Jesus said to his disciples: “…And now I am sending down to you what the Father has promised. Stay in the city then, until you are clothed with the power from on high. Then he took them out as far as the outskirts of Bethany, and lifting up his hands he blessed them. Now as he blessed them, he withdrew from them and was carried up to heaven. They worshipped and then went back to Jerusalem full of joy and they were continually in the Temple praising God.” Luke 24: 49-53
Jesus, the Messiah, leaves his followers and ascends to heaven. He tells them to wait. They had followed him for three years. They learned from him, loved him, watched him die, and rejoiced when he rose again from the dead. Now he tells them to wait. Go and wait. How hard that must have been. This is the first meaning of Pentecost: we have to wait. God has great things in store, but we have to be willing to wait.
And ten days after the Ascension of Our Lord, the Holy Spirit descended on the apostles. “When Pentecost day came round, the apostles had all met in one room when suddenly they heard what sounded like a powerful wind from heaven, the noise of which filled the entire house in which they were sitting; and something appeared to them that seemed like tongues of fire; these separated and came to rest on the head of each of them. They were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to speak foreign languages as the Spirit gave them the gift of speech.” Acts 2: 1-4
What happened on the day of Pentecost was extraordinary. The followers were together in one place. All that yearning, heartache, and hope united in obedience, waiting for the promise. And wasn’t it worth the wait? After Christ’s Ascension into Heaven, the Apostles knew that He had promised to send His Spirit, but they didn’t know exactly what that would mean. Granted the gifts of the Spirit at Pentecost, however, they were emboldened to speak the Good News to all men. On that first Pentecost Sunday, over 3,000 people were converted and baptised (Acts 2: 41). Those gifts helped them to fulfil their mission to preach the Gospel to all nations. How they must have rejoiced!
These gifts are present in their fullness in Jesus Christ, whom Isaiah foretold (Isaiah 11:1), but they are available to all Christians who are in a state of grace. We receive the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit when we are infused with sanctifying grace, the life of God within us—as, for example, when we receive a sacrament worthily. As the current Catechism of the Catholic Church notes, “They complete and perfect the virtues of those who receive them.”
Those gifts help us to live a Christian life: Wisdom, Understanding, Counsel, Fortitude, Knowledge, Piety, Fear of the Lord.
When we receive the Sacrament of Confirmation and the Archbishop says, “Be sealed with the Gift of the Holy Spirit” this perfects our baptism and brings us the graces of the Holy Spirit that were granted to the Apostles on Pentecost Sunday.
The example of the Apostles shows that the gifts of the Holy Spirit lead to the fruits of the Holy Spirit. The twelve Fruits of the Holy Spirit are works that we can perform only with the aid of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, the performance of such works is an indication that the Holy Spirit dwells in the Christian believer. The 12 Fruits of the Holy Spirit are charity (or love), joy, peace, patience, benignity (or kindness), goodness, longanimity (or long suffering), mildness, faith, modesty, self-control, and chastity.
Jesus sends us his Holy Spirit to be with us always, to inspire us, to teach us, to remind us of the teachings of Jesus and to help us keep the word of God. Paul in his letter to the Corinthians reminded them that the gifts given by the Spirit are meant for service in building up the one body of Christ, the Church.
It is the Spirit who opens our minds and hearts to the Gospel and helps us to understand its message in our lives.
Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in us the fire of your love. – Rhona Harris, Catechetical Co-ordinator, St Anthony’s Parish, Petit Valley