Pentecost: Fear replaced by courage

May 10, 2016

HOUSTON — Pentecost is often called the “Birthday of the Church” because it is the day the members of Christ’s Church were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to boldly proclaim the Gospel.

According to the Acts of the Apostles, 3,000 were baptized on that first Pentecost. From that day forward, the followers of Jesus began to fulfill the command to make disciples of all nations, through Baptism and apostolic work.

Pope Francis said the power of the Holy Spirit transforms people into bold witnesses of the Gospel, who reach out to others, exercise charity and live in harmony with creation.

When the Spirit came upon the disciples, Pope Francis told people in the square during last year’s Pentecost, “they were completely transformed: fear was replaced by courage, closure gave way to proclamation and every doubt was driven away by faith full of love.”

The Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy, which was first announced by Pope Francis on March 13, 2015, helps bring a new focus to this year’s feast of Pentecost, celebrated on the 50th day after Easter.

“Mother Church does not close the door in anyone’s face,” Pope Francis said. “Not even the biggest sinners.”

Father Norbert Maduzia Jr., E.V., D. Min., pastor at St. Ignatius Loyola Catholic Church in Spring and episcopal vicar of the nothern vicariate, said the most important thing the faithful should focus on this Pentecost is prayer and reflection.

“I would have to say that we should pray and reflect on that, through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, we become the visible presence of the Father’s mercy working in the world to transform the world into the Kingdom of God,” he said. “The Holy Spirit equips us with the necessary ‘tools’ to live out the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy allowing others a personal encounter with the risen Lord.”

Father Francis M. Macatangay, S.T.D., pastor at St. Cecilia Catholic Church, said that, from an Old Testament perspective, Pentecost is one of the three solemn Jewish feasts that all Jewish males are required to celebrate by making a pilgrimage to Jerusalem and by offering sacrifices of grain and animals (cf. Exod 34:22–23; Deut 16:16–17; cf. also Num 28:26).

“Pentecost, known also as the Feast of Weeks, is the celebration of the first fruits of the wheat harvest. In addition to the specific offerings on Pentecost, Leviticus further decrees that the gleanings of the harvest are to be left for the poor and the stranger (Lev 23:22),” he said. “In this Year of Mercy, this aspect of making sure that there are provisions also for the poor and the stranger as the harvest is celebrated may need to be emphasized. Here, offerings of grain and animals to God are coordinated with offerings to the poor and the stranger. And so whatever harvest of gifts the church and its members receive on Pentecost, the poor and the alien in the land should find some share in them.”

Father Dat Hoang, founding pastor at St. Mary Faustina Kowalska Catholic Church in Fulshear, said Catholics should pray often and be open to the Holy Spirit, not just during Pentecost, but every day.

“Without the Holy Spirit, we remain mediocre and can never do great things,” he said. “Without the Holy Spirit, we may hear about divine mercy, but can never experience the depth of His love. We may attempt to be merciful, but confined within our miserable human limits and can never ‘be merciful like the Father.’”

This year, Pentecost is celebrated on Sunday, May 15.