Given the power to evangelize

May 22, 2012

HOUSTON — On Sunday, May 27, Catholic churches around the world will celebrate what is considered to be the birthday of the Church — Pentecost.
The feast day, celebrated 50 days after Easter Sunday, commemorates the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the remaining 11 Apostles of Christ after the resurrection of Jesus.

At Mass, priests will wear a red chasuble, which is the color that symbolizes the Holy Spirit. The color will also adorn most churches, and some of the faithful may be inspired to dress in red.

Deacon Leonard Paul Lockett, Archdiocesan Vicar for Catholics of African Descent, said the apostles were behind locked doors and feared being arrested and crucified after Jesus’ resurrection. Once they received the Holy Spirit, the apostles got the strength they needed to preach.

“With the decent of the Holy Spirit, Jesus’ mission is completed and a new covenant is inaugurated,” he said. “The apostles became powerful ministers.”

Deacon Lockett said that, through Baptism, all Catholics share in the power to evangelize.

“Our mission is to spread the Good News,” he said. “We all receive that gift.”

Father Leon Strieder, Associate Professor of Liturgy and Sacraments at the University of St. Thomas School of Theology at St. Mary’s Seminary, said Pentecost is the feast of both the giving of the Holy Spirit and the birth of the Church as being sent to evangelize the world.

“I would center the spiritual meaning of Pentecost on the giving of the Holy Spirit and the sending of the Church to evangelize the world,” he said.
Father Strieder said the feast of Pentecost, in the Jewish world, was the celebration of the giving of the covenant of the law to Moses at Sinai in the desert.

“For Christians it is celebration of the gift of the Holy Spirit,” he said. “The notion of Pentecost, 50 in Greek, is based on the Jewish notion of the 50 days which follow Passover and are completed with the feast of weeks or tabernacles as it is sometimes called. That is why all those pilgrims were in Jerusalem for Pentecost.”

While Confirmations may be celebrated any time, Father Strieder said that, because it is a sacrament of initiation, it fits well with the feast of Pentecost.

“Confirmation also is a sacrament in which the gifts of the Holy Spirit feature prominently, so it makes sense to celebrate Confirmation during this time,” he said. “However, as there are never enough days for all the Confirmations needed, these celebrations often continue after Pentecost.”