Pentecost reminds we are instruments as God gathers all into union with him
By Father Timothy Hepner
Solemnity of Pentecost/June 9
Acts 2:1-11; Psalm 104:1,24,29-30,31,34; 1 Corinthians 12:3b-7,12-13 or Romans 8:8-17; (Sequence) Veni, Sancte, Spiritus; John 20:19-23 or John 14:15-16,23b-26
In the ancient Middle East, when all the barrels and barns were filled with wheat from the harvest, it was time to celebrate and give thanks. Like the wheat, the Israelites too had been gathered together at the foot of Mount Sinai and united to their loving, protecting God in a covenant through Moses. The “consuming fire” that came down onto Sinai as he received the law solidified the Israelites’ unity with each other and with God. So, seven weeks after the celebration of Passover (in which they made present God’s incredible act of salvation from the Egyptians), the Israelites once again went on pilgrimage to Jerusalem every year to give thanks, bake loaves of bread with wheat from the spring harvest, and offer them to God as they rested and worshipped on Pentecost. But when God’s people broke their covenant and were scattered among other nations like wheat thrown into the wind, they could not easily travel to Jerusalem.
So that day in Jerusalem, “when the time for Pentecost was fulfilled,” and the Israelites from different countries were gathered together, the consuming fire of the Holy Spirit came down on the men who, 50 days earlier, had celebrated the new Passover sacrifice with Jesus Christ. That event was the solidification of God’s new covenant and the sign that the Father wanted to gather all the nations into union with him through a new law, written on their hearts, and fill the Church with people from all ends of the earth just as the barrels and barns were stuffed full with wheat. God wants us all to have “a Spirit of adoption, through whom we cry, ‘Abba, Father!’”
Every Pentecost I am reminded of the incredible fact that we baptized Christians living today are a crucial part of this divine “ingathering,” and we are instruments in drawing all people into this intimate relationship with the Father. I was blessed to celebrate my first Mass on Pentecost, and from then on the Holy Spirit has marked my priesthood.
As I write this, we have gathered 28 college students to form them through prayer and teaching to go throughout three dioceses and proclaim the faith to young people and invite them into a deeper relationship with the Father. This is our Totus Tuus program, and it begins, providentially, on Pentecost weekend. These young people are faithfully orthodox, energetic, community minded, and open to the Holy Spirit, like those first disciples. They can teach the rest of us how to be effective participants in the Father’s plan to gather more people into his Church.
The greatest danger that groups and institutions in the Church face is forgetting that they are part of this missionary dynamic of the Church and thereby excluding souls from the loving covenant with God. I think all parishes, schools, and organizations would benefit from meditating on the Pentecost event and asking ourselves some questions:
- Do my meetings start or end with substantial prayer, such as lectio divina, a meditatively prayed rosary, or sharing prayer petitions?
- Do we invite other people in with hospitality while still maintaining the principles of our group?
- Do we understand the difference between the unchanging principles of the faith and human practices that require change and update?
- Are we confident enough in the truth to trust that it won’t be snuffed out and we need to boldly proclaim, rather than “protect,” it?
- Who might we unknowingly be excluding from a relationship with God in the Church?
The Father has an ardent desire to gather all nations to himself, one soul at a time. You and I have the Holy Spirit and this mandate. What else do we need?
FATHER TIMOTHY Hepner is vocation director of recruitment for the Diocese of Peoria. To learn more about vocations, go to comeandfollowme.org or follow the Office of Priestly Formation at facebook.com/followmepeoria.