PENTECOST IS PERSONAL
We have a mission like the first apostles
By Gerald Korson
You’ve got the spirit — the Holy Spirit. What are you doing with it?
At the first Pentecost, ten days after Jesus ascended into heaven, the Holy Spirit descended upon the apostles in dramatic fashion, and amazing things began to happen. This ragtag band of men, who had fled when Jesus was arrested, and exhibited doubt and confusion about his mission — suddenly burst forth from the Upper Room, preaching the Good News of salvation. Pilgrims of many languages understood and were converted. The apostles baptized 3,000 new disciples that first day.
The promised Spirit had arrived, and as far as the Church’s mission of evangelization was concerned, it was “game on.”
But the story does not stop there. We also have the Holy Spirit within us and a mission designed for our personal gifts and talents. Here are a few pointers to help us find that mission and fulfill it.
Pentecost is for everyone. Just as the Holy Spirit descended on the apostles, so it comes to us in Baptism and is strengthened in Confirmation. By virtue of these sacraments, we have a mission to spread the faith. In the “new evangelization,” it’s all hands on deck.
Good works. We might not preach openly as the apostles did, nor do we deliver homilies and confer Baptism as our priests and deacons do. But we are called to witness to the Gospel in our own way, as laypeople living and working in the world. The way we live according to our Catholic values will speak volumes to those who know us. Think of the saying often attributed to St. Francis of Assisi: “Preach the Gospel always; use words if necessary.” Our lived example is the most powerful sermon we can preach to the world.
Good words. That’s not to say we should not talk about our faith. It mustn’t be a big secret. We should speak of it openly, naturally and with joy. In fact, when people see how we love and serve others, how we practice virtues, and raise our families, they will want to know why we live like that, what makes us “tick.” There’s an open opportunity to speak of how our faith motivates us. Conversely, when someone learns we are Catholic and questions or even attacks our belief, we must be prepared to answer those queries and objections with clarity and with charity.
The Holy Spirit is there for us in those moments too. Jesus told his apostles that when they are persecuted and put on trial for their faith, “[D]o not be anxious how or what you are to answer or what you are to say; for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say” (Lk 12:11-12). Those timid apostles weren’t working from a prepared text when they spoke at Pentecost, so surely, if you call upon the Spirit, he will inspire you with the words you need to teach or defend your faith.
Never lose heart. Free will is a funny thing. The apostles baptized 3,000 converts at Pentecost, but how many heard the same message and turned away? You can’t and won’t win them all. You do your best, and plant seeds that may or may not sprout later.
After all, we’re just Christ’s witnesses, his instruments in evangelization. In the end, those who convert do so because the Holy Spirit has led them, and they responded to that movement of grace. We do our part, and let the Spirit do the rest. And that’s how we are to respond to our own Pentecost, the outpouring of the Spirit upon us.
Gerald Korson, a veteran Catholic journalist, is a member of the Knights of Columbus in Indiana.
PHOTO: The Descent of the Holy Ghost by Titian (1488 - 1576) in church Santa Maria della Salute, Venice. Credit: Getty Images