As we reflect on the historical and liturgical realities of Pentecost after this past Sunday, several deep lessons suggest themselves.
1. We can never have enough of God.
Consider: the disciples spent three years with Jesus, God Incarnate. They heard Him preach. They saw Him perform miracles. Some of them saw Him transfixed. All of them came to know the resurrected Christ and believe that He was the true divine Son of God. And yet after experiencing such a transformative experience with God yet another extraordinary encounter awaited them: the descent of the Holy Spirit. We can never have ‘enough’ of God. We may be filled to the brim and yet we still seek to be filled by Him yet again.
2. Each person of the Trinity leads to the other.
Of course this isn’t to say at all that Jesus wasn’t ‘enough’ for the disciples. Rather, each divine person of the Trinity points us to the others. The closer we come to one person the greater the desire for the others. One great example of this is the vine and branches discourse of John 15.
3. God comes to us in many ways.
Under the new covenant, Jesus first came to us as God in the flesh. Then he promised to continue to be with us under the appearance of the Eucharistic bread and wine. The Holy Spirit radically reminds us that God comes to us in so many different and unexpected ways. At Pentecost it was the howling wind hurtling down from heaven and tongues of fire.
4. Our experience of God is both personal and communal.
Pentecost was both intensely personal and communal. The tongues of fire came to rest atop the heads of each of the apostles: each one was specially filled with the Holy Spirit. But it was also quite a communal experience in the broadest sense possible.
As Luke reports in Acts 2, there were ‘devout Jews from every nation under heaven’ in Jerusalem. Each nationality heard the apostles speaking in their own tongue. What was once a disorganized diaspora was ordered into a global community and the Church was born.
5. Preparing for God.
In the days leading up to Pentecost, the apostles are active in preparation, even if they do not quite know for what it is they are preparing. According to Acts 1, there are three main things the apostles did: 1. they formed a community 2. they devoted themselves to prayer and 3. they chose a new apostle to fill out their complement of Twelve, after the death of Judas. Although the ways we prepare to receive God might differ, we can emulate them on a fundamental level in loving our neighbor, loving God in prayer, and remaining steadfastly in the Body of Christ, the Church.
6. Waiting for God.
In this instance, preparation seems to entail its opposite: waiting. Even after God had intervened so powerfully in their lives, the apostles still had to wait on God. On this side of heaven we never really stop doing that.
7. God doesn’t come to earth without Mary.
Jesus didn’t enter this world without the presence of Mary and neither did the Holy Spirit. The author of Acts is very careful to note in Acts 1:14 that Mary was with them as they were meeting in communal prayer in preparation for Pentecost. Yes, of course, there were other ‘women’ there was well, but Mary is the only one who is named along with the 11 apostles. Her presence becomes that much more significant when we recall that she was at seemingly every turning point in Jesus’ ministry—from its very inception at Cana and its climax on the cross.
Wherever Mary is, there God will be doing His work on earth.