When the day of Pentecost had come, 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.
Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each. Amazed and astonished, they asked, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans?
And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language? Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs—in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power.”
New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved (http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations
Pentecost was a Jewish holiday, one of the three great annual festivals. It was fifty days after the Passover. So most likely the apostles were gathered in one place to commemorate this feast. All of a sudden, with audible and visible signs, rushing wind filled the house and divided tongues of fire settled on each of those gathered. They were filled with the Holy Spirit and began speaking in tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance. This drew crowds together and everyone was amazed that they heard the message about the mighty acts of God in their own language. And they asked one another what all this means.
This question we can take from the passage: What does all this mean? We know what it meant for the Apostles—a deep conviction and courage to proclaim what God had done in Jesus Christ by his death and resurrection. The same power of the Holy Spirit through Baptism and Confirmation gives us the same conviction and courage to believe in Jesus Christ so deeply that it transforms our lives.
This transformation is twofold. The first is an awareness that the Spirit is operative in our lives: we say things and do things that affect others’ lives more than we imagined. It could be that word of comfort that changed another’s tears into a smile. Secondly, the Spirit gives us hope. In the midst of tragedies in our lives, the conflict between nations and the fear of terrorism, we can trust that good will come out of evil events.
What does all this mean for me?
—Fr. Douglas Leonhardt, S.J. is associate vice-president for Mission and Ministry at Marquette University where he is also pastoral minister for the College of Education and McCabe Residence Hall.
All Powerful God, Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, by water and the Holy
Spirit you freed your sons and daughters from sin and gave them new life.
Send your Holy Spirit upon them to be their Helper and Guide.
Give them the spirit of right judgment and courage, the spirit of
knowledge and reverence. Fill them with the spirit of wonder and awe in
your presence. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen
—Bishop’s prayer during the Confirmation Rite of the Catholic Church