Pentecost is one of those Catholic celebrations that always amaze me. It is literally overflowing with history and meaning. At the time of Jesus, it was a Jewish celebration of the harvest, but it also commemorated the day God gave Moses the Ten Commandments on Mt. Sinai, and it was believed to be the day King David was born and died. Any of these would have been reason enough for a Jew to travel to Jerusalem on this day, and many did. This would also be the day God chose to send the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles to embolden them to preach the Good News and begin the work of the Church. This is why we refer to this day as the birthday of the Church. The roots of Pentecost, however, go back even further and are intimately connected to the scattering of languages at the Tower of Babel. It’s no mistake that at Pentecost, by the power of the Holy Spirit, the human family came together again to hear the Gospel proclaimed, each as if in their own tongue.
As impressive as all of this history and theology is, what most amazes me about Pentecost is the reaction from the crowd. After the Holy Spirit came upon the Apostles, Peter and the others went outside for the first time since Jesus had ascended into Heaven, and they boldly proclaimed the Gospel to the gathered crowd. It was at this point that everyone who spoke a different language heard the Good News in their own tongue. You can read all about it in Acts of the Apostles chapter 2. What’s amazing to me, though, is that instead of instantly believing, instead of instantly giving their lives to Christ, instead of falling on their knees to pray in the face of this miracle, the crowd accused the Apostles of being drunk. Drunk! Can you believe it?
DRUNK FOR JESUS?!?!?
As a high school theology teacher, I’ve been known to get fired up from time to time. Just ask my students. I’ve even been accused of being certain things, most of them riffs on crazy or Jesus freak or devilishly handsome. But I’ve never been accused of being drunk. And maybe that’s the problem. If I could go back in time and be there at the original Pentecost (the descent of the Holy Spirit Pentecost, not the Ten Commandments Pentecost, or the birth of David Pentecost…though those would be cool too), I’d love to observe what Peter and the other Apostles did and said, and take notes. Despite their suspected drunkenness, they were wildly successful that day. Scripture goes on to tell us that at the end of Peter’s preaching 3,000 people were baptized and came into the Church. How many people have my non-“drunken” preaching brought to Christ? The Apostles’ evangelical fervor must have been powerful and unlike anything the crowd had seen or heard before!
Here lay the challenge of Pentecost, I think. How do we as Catholic Christians evangelize the world around us? Would anyone accuse us of being drunk because of our zeal? Do those around us even know we’re Catholic? Are we leading people to ask of us what they need to do in order be a part of the Church? Or are we turning people away from the Church by our attitudes and actions? I don’t know that we need to do anything obnoxiously crazy, in fact, I don’t think we should. That’s not really going to win any converts in this day and age. But, I do think, with the help of the Holy Spirit, we can all put ourselves out there a little more. We can all step outside of our comfort zone a little more. We can all risk a little more for the sake of the Kingdom. The Holy Spirit hasn’t gone away, and isn’t working any less today than he was 2,000 years ago. This Pentecost, let’s allow ourselves to be emboldened by the Holy Spirit in a new way, and push ourselves to stand up and to stand out for Christ. Maybe it’s time that someone accuses us of being “drunk”, don’t you think?
Arise Music & Sound Coordinator