Dates are important to many people for many reasons. Take, for example, that upcoming exam for which you’ve been diligently studying… Undoubtedly, you have several dates embedded in your pretty-much-infallible, long-term memory: your birthday, your parents’ birthdays (which you know by heart, right?), and so on. There’s also those “first time we” dates, like when you first met someone, or received something, or did something special - and over time, remembering and celebrating this became a sort of tradition.
We recently celebrated the Solemnity of Pentecost with the Church. Have you ever heard someone refer to this day as ‘the Birthday of the Church’ and wondered why?
The word Pentecost comes from the Greek, meaning “the fiftieth,” and yes - it has been that many days since Easter Sunday (and more!).
Cool, Plato. But why is it the Church’s birthday? (Hey, good questions! Keep them coming).
The Gospels tell us about the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. They also tell us that for forty days, he appeared to certain people: he was first seen by Mary Magdalen (Matt 28:10), she told the eleven apostles (v.18); he walked and talked with Cleopas and Mr. Noname (first name, Disciple), on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-32); he entered a locked room and let Thomas touch the holes in his hands and side – “… wow, so you really did have nails hammered through your hands and a spear pierce your side…” Thomas doubted no longer, but believed! (John 20:27-29); he invited his disciples for a chargrilled fish breakfast, they even brought their own catch of 153 fish (John 21:1-11) and, according to Luke’s account, Jesus ate some! – “… So you can still eat food, even though you were killed and buried a few days ago… nothing unusual or strange going on here!” Even after all these amazing experiences, something “greater” happened. Jesus said to them:
‘… “I am sending upon you what my Father promised; so stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.” Then he led them out as far as Bethany, and, lifting up his hands, he blessed them. While he was blessing them, he withdrew from them and was carried up into heaven.’ (Luke 24:49-51).
‘… they were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.’ (Acts 2:2-4).
The people who saw this thought it was weird… probably because it was. But Saint Peter explained it to them. Nek minnit round 2:
‘… those who welcomed his message were baptized, and that day about three thousand persons were added. They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.’ (Acts 2:41-42). (AKA they went to Mass!)
We call Pentecost a birthday, because that’s what it is. It was the beginning of new life, like Baptism. The Church as we know it was born. Jesus’ own words are worth contemplating here:
“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” (John 3:5-8).
Alright! New birth! This is our mission: to rejoice that we have met the Holy Spirit and be active members of the Church that was established on the night of Pentecost – the holy, catholic, apostolic Church!
Would you look at our Church? Would you look at how she has grown? Her youth is visible in the way she dances and sings, even as she carries out her daily work… (not bad for 2000 years old…). Seriously though, she is so beautiful, and we’re very proud of her.
Let us pray for the Church, that she may enjoy the Spirit’s gifts once again. May God continue to guide her into the fullness of life and love. We make this prayer through Our Lord Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God forever and ever. Amen.
This article was written by guest writer and friend of Ignite Youth, Ashwin Acharya. Ashwin is a second year seminarian at Holy Spirit Seminary, Brisbane. He is studying for the Diocese of Rockhampton. He loves meeting and spending time with people, jamming, boxing, and bringing out the gifts in those around him.