So here we are, the final lesson of the 2020-2021 Formation year, and what a year it has been! Our parish’s families have taken a journey of faith together, and learned all about the many gifts and graces God has bestowed on His Church as it journeys through the ages to its true destiny – Heaven.
Through each lesson, you have been brought deeper and deeper into the story of how God saves His people. We have learned about prayer, the saints, the many feasts of the liturgical year, and some of the Church’s most timeless devotions.
Recently, we turned to the story of Holy Week and Easter. Now, as our year draws to its close, it is time to learn how the story of Christ’s work on Earth, which culminated in his passion, death, and resurrection, was continued by the Apostles and is continued by us as well.
At Pentecost, we celebrate the Holy Spirit coming down on the Apostles as “tongues of fire” and giving them the strength they needed to go out and preach the Gospel to the ends of the Earth.
To learn more about the story of Pentecost, I highly recommend watching the following video. While it tells the story in about 2 minutes, Mr. Kenny couldn’t read that fast and needed to slow the video down a bit! If that is true for you as well, you can do so by clicking the settings button on the lower right-hand corner of the YouTube video and altering the play back speed.
The Church celebrates Pentecost 50 days after Easter (we’ll discuss why in a little bit.) Because Easter is on a different date every year, that means Pentecost is as well. This year, Pentecost will be celebrated on Sunday May 23.
Pentecost: What the Bible has to say.
At first, Pentecost can seem like just another story among many in the Bible. However, in reality, it was the culmination of a plan God had been hinting at for centuries. Grab your bibles and let’s take a look at how this plan unfolded. As a family, look up the following verses together:
In the beginning: Genesis 1:1-2
Central to the story of Pentecost is the role of the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Holy Trinity. The Holy Spirit is first seen in the Bible in just the second verse of all of Scripture. In it, we read that at the moment of creation, God’s Holy Spirit was there, moving across the waters. In the same way, at the dawn of the new creation accomplished by Jesus through his death and resurrection, the Holy Spirit again takes center stage, this time at Pentecost.
Things keep going wrong: Genesis 11:1-9
When people study Scripture, they are often amazed by how Jesus solves all of the problems we see throughout the Bible. By giving us the gift of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, Jesus solves one of humanity’s oldest problems: the confusion of our languages.
In this story from the book of Genesis, God sees the people trying to make a name for themselves by building a tower that reaches up into the heavens. As punishment for their pride, God confuses the people’s language so that they can no longer speak and understand each other. This is the story of the Tower of Babel.
Pentecost is a sort of reverse Babel. At Pentecost, all the people present in the crowd were able to understand what the Apostles were saying even though they all spoke different languages. And what was it they heard the Apostles saying: the name of Jesus and his mighty deeds! A problem that began with us trying to make a name for ourselves was solved by the Holy Spirit allowing everyone to hear Jesus’ name and the story of what he had done.
God appears to Israel on Mt. Sinai: Exodus 19:16-19
One of the most famous stories in the Bible is that of God leading the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt. After escaping Egypt, God led his people to Mount Sinai where he appeared to them and gave them what we now know as the Old Law. The center piece of this law was something you have all heard before – the 10 Commandments!
This encounter between God and his people took place 50 days after Passover, when led them out of Egypt. This is what the Jewish people were remembering when they celebrated Pentecost. It was during this feast, 50 days after Easter, that Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to the Apostles.
Scripture tells us that at Sinai, the mountain was “covered with smoke because the Lord came down on it in fire.” At Pentecost, the Lord once again came down, this time in tongues of fire which rested above the Apostles. This outpouring of the Holy Spirit was also when God wrote His new law on our hearts; more on that in a little bit!
God forgives his people: Psalm 78
Why is it that we needed a savior in the first place? It was and is because of sin. We all sin and fall short of what God has planned for us. Throughout history, there have only been two people who never sinned: Jesus and Mary. For the rest of us, we need a lot of help!
This Psalm summarizes a very common theme of the Old Testament. It goes something like this: God claims a people as his own, he gives them the rules they need to follow so that they can be happy, they disobey God, bad things happen, then God forgives and rescues them.
In this Psalm we hear about all the ways God’s chosen people, Israel, disobeyed him and some of the punishments they suffered. At first, this can make God sound kind of mean, but that couldn’t be further from the truth! God loves us and hates how sin leads us away from him, so he tries everything he can to show us the right way to live. When we fall short, he forgives us every time we ask. The whole time Israel was struggling with sin, he already had in mind how he was going to save us once and for all.
The prophets predict the outpouring of the Holy Spirit: Ezekiel 36: 26-28
As we just discussed, God’s people often struggled to follow his law. To help them, he sent them the prophets to warn them when they strayed from the path he wanted them to follow. One of the most famous prophets was Ezekiel.
During his lifetime, many people were disobeying God’s laws. It seemed like no matter what God said, they just would not listen. However, God used Ezekiel to predict a time when God would send us his Spirit, and write his law on our hearts. That is exactly what happened at Pentecost. This is one of Mr. Kenny’s favorite passages in Scripture; check it out for yourself!
Jesus tells the Apostles they will receive the Holy Spirit: Luke 36:49
In the Gospels, Jesus talks about the Holy Spirit on many occasions. For our purposes, I will focus on one of the final times he did so.
After Jesus died and rose from the dead, many of his disciples were scared about what would happen next. They did not yet have the strength to do what Jesus needed them to do: spread the Gospel around the world. To help them, he appeared to the Apostles and told them to wait in Jerusalem until they received the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit gives us the strength we need to follow God’s plan for our life.
The Holy Spirit descends at Pentecost: Acts 2:1-13
Now that you have heard how the events of Pentecost were predicted throughout Scripture, take some time and read the story of Pentecost as a family. When you hear it read at Mass in a few weeks, you will have a whole new appreciation of its significance!
These verses are not the only places the Holy Spirit and Pentecost are mentioned in the Bible. I pray that as you continue to study Scripture on your own, the Holy Spirit points out to you many of the other places they are mentioned.
All year long, we have featured many different Holy men and women who are Catholic saints or in the process of becoming saints. This week, we are highlighting some very important saints in the making – all of you!
That’s right; every single one of us is called to become a saint. This calling is known as the universal call to holiness. We have learned this year that everyone in Heaven is a saint and that saints are holy people. God wants all of us to become saints so that we will be with him forever in Heaven. The name of our formation program this year is Destined and this is the destiny we have spent all year learning about.
Let Us Pray
Just like the Apostles, we need help living out God’s plan for us so that we become the holy saints he wants us to be. Fortunately for us, we have the same helper that they did – the Holy Spirit! In fact, one of the names for the Holy Spirit is the Paraclete, which means advocate or helper.
When we are struggling or need help in any way, big or small, it is good for us to get in the habit of asking the Holy Spirit for help. There is even a special prayer to help us do this. Try to memorize part or all of it if you can.
Live it Out