You are there

JN 20: 19-23

Many years ago, in the “Golden Age of Television,” there was a program sponsored by the Prudential Life Insurance Company (represented by the Rock of Gibraltar) and hosted by newscaster Walter Cronkite called “You Are There.” The premise of the program was to have actors give a dramatic re-enactment of a historical event and be interviewed as they would be in a modern news broadcast today. It was both attractive and educational. 

One can see the liturgical celebration of Pentecost as the church’s version of “You Are There.” We have all seen pictures and paintings of the first Pentecost event. Those portrayals of the gathered church should help us make Pentecost contemporary as we gather for the Eucharist. 

First, we have the Apostles speaking in various languages. As one African bishop from the sixth century wrote, today the church preaches the Gospel and proclaims the Scriptures in every language known to humanity. There is no language today to which the Gospel is a stranger.

Secondly, we have the tongues of fire that come to rest over each apostle. Each of us has received a gift of the Holy Spirit to strengthen the church. Our gift may be preaching, administration, parenthood, teaching, computer expertise, wealth management, care for the poor, projecting Christian values in the public square, fraternal correction, the capacity to pray well, compassion, spiritual healing and many others. Those “tongues of flame” were not extinguished after Pentecost Sunday. They continue to be distributed among