Easter: May 19th
After Jesus had ascended to heaven from Mt. Olivet, the apostles and
disciples returned to the Holy City. They remained together in the Upper
Room or Cenacle, the place where Jesus had appeared to them, and which
may well be called the first Christian church. About a hundred and twenty
persons were assembled there. They chose Matthias as an apostle in place
of the unhappy Judas; they prayed and waited for the Paraclete.
Ten days had passed, it was Sunday, the seventh Sunday after the
resurrection. At about nine o'clock in the morning, as they were together
praying fervently, the Holy Spirit descended upon them. Note how all the
great theophanies in Christ's life occurred during the course of prayer.
After His baptism, for instance, when Jesus was praying, the heavens
opened and the Holy Spirit descended in the form of a dove; likewise, it
was during prayer at night that the transfiguration took place on Tabor.
Surely, too, it was while Mary was praying that Gabriel delivered his
message, and the Holy Spirit overshadowed her. Pentecost followed
precedent. The small community of Christians had prepared themselves
through prayer for the coming of the Paraclete. The same is true at Mass
today, every day; through prayer, we ready our souls for the advent of
The descent upon the apostles was internal and invisible in nature
although accompanied by certain visible phenomena. There came a mighty
roar, like the onrush of a violent wind. It came suddenly, from heaven;
but unlike storms that strike a structure from without, this one
penetrated and filled the room where the disciples were gathered.
Therefore, it was not a natural wind, it was a miracle peculiar to the
occasion. A second visible sign consisted in tongues of fire that
descended upon each one present. These fiery tongues gave visible
evidence that the Holy Spirit had descended upon them.
Today at Mass, particularly at holy Communion, the power of the Holy
Spirit will come down upon us; fiery tongues will not be seen, but
invisible tongues of fire will not be absent. There was still another
external manifestation of the Holy Spirit; the apostles and disciples
were enabled to speak various languages.
After the roar of the wind, many of Jerusalem's pilgrims hurried to the
Cenacle. Pentecost was one of the three festivals, which obliged all Jews
to be present in Jerusalem. Jews from distant lands, and Jewish converts
from paganism, too, attended these feasts. As a result, a colorful crowd
speaking a variety of languages surrounded the house. Now the apostles,
who so shortly before had hid in fear behind locked doors, came forth and
courageously walked among the multitude speaking to each in his native
tongue. It was indeed amazing! Galileans, and multilingual?
But the malicious too were present; they had the answer. Nothing
marvelous at all! Those Galileans were simply drunk, and their drunken
babble sounded like a foreign language! Peter showed no hesitation in
answering the charge. None of their number, he said, were intoxicated; it
was but nine o'clock in the morning, and at that hour men usually are
sober. What the multitude saw was, in fact, the fulfillment of Joel's
prophecy: In those days (of the Messiah), God will pour forth His Spirit
upon men and they will prophesy. . . . Then the apostle pointed his words
more directly against the accusers: they had killed Jesus, had nailed Him
to the Cross; but God had awakened Him, and after His departure to
heaven, He sent the Holy Spirit.
The pilgrims, who had heard Peter give this first pentecostal sermon
"were pierced to the heart and said: Brethren, what shall we do? But
Peter said to them: Repent and be baptized; and you will receive the gift
of the Holy Spirit." Three thousand responded.
One final question: why the miracle of tongues? In answer, recall the
story regarding the tower of Babel. Puffed up by pride, men attempted to
build a tower that would touch the heavens. To punish their sin, God
confused their speech. Sin causes confusion and division. Now Christ came
to gather all men into His Church, and thereby to unite them to Himself.
This should result in creating but one family of nations again. To this
blessed state, the miracle of tongues points.
Yes, even we as individuals have a gift of tongues, which all men can
understand. It is the gift of love infused into us by the Holy Spirit.
Love unites, love is a common language; by means of love, we can speak to
Excerpted from The Church's Year of Grace, Pius Parsch