Acts 2:1-42; John 14:15-31
The Story in Brief
For nine days following Jesus' Ascension into Heaven, the disciples gathered together to pray for the coming of the Holy Spirit. On the day of Pentecost, they were together in one place. A noise like a strong, driving wind filled the house, and tongues as of fire rested on each of them. They were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues as they Spirit inspired them. Jews from all over the world were gathered in Jerusalem for Pentecost. Hearing the commotion, they flocked to the house where the disciples were. The crowd was amazed for each person heard the disciples speaking in his own language about the great deeds of God. Peter stood up and preached a sermon, explaining to the crowd how Jesus, the Messiah, fulfilled the prophecies contained in Scripture and how He suffered, died, and rose again and was now pouring out the Holy Spirit. He invited the Jews to repent and be baptized that their sins may be forgiven and they may also receive the gift of the Spirit. Three thousand people were baptized that day, and with the rest of the Christian community, they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching, fellowship, the breaking of the bread, and prayers.
Points to Ponder
1. The descent of the Holy Spirit took place on the Jewish feast of Pentecost. For the Jews, Pentecost followed fifty days after the post-Passover sabbath. It was commonly known as the “feast of weeks” or the “feast of harvest of the first fruits” and commemorated both the harvest and the end of the Paschal season. At Pentecost, the Jews also remembered God's giving of the Law on Mount Sinai, which occurred fifty days after the Israelites left Egypt. Reflect on how the Christian Pentecost both fulfills and elevates the Jewish Pentecost.
2. On Pentecost, the disciples were all together in one place praying. Why did Luke make a point to mention this? What is the significance of this kind of gathering? Note that many saints have commented that the nine days between the Ascension and Pentecost constituted the first novena (nine days of prayer).
3. The Holy Spirit arrived with a sound like a violent wind. Meditate on this. Why would the Spirit choose to manifest through the sound of wind? Remember that the word “spirit” in Greek is pneuma, which derives from the Greek word pnoē, which means “wind” and is used in Acts 2:2.
4. The sound of the wind filled the entire house where the disciples had gathered, and it must have been quite loud. Why did the Spirit manifest Himself so dramatically?
5. Luke tells us, “Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them.” What is the symbolism of fire? Think especially about fire's purifying, warming, and enlivening qualities.
6. Reflect on the fact that each of the disciples received the Holy Spirit individually, as symbolized by a tongue as of fire resting on each one of them.
7. The disciples were filled with the Holy Spirit. What does it mean to be filled with the Holy Spirit? What do you think the disciples experienced internally at that moment?
8. The disciples experience of the Holy Spirit did not remain internal. They began to speak out loud in other languages, for the Spirit gave them the ability to do so. This seems like a strange miracle. What might it signify?
9. Luke makes a point of telling his readers that there were Jews from all over the world in Jerusalem at the time. He even lists many of the nationalities present on that Pentecost. These Jews gathered around the house where the disciples were. Apparently, they had heard or seen something that caught their attention. They were bewildered because each of them heard the disciples speaking in his own language. Picture this scene. How would you have felt if you had been part of the crowd?
10. Many saints and scholars have identified the miracles of language as the reverse of the Tower of Babel. Re-read the story of the Tower of Babel in Genesis 11, and reflect on this idea.
11. The crowd heard the disciples speaking about God's deeds of power. Meditate on these great deeds. Which ones would the disciples, or rather the Holy Spirit speaking through the disciples, have emphasized on Pentecost?
12. Some members of the crowd were amazed by what they were seeing and hearing. Others scoffed and said the disciples were “filled with new wine.” Reflect especially on the later group. Why did they refuse to be amazed by what they saw and heard?
13. Look at Matthew 9:17, and think about the idea of being “filled with new wine.” Might the scoffers have hit upon the truth in a way they didn't even understand? The disciples certainly hadn't been drinking alcohol, but were they actually filled with a very special kind of new wine?
