The past two years, I’ve prepared my 8th grade students for the Sacrament of Confirmation. Our diocese always schedules this as close to Pentecost as possible. Working with my students, I would remind them that the gifts and graces they received in Baptism are sealed, or confirmed, in Confirmation. This Sacrament completes the three Sacraments of Initiation (along with the Eucharist). Through the power of the Holy Spirit, those confirmed are sent forth to spread the Gospel, just as the original Twelve Apostles were called to do.
The Gifts and Fruits of the Holy Spirit
During Baptism, we receive the indwelling of the Holy Spirit within our souls and are given the gifts of the Holy Spirit.
The gifts of the Holy Spirit are:
- Knowledge, Counsel
- Fear of the Lord
The gifts of the Holy Spirit are received by all, but the evidence of them at work in a person are the fruits of the Holy Spirit. When a gift is not merely received, but used well, it bears fruit. And the Holy Spirit gives richly, freely, with the hope that we will use those gifts.
The fruits of the Holy Spirit are:
When we meet someone who lives with joy, generosity, and kindness, we can truly see the Holy Spirit at work in her.
Pentecost: The Birth of the Church
In these Sacraments, the Holy Spirit comes upon each of us, bearing gifts and enkindling our hearts, setting them aflame with love for Christ. The same power and strength given to the Apostles on Pentecost is also given to us.
On Pentecost, a feast of the birth of the Church, we remember Jesus’ promise to the Apostles that He would not leave them. He promised to send His Holy Spirit. After His Ascension into Heaven, 50 days after His Resurrection, we hear in chapter two of the Acts of the Apostles that:
When Pentecost day came round, they had all met together, when suddenly there came from heaven a sound as of a violent wind which filled the entire house in which they were sitting; and there appeared to them tongues as 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 different languages as the Spirit gave them power to express themselves.
Now there were devout men living in Jerusalem from every nation under heaven, and at this sound they all assembled, and each one was bewildered to hear these men speaking his own language. Everyone was amazed and perplexed; they asked one another what it all meant. Some, however, laughed it off. “They have been drinking too much new wine,” they said.
Then Peter stood up with the Eleven and addressed them in a loud voice: “Men of Judaea, and all you who live in Jerusalem, make no mistake about this, but listen carefully to what I say. These men are not drunk, as you imagine; why, it is only the third hour of the day. On the contrary, this is what the prophet was saying: ‘In the last days — the Lord declares — I shall pour out my Spirit on all humanity. Your sons and daughters shall prophesy, your young people shall see visions, your old people dream dreams.’
God raised this man Jesus to life, and of that we are all witnesses. Now raised to the heights by God’s right hand, he has received from the Father the Holy Spirit, who was promised, and what you see and hear is the outpouring of that Spirit.
Hearing this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “What are we to do, brothers?” “You must repent,” Peter answered, “and every one of you must be baptised in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”
In this moving passage from Scripture, we see the Apostles afraid in the Upper Room. Yet, when the Holy Spirit comes upon them in the form of wind and fire, suddenly they can express themselves. And Peter, our first pope, directs them to repent, be baptized, and receive the gifts that the Spirit gives them so that they could begin their missionary work.
We Receive the Gift of the Holy Spirit
On this Sunday, priests wear red to symbolize the tongues of fire sent upon the Apostles by the Spirit. In some places, such as Italy, the faithful scatter rose petals from the ceilings of churches to remember this. For each of us, this Sunday is a time to pause and consider the gifts we have each been given and the ways we are letting God work in us. We examine the ways we are using those gifts for others so that they might bear fruit.
Mary, Mother of the Church
This year, too, we have a new feast to celebrate! On March 3, 2018, Pope Francis announced that the Church will celebrate the feast of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church, on the Monday after Pentecost.
This year, that falls on May 21, in the month of Mary.
The Pope hopes this new Marian feast will continue to foster devotion to Our Lady, especially in her role as our mother. In addition, it will remind us that from the beginning of the Church at Pentecost, Christ’s followers have turned to Mary to guide them back to Her Son. While the Spirit gives us gifts, the Blessed Mother points us towards Jesus so that we might remember to use those gifts at the service of Him and His Church.
What special traditions do you have to celebrate Pentecost? How can you use your God-given gifts to serve others?
Mary Grace Mangano is a high school English teacher in Harlem, New York, having also taught middle school Language Arts and Religion in Chicago. She has written for Verily, Darling Magazine, The Catholic Woman, and other publications. She is passionate about education and social justice, loves writing poetry, running, reading, hiking, and learning new things. You can find out more about her here.