“What’s gotten into you?” This question usually stems from unacceptable behavior. But it is an appropriate question for today’s feast. The very people who for days, even weeks, had hidden themselves in fear for their lives, were out and about and acting in astonishing ways. They no longer lived in secret. In fact, they were calling attention to themselves by their behavior. What had gotten into them?
“They were all filled with the Holy Spirit.” It is such a simple statement, a statement that may no longer startle us! These previously terrified people were all filled with the dynamic power of God—the power that refreshes and recreates, that comforts and heals; the power so eloquently acclaimed in today’s sequence. This Spirit burned within them like tongues of fire, and they went forth and proclaimed the message of God’s love manifested in the resurrection of Jesus.
This same Spirit was given to us when we were baptized into the death and resurrection of Jesus and confirmed in the power of the Spirit. If we received the same Spirit as did the disciples on that first Pentecost, why can’t we do the same marvelous deeds? But we can. We are assured that “to each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit.” In situations where hatred and violence prevail, kindness and gentleness are actually heroic; generosity is countercultural wherever greed and selfishness reign. And how much harm might be avoided if we had a bit more patience?
The Spirit that Jesus sent us from his Father is a Spirit of reconciliation, the Spirit that prevents us from holding grudges or nurturing vengeance. It is the Spirit of truth, the Spirit that directs us into lives of honesty and integrity. The world in which we live is in far greater need of reconciliation and truth than of the gift of tongues. Nations all over the world are hemorrhaging from the wounds of war; various religious groups live in constant fear of prejudice and persecution; church leadership has lost much credibility among the members, and its moral voice has been muted within the broader society.
This Pentecost solemnity brings to a climax the fifty-day celebration of Easter. Let us be careful not to put away our Easter joy. Pentecost may be the end of the Easter season, but it is also the beginning of our new life in Christ.
The Holy Spirit, the dynamic power of God, is bestowed on us in all fullness. And with the Spirit come the gifts that can transform the world. The first disciples had their day, and they seized it with a gusto that has been remembered down through the centuries. This is our day. We now have a chance to show others what’s gotten into us.