Pentecost completes the feast of Easter and gives fulness to it. We conclude today our 50-day celebration of Easter. The feast celebrates the inauguration of the New Covenant by the fulfillment of Christ’s promise. Jesus had promised his apostles that they would receive the Holy Spirit. Jesus had lived our human life, died, risen, and been exalted at the right of the father; he now completes his work by sending the Holy Spirit to his Church. Through this event, the mystery of Easter, the passage of God amidst his people, becomes a permanent reality.
The dramatic story of Pentecost is told in the Acts of the Apostles, sometimes called the Gospel of the Holy Spirit. Here the extraordinary event of the irruption of the Holy Spirit into human history is described with a minimum of images: Wind and Fire.
The Holy Spirit is given to the apostles gathered in one place. He continues to come to the Church in her gatherings or assemblies. Jesus had given the order to the disciples to wait together, in assembly, for the coming of the Spirit. Likewise, we must keep in mind that, if our personal spiritual life has great importance, it is nevertheless in the Church that we are taught, nourished, and sanctified by the Spirit. Christians make up the Body of Christ; they are its members; it is, then, the Body of Christ which receives the Holy Spirit. True, the Spirit comes to each individual person [the tongues of fire are shared], but He comes first to persons assembled, and then he makes them into a community , a Church.
Just what was the effect the Holy Spirit had on the apostles? The effect was much more than obvious courage and strength; it was love, the love that exists between the Father and the Son. He gave them himself, and the Holy Spirit is love. He united and filled them with the love which was the motive, the moving power behind what they did. The Holy Spirit opened the apostolic community to all peoples. The disciples were until then thinking of a privileged Messianic Kingdom reserved for the Jews. The coming of the Holy Spirit transformed them. They became aware of their mission and responsibility to announce the Gospel to the whole world. It was on the day of Pentecost that the Christian community founded by Christ became the missionary Church. Besides being the community of the covenantal and the worshiping community, it became also the witnessing community. The bestowal of the Spirit upon it truly was the confirmation of Christ’s community; it received a new character, that is, a share in the prophetic character of the Messiah, with all the authority and power to exercise it.
That which began to be on the day of the first Christian Pentecost has never ceased to be a salvific reality through the centuries. And it is true also today in our own age, in our own lives and in our personal existence.