The Easter Season is coming to a surprising, triumphant, and powerful conclusion. After the Lord ascended, he told his apostles to wait. They went to a place they knew, a place that was familiar – even intimate – to them. They returned to the Upper Room, the very place where the Lord had celebrated the Last Supper and where he appeared to them after his Resurrection. There the apostolic community, joined by Mary, prayed and wondered what would come next.
This time of apostolic prayer concluded on the Pentecost, which was an existing feast day among devout Jews. It celebrated the covenant that God ratified with Israel fifty days after its liberation through the Passover. While rich in the biblical narrative and in theological significance, we can simply say that the Pentecost was the holy day that told the powerful story: The God who frees is also the God who desires fellowship.
It is highly significant that the Easter Season would conclude on Pentecost. The Lord’s Paschal Mystery, namely, his Passion, Death, and Resurrection, was a new Passover. As the Passover of old had ransomed ancient Israel, so God was once again redeeming his people. Now, however, the vanquished was not an Egyptian army but the fallen kingdom of sin and death. As blood once led to an exodus from a foreign, gentile power, so blood would once again break the fetters of an oppressor, this time the foreign power of sin and death.
Fifty days after the Lord’s Paschal Mystery, there would be a new Pentecost. As the former Passover was fulfilled by the Lord’s own Passover, so a fulfilled Pentecost would be given. As Moses went to meet God, amidst thunder and fire, so the apostles and Mary would encounter the living God through fire. On the new Pentecost, God came to Mary and the apostles as tongues of fire. He filled them with his power. He ratified the liberation and the covenant that was begun in that same Upper Room more than seven weeks earlier.
This divine action was the launch of the Church. It was the reboot of everything God had previously done for his people. Now, the work is fulfilled. Now, salvation is at hand. Now, the gentiles would be welcomed into the promises of Israel. Now, God offers himself as the Way, the Truth, and the Life for all men and women, of every culture and race and of every social status. The Church, as the universal People of God, is born. Conceived in the Upper Room, manifested slowly through the Lord’s Passion and Resurrection, it is now fully alive and ready to cry out to the nations the saving message of Jesus Christ. This is the new Pentecost.
Commenting on this reality, Pope Francis teaches us: “The Pentecost of the Upper Room in Jerusalem is the beginning, a beginning which endures. The Holy Spirit is the supreme gift of the risen Christ to his apostles, yet he wants that gift to reach everyone… It is the Paraclete Spirit, the Comforter, who grants us the courage to take to the streets of the world, bringing the Gospel! The Holy Spirit makes us look to the horizon and drive us to the very outskirts of existence in order to proclaim life in Jesus Christ.”
And so, every believer on this Solemnity of Pentecost must ask themselves: Am I seeking to break down social and cultural barriers in order to share the Lord’s saving message with all?
As Saint Paul declared to the early Christians, so he announces to us: “For [Christ] himself is our peace, who has made [Jews and Gentiles] one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility… His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility.”
This is the kingdom brought about by the Lord’s saving covenant. It’s the power that was unleashed with Pentecostal fire. It’s the glory on earth that directs us all to the heavenly Jerusalem.
This is the kingdom, the power, and the glory that the apostles believed in, labored for, and laid down their lives to bring to fulfillment. It was to begin in the Upper Room with the new Passover and ratified in the same Upper Room by the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. And now, this commission is given to us.
Will we break down the dividing walls? Will we generously share the Lord’s saving message with everyone?
Crux is dedicated to smart, wired and independent reporting on the Vatican and worldwide Catholic Church. That kind of reporting doesn’t come cheap, and we need your support. You can help Crux by giving a small amount monthly, or with a onetime gift. Please remember, Crux is a for-profit organization, so contributions are not tax-deductible.