The Spiritual Birthday of the Church
Catholics consider Pentecost Sunday, which ends the season of Easter, as the birthday of the Catholic Church. That first year, only a few weeks after the Ascension of Christ, the apostles had gathered in Jerusalem with Mary, the Mother of God, to observe
It probably wasn't much of a celebration. Jesus' disciples were confused, unsure of what to do next. They probably grieved their teacher, and they were likely anxious about their personal safety. Yet what happened during this feast day transformed them:
And suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house in which they were. Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them. And they were all filled with the holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them. (Acts 2:2–4)
Around the world, there are many traditions that commemorate this momentous event. In Italy, people scatter rose leaves from the church ceiling to recall the miracle of the fiery tongues. In France, they blow trumpets during the Divine Liturgy service to recall the sound of the mighty wind that accompanied the Descent of the Holy Ghost.
The apostles were filled with the Holy Spirit, which cemented their belief and gave them courage and the gift of tongues. This gave the apostles the ability to speak so that people of different languages could comprehend their meaning. They went out, and they began to preach.
Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, preached with such joy that 3,000 were baptized that very day. These converts were Jews from Mesopotamia, Judea, Cappadocia, and many other places. Visiting Jerusalem for the holiday, they took Peter's message with them back to their homes. Peter's central role in the expanding circle of Christ's followers was thus clearly defined, and the Church was made public.
The apostles proceeded to spread the word in and around the Mediterranean region, drawing in people from all races and religions, and establishing Christian communities wherever they went. This was their mission, and it came with great tests of faith. Sometimes they were welcomed. At other times, they placed themselves in great personal peril.
Jesus said: “The kingdom of God may be likened to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son” (Matthew 22:2). Everybody is invited, and the only requirement is that the guests be “dressed in a wedding garment” (Matthew 22:11) — in other words, that they have Jesus in themselves.