To know how this event impacts our life, we first need to look at how it impacted the lives of the apostles. In a homily I heard several years ago, the priest said, “If you want to know how powerful the Holy Spirit is, just look at the apostles before and after Pentecost.” After spending three years following Jesus, being taught by Jesus, and watching Jesus heal people (literally bringing the dead back to life), the apostles hid themselves in a locked room after Jesus was arrested and killed. They were crippled with the fear of suffering the same fate as Jesus.
But after they received the Holy Spirit, they began preaching with such passion that people thought they were drunk. They were filled with so much boldness that when a crippled beggar asked them for money, Peter said without hesitation, “I have neither silver nor gold, but what I do have I give you: in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazorean, rise and walk.” And when the Jewish high priests commanded them to stop preaching, Peter basically said, “I don’t think so.” It was like these were totally different men.
Fr. Dave Pivonka likes to say, “Jesus isn’t enough.” In other words, knowing Jesus and watching Jesus work miracles wasn’t enough for the apostles to act like Jesus. They first had to be transformed from the inside out; they had to be reborn and remade into the likeness of Christ. And that’s precisely what the Holy Spirit did. After Pentecost the apostles could do what Jesus did because the Spirit was making them like Jesus, the Holy Spirit was making them divine.
But here’s the incredible thing, through the Sacraments, we have received the very same outpouring of the Holy Spirit as the apostles did. The Catechism says that Baptism makes us “other Christs” and that “the effect of the sacrament of Confirmation is the special outpouring of the Holy Spirit as once granted to the apostles on the day of Pentecost” (CCC 2782, 1302).
This begs the question though, why aren’t all baptized and confirmed Catholics doing what the apostles did in the New Testament? Why am I not doing those things?
The Church teaches that the Sacraments are always effective, that is, God promised that through them He will give us transforming grace. However, we have to accept that gift of grace for it to actually transform us. God respects our freedom so much that, like Mary at the Annunciation, we must say yes to what God wants to do in us and through us.
For us to be transformed by the Holy Spirit, for us to experience our own Pentecost, we need to ask for it. We need to desire that kind of transformation. And if we are too fearful or too attached to our own way of life to desire that transformation, then we need to ask the Spirit to change our desires and heal our wounded hearts.
I was raised Catholic. I received Baptism as a baby and Confirmation when I was in junior high. I remember being excited for Confirmation because I knew my relatives would give me gifts and money. That was the level of my faith at that time. When the bishop put oil on my head there was no Pentecost going on in my heart. Then throughout high school, though I continued to go to Mass and retreats like a good Catholic, I didn’t really have a relationship with God and I struggled a lot with habitual sin. Then, the summer after I graduated, the Lord gave me the courage to go to Confession and confess things I had done that I had never had the strength or desire to confess before. At that moment, years after my Confirmation, the Holy Spirit started really transforming me. The habitual sin I had been fighting for years miraculously went away and along with that came a new desire to pray every day that I had never experienced before.
And the Lord hasn’t stopped transforming me since then. I can’t count the number of times the Holy Spirit has broken into my life to heal me of my sinfulness or give me direction in my life decisions. However, up until recently, my faith has largely been something more intellectual than relational. But the Spirit has helped transform that as well.
Back in January, Kristina and I went to the Encounter Conference that Fr. Mathias led down in Toledo. This was another turning point in my faith, another Pentecost.
During the first half of the conference the Lord healed me of a lot of spiritual baggage I was carrying. The year before I went through several months of depression and spiritual desolation that was made worse by the struggles of having a newborn, having four kids five years old and younger, the challenges of postpartum NFP, and Kristina’s having postpartum anxiety. During that period I prayed over and over for God to heal me of this suffering. And He didn't. I'd make myself more vulnerable in prayer, I'd ask people to pray over me for this, and nothing happened. It felt like repeatedly running into a wall hoping that eventually it would give way. But each time you fall on your back you're a little less excited to get back up and try again.
The Lord, through the Blessed Mother, eventually brought me out of that place about a year ago, but I had a lot of trust issues with God. I didn't fully believe that He desired my good because if He did, why did He allow me to go through that despite all the times I begged Him to heal me. But at this conference the Lord gave me permission to just give that doubt and bitterness to Him. So I did. And He took it away.
The second half of the conference was filled with consolation after consolation. God opened my heart to be able to truly praise Him as a Good Father. I also received words from the Lord to share with others which kindled a new desire to intentionally pray and have the Holy Spirit lead my day and my ministry. After we returned, Kristina and I prayed with multiple people for physical healing and many of them were healed! And there’s been so many moments like that in the past several months. The Holy Spirit has begun the process of moving my faith from my head to my heart, and it's been awesome.
Today, on the feast of Pentecost, 2019, I invite you to ask the Holy Spirit for a new Pentecost in your life. It doesn’t matter if your relationship with God is amazing or if it’s nonexistent. It doesn’t matter if you don’t think you’ve ever experienced God in a personal way or if you have powerful experiences every morning in prayer. God desperately desires to heal you more, transform you more, and give you more of Himself. All you have to do is ask.