14. Carefully read and ponder Peter's message to the Jews. Consider his proclamation of how Jesus fulfilled the Old Testament prophecies by His life, miracles, death, resurrection, and ascension.
15. Peter further proclaimed that Jesus, the crucified Messiah, was raised up, exalted at God's right hand, and had poured out the Holy Spirit upon the disciples. Re-read John 14:15-31, and meditate on how Jesus had kept His promise.
16. Ponder the Holy Spirit. Who is He? What is His role in Christian life? Refer again to John 14:15-31. Also spend some time examining EWTN's pages about the Holy Spirit.
17. Meditate on each of the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit: wisdom, knowledge, understanding, counsel, fortitude, piety, and fear of the Lord. Read the article “Gifts of the Holy Spirit” by Fr. William Saunders for more information on the seven gifts.
18. Ponder the twelve fruits of the Holy Spirit: charity, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, generosity, gentleness, faithfulness, modesty, self-control, and chastity. According to the Baltimore Catechism, these twelve fruits grow in our souls out of the seven gifts of the Spirit.
19. The Jews were “cut to the heart” by Peter's sermon. Why? What does that mean?
20. The Jews asked Peter and the other apostles what they must do. Reflect on their need to respond to Peter's message.
21. Peter replied, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Ponder the great gifts of repentance, Baptism, forgiveness, and the Holy Spirit.
22. Peter continued, assuring the crowd that God's promises were for them, for their children, for all who were far away, and indeed for everyone called by God. What promises was he talking about?
23. Peter testified with many other arguments and exhorted the crowd to save themselves from this corrupt generation. The Greek word for “testified” means to solemnly bear witness and to attest to the truth. The Greek word for exhorted means to call to one's side. The Greek verb for “save” here is actually passive, “be saved.” Peter was calling the crowd to join him in following Jesus Christ. Ponder Peter's testimony and exhortation.
24. Three thousand people were baptized that day. Ponder this great work of the Holy Spirit.
25. The new Christians joined the rest of the Christian community. They all devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching, fellowship, the breaking of the bread (the Eucharist), and prayers. Meditate on these early Christians and their devotion. How is our modern Christian life similar and different?
1. How important is it to you to gather and pray with other Christians? What are the advantages of sharing one's faith and prayer with others?
2. How is God trying to get your attention today?
3. Are you on fire with the Holy Spirit? Why or why not? How might your life be different if you allowed the power of the Spirit to set your heart aflame?
4. Do you need to be purified in your attitudes, thoughts, words, and/or deeds?
5. Have you ever been filled with the Holy Spirit (think especially about your baptism and confirmation)? Were you conscience of it at the time? What did it feel like? How did you respond?
6. What is your current relationship with the Holy Spirit? Does the Third Person of the Blessed Trinity play a major role in your life? Why or why not?
7. What deeds of power has God performed in your life? Are you properly amazed by them?
8. Have you encountered scoffers who sneer at Christianity? How do you respond to them?
9. Do you believe that Jesus always keeps His promises? How has He done so in your life?
10. How are the seven gifts and twelve fruits of the Holy Spirit present and active in your life? In which areas do you need to ask the Holy Spirit to increase His gifts and fruits?
11. Have you ever been “cut to the heart” by something you heard or read? What were the circumstances? How did you feel? How did you respond?
12. How do you testify to Christ and exhort others to join you in following Jesus?
13. How do you devote yourself to the apostles' teaching, fellowship, the Eucharist, and prayers in the Christian community?
Prayer, Prayer, and More Prayer
Blessing and adoration – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Blessed Trinity, Three-in-One, we bow before You in silent adoration as we contemplate the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. We adore You for Your great power and love that fills the whole world and all of us.
Praise – Holy Spirit, we praise You, for You are our Breath of life. Holy Spirit, we praise You, for You are our Advocate. Holy Spirit, we praise You, for You are our Comforter. Holy Spirit, we praise You, for You are our Guide. Holy Spirit, we praise You, come to us.
Thanksgiving – Holy Spirit, thank You for filling our hearts with Your power and love. Jesus, thank You for pouring out Your Holy Spirit upon us. Father, thank You for sending Your Son to be our Savior and the Holy Spirit to be our Advocate.
Intercession – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, we lift up to You all those who lack faith and those who scoff at Christianity. Touch their hearts and change them. We lift up to You all who are hearing the Christian message for the first time. Open their minds that they may understand and their hearts that they may assent to You. We lift up all those who have abandoned their Catholic faith. Teach them the truth and bring them home.
Petition – Holy Spirit, please pour out upon us Your great gifts of wisdom, knowledge, understanding, counsel, fortitude, piety, and fear of the Lord. Please help us to continually bear Your fruits of charity, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, generosity, gentleness, faithfulness, modesty, self-control, and chastity. Increase all of these in us, Holy Spirit.
Quotes from the Saints
“'And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit' (Acts 2:3-4). They partook of fire, not of burning but of saving fire; of fire which consumes the thorns of sins, but gives luster to the soul. This is now coming upon you also, and that to strip away and consume your sins which are like thorns, and to brighten yet more that precious possession of your souls, and to give you grace; for He gave it then to the Apostles. And He sat upon them in the form of fiery tongues, that they might crown themselves with new and spiritual diadems by fiery tongues upon their heads. A fiery sword barred of old the gates of Paradise; a fiery tongue which brought salvation restored the gift.” - St. Cyril of Jerusalem
“But as the old Confusion of tongues was laudable, when men who were of one language in wickedness and impiety, even as some now venture to be, were building the Tower; for by the confusion of their language the unity of their intention was broken up, and their undertaking destroyed; so much more worthy of praise is the present miraculous one. For being poured from One Spirit upon many men, it brings them again into harmony. And there is a diversity of Gifts, which stands in need of yet another Gift to discern which is the best, where all are praiseworthy." - St. Gregory Nazianzen
“Was it upon the twelve that it [the Holy Spirit] came? Not so; but upon the hundred and twenty. For Peter would not have quoted to no purpose the testimony of the prophet, saying, 'And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith the Lord God, I will pour out of My Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams' (Joel 2:28). 'And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit.' For, that the effect may not be to frighten only, therefore it is both 'with the Holy Spirit, and with fire. And began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance' (Mt. 3:11).” - St. John Chrysostom
“Jesus tells us that His holy Disciples will be more courageous and more understanding when they would be, as the Scripture says, Endowed with power from on high (Luke 24:49), and that when their minds would be illuminated by the torch of the Spirit they would be able to see into all things, even though no longer able to question Him bodily present among them. The Saviour does not say that they would no longer as before need the light of His guidance, but that when they received His Spirit, when He was dwelling in their hearts, they would not be wanting in any good thing, and their minds would be filled with most perfect knowledge.” - St. Cyril of Alexandria
“...For as of old on the fiftieth day after the Sacrifice of the Lamb, the Law was given on Mount Sinai to the Hebrew people, now delivered from the Egyptians, so, after the Passion of Christ, in which the True Lamb of God was slain, on the fiftieth day after His Resurrection, the Holy Spirit descended upon the Apostles and upon the people who believed (Acts ii.3); so that an earnest Christian might know beyond any uncertainty, that the sacred rites of the Old Testament had served as foundations for the Gospel, and that by this same Spirit was the Second Covenant laid down, by Whom the first had been established.” - St. Leo the Great
“Through the Holy Spirit comes our restoration to paradise, our ascension into the kingdom of heaven, our return to the adoption of sons, our liberty to call God our Father, our being made partakers of the grace of Christ, our being called children of light, our sharing in eternal glory, and, in a word, our being brought into a state of all "fulness of blessing," both in this world and in the world to come, of all the good gifts that are in store for us, by promise hereof, through faith, beholding the reflection of their grace as though they were already present, we await the full enjoyment.” - St. Basil
“O Holy Spirit, descend plentifully into my heart. Enlighten the dark corners of this neglected dwelling and scatter there Thy cheerful beams.” - St. Augustine