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A Pentecost of Great Spirit


Pentecost (the Greek word pentekostos which means 50) occurs 50 days after the resurrection of Jesus and is referred to as the birth of the Church. The day of Pentecost was originally a Jewish festival (Shavuot) of thanksgiving for the first fruits of the wheat harvest and later it celebrated the giving of the Torah to Moses on Mount Sinai (Exodus 19-20). In particular, we focus on Exodus 19:18 which has similarities to the Christian event at Pentecost:

“Now Mount Sinai was wrapped in smoke, because the LORD had descended upon it in fire; the smoke went up like the smoke of a kiln, while the whole mountain shook violently” (Ex 19:18).

Pentecost later became a Christian feast day. The unfolding events of Pentecost share similarities with the giving of the Torah account:

When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting.

Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability (Acts 2:1-4).

Pentecost was about outburst and outpouring. It is when the Spirit bursts in upon us and there is an outpouring of grace. Minds are illuminated, hearts burn with fervour, tongues are set free in praise.

It is a Pentecost of power, energy, revitalisation, renewal and passion. We need Pentecost to awaken us into action, to speak the truth, and to proclaim the good news.

In our Maronite Lectionary the Season of Pentecost is the final and longest season in the year extending up to 17 weeks. The Gospel focus is on John 14:15-20 and every Sunday that follows has a focus on the mission of the disciples:

“If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you for ever. This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you.

“I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you. In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live. On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you.” (Jn 14:15-20).

Today more than ever we need a Pentecost in Church and in our own personal lives, urging us to be responsive in a world that has either become hostile or apathetic about religion. Religious rights are questioned, challenged and eroded, and believers sit there in silence.

Pentecost calls us to be emboldened in our quest to ensure that, ‘the Spirit of truth’ (Jn 14:7) is spoken and lived out. God gifts us with the Holy Spirit in order for us to be disciples who can, and will, and must, speak the truth in all circumstances, anywhere and anytime.

Pentecost was a wild revelation of truth and reality. A wind came at Pentecost and uprooted tired old beliefs and fears and tossed it all out. Complacency is no more. Action is needed in our Church if it is to be relevant to the times and a voice of hope to those seeking an alternative view.

We in turn are to be a voice against those who question the very existence of God, who deny bodily reality, who silence the voices of opposing views, who promote false teachings, work by corruption and abuse, who shut out opportunity for choice, who downplay the value of each human life and relegate the sacredness of humanity to the back heap.

The Paraclete is given at Pentecost. We are filled with this Spirit of truth. We are urged to advocate for God, for life, and for hope. That is what being church is about as we celebrate its birth this Pentecost Sunday.

By Sr Margaret Ghosn mshf,  Executive Principal at St Maroun’s College (Marrickville) and Maronite College of the Holy Family (Harris Park).

Article originally published in The Catholic Weekly;

*Maronite icon written by Fr Abdo Badwi

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