Pentecost always occurs 50 days after the death and resurrection of Jesus. The name of the day itself is derived from the Greek word pentecoste, meaning 50th. In the Catholic tradition, Pentecost is the celebration of the person of the Holy Spirit coming upon the Apostles, Mary, and the first followers of Jesus, who were gathered together in the Upper Room. A “strong, driving wind” filled the room where they were gathered, and tongues of fire came to rest on their heads, allowing them to speak in different languages so that they could understand each other. It was such a strange phenomenon that some onlookers thought they were just drunk – but Peter, the first Pope, preached for the first time and pointed out that their new joy was caused by the Holy Spirit. According to the account in Acts, about 3,000 people were baptized following Peter’s sermon. That was then; what about now?
I like to think that the reason we celebrate Pentecost today is that, while the Holy Spirit gave the apostles the gifts and fruits necessary to fulfill the great commission – to go out and preach the Gospel to all nations, we also receive those very same gifts and fruits in order to bring people into the fold! Normally, the folks who become interested in Jesus Christ and a relationship with him begin their journey of coming into the Catholic Church by joining the RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults). During the RCIA process, which typically lasts nine months or more, a person learns the teachings of the Catholic Church in a more formal way and discerns that he or she is ready to commit to living according to these beliefs. Then on the night before Easter a huge celebration occurs, and they become fully initiated Catholics (i.e., they are Baptized, Confirmed, and receive the Eucharist). Well, because of the corona virus, we could not do that 50 days ago. These folks have waited and waited and waited!
These individuals fit into one of two distinct groups. Some are the Elect, who have never been baptized, and are eager to receive Baptism, Confirmation and First Communion, whereas some are Candidates, who have already been baptized in another Christian tradition, and will enter the Church through a profession of faith and reception of Confirmation and the Eucharist. Finally, adhering to many precautions and guidelines, we get to make our Elect and Candidates Catholic today! It may not be the 3,000 that Peter inspired, but this afternoon, 11 individuals will become fully your brothers and sisters in the faith. Thanks to the Holy Spirit, they are our family now.
Pentecost closes the Easter Season in the Roman Catholic Church, the dismissal with the double alleluia is sung at the end of Mass for the final time and the Paschal Candle is removed from the sanctuary. Veni Sancte Spiritus (“Come Holy Spirit”) will be sung during today’s liturgical celebrations. As we move into Ordinary Time, we realize that because of the corona virus, nothing seems ordinary. Regardless, let’s invoke the Holy Spirit. Let’s remember that we have those same gifts and fruits of the Holy Spirit in order to reach out to everyone so as to share the Good News. Also, please pray for our new brothers and sisters. Write them a welcome card and send it here in care of Marian Bart at the Cathedral; she will make sure they receive it. Happy Pentecost and stay safe.
Congratulations, warm welcome, and many continued blessings upon our new members: Ashley Adams, Scott Chue, Jerome Golson, James Jones, Al Powell, Damaris Romero, Dave Salamas, Frances Sims, Larry Sims, Larry Walthall, Lisa Williams!