthday was when you came forth into the world. When you were born you began an important adventure called life. You began to undertake your mission or purpose in life. As time went on, you accepted responsibility for your life. In that sense, the Church is born on Pentecost through the sending of the Holy Spirit.
In the account of the first Pentecost that we hear in the first reading for this feast, we read that the Holy Spirit came upon the disciples (the apostles, Mary, and some others) who were locked up in a room. We hear another description of the coming of the Holy Spirit in today’s gospel when Jesus breathed the Spirit on the disciples at the Last Supper.
The coming of the Holy Spirit changed them and began something new. From fearful disciples, they became courageous witnesses. We could say that they came alive. The Holy Spirit breathed life into them: a real birthday.
They also realized that they were not only individuals. They were also part of the Body of Christ. They were to continue, as a body, to be Christ’s presence in the world. St. Paul reflects on this important truth in the second reading for the feast. He tells us that we are each a part of the body of Christ. We each have been given gifts by the one Spirit – no exceptions!
He goes on to say that we are many parts, but one body. It is all these parts joined together that make up the Body of Christ. It is the Spirit who gives us these gifts. The Spirit unites us as one body. Yet within this unity there is great diversity in the Church, the Body of Christ. And this diversity is a good thing. Different gifts, different cultures, different abilities working together for the one mission of the Church.
So Pentecost is our birthday. “Happy Birthday, Church!” The Holy Spirit has breathed life into us all. But this is not a private party. It is a worldwide celebration. We rejoice today as we celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit upon those first disciples of Jesus. He brought life to our Church.
But that was not a one-time event that only happened 2,000 years ago. Jesus still sends the Holy Spirit upon us today and every day. The Holy Spirit still breathes life into us. That gift of the Spirit is always there to make us able to be his witnesses in the world. Our individual gifts work together to make us able to share in the Church’s mission.
All of us are called to come alive and witness to our faith. This is a time to allow the Holy Spirit to reawaken in our own hearts the fire of God’s love. It is a time for us to use our gifts to stir up the faith of others: in our families, our schools, our workplaces, our families, our society, the whole world.
As individuals and as a Church, we rely on the gifts that the Holy Spirit showers upon us. We thank God for the call to be his witnesses in the world. On this Pentecost, we pledge ourselves once again to be his witnesses in the world.