If we, westerners, had been in the Upper Room on the morning of Pentecost Day we would have had a hard time trying to sort things out and decipher God’s message.
Not so for the disciples gathered in it with the Blessed Mother. They were all Jews; they must have quickly realized that they were experiencing a powerful theophany with fire and thunderous, driving wind, like the fire of the burning bush (cf. Exodus 3:2) when God revealed to Moses his intention to do something about the sufferings of his people in Egypt and similar to what the Israelites experienced when the Lord Yahweh gave them the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai.
The setting was the most fitting one: the great feast of Shavuot, commemorating the giving of the Law on the Lord’s holy mountain.
That solemn feast had drawn to Jerusalem devout people from the entire Roman Empire and beyond.
The sound of the thunderous wind and the sight of the fire were displaying the irresistible power of God’s Spirit.
Those in the large crowd that gathered for that surprising theophany were confused, astounded and wondering in amazement.
Of course! Confusion, astonishment and amazement are the natural emotions experienced by God’s people anytime he surprises them with a display of his power.
Yet, their confusion, astonishment and amazement stemmed from the simple “tools’ whom God was using to speak to them about his mighty acts.
Their accent was unmistakably Galilean, and their unpolished expressions betrayed their lack of formal education and sophistication.
Those in the crowd who were from Jerusalem itself might have added to the amazement by pointing out that those Galileans had been a bunch of cowards who had hunkered down in the Upper Room behind locked doors for a long time.
But, what is the message that those tongues of fire and the thunderous wind convey to us westerners?
So that we may benefit spiritually from the Solemnity of the Pentecost, we need to learn ourselves about the profound transformation the Holy Spirit had operated in that lot of ordinary people, because he has sealed us, too, at Baptism and Confirmation as adopted children of God.
Simply put, through Jesus, the Risen Lord, in the power of the Holy Spirit, the Father had made them into a new creation.
This is how it was recorded by John in the gospel passage I just read to you:
And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” John 20:22
Jesus’ breathing the Holy Spirit on them recalled how the creation of the first human being was recorded in the Book of Genesis:
The LORD God formed man out of the clay of the ground and blew into his nostrils the breath of life, and so man became a living being. Genesis 2:7
Alas, soon after the first creation, the Bible records how sin shattered the peace and order which God had placed into his masterpiece of creation and replaced it with disharmony, disorder and division.
The Solemnity of the Pentecost shows us how our Heavenly Father could not endure any longer the ensuing sufferings of his people.
The fire and the irresistible wind of his Spirit had to show again how peace and order had to be restored and unity brought about by issuing a new Law.
In the evening of Easter Day, defeated, frightened, embarrassed disciples could appreciate the gift of peace only after the Risen Lord had shown them that the power of his love had removed even the revulsion of the sight of his mortal wounds.
With the Holy Spirit breathing new life into them, they and their successors down the centuries, had been invested with his very power to neutralize the devastation caused by sin.
And joy flooded hearts that had been thoroughly overrun by fear.
The message that God conveyed on that ominous Pentecost Day was coming across loud and clear. And today’s second reading brings to the fore all the remaining pertinent aspects of this salvific message.
There is only one grace-filled conclusion we can reach if we are fine-tuned to the irresistible power of the Holy Spirit: it is unwise and self-destructive to resist his awesome power.
Only the Holy Spirit can jolt us out of our complacency, disengagement and fear, so that we can be driven by the fire of God to curb the power of sin and fill ourselves with boldness and courage.
Only the Holy Spirit stirring in us can assist us in praying as we ought.
Only the Holy Spirit can make us ready to share generously and joyously the gifts we have received for the good of the whole Body of Christ.
Only the Holy Spirit can enable us to learn to speak fluently the language of love as proposed by the new commandment of loving each other as Jesus had loved us from the cross.
Only the Holy Spirit is always intent on teaching us to speak it around the clock, as the only language understood by everyone on the face of the earth, and as the sole unifying force beyond political, ideological, cultural and religious differences.
In the dire situation in which our Country finds itself, the Church dares to invite us to trust courageously in the power of the Holy Spirit as the only supernatural agent capable of restoring order, cooperation and unity of intent to it.
The only condition for this to happen is our willingness to be ready to make significant personal sacrifices and remain totally docile to the Holy Spirit at high personal cost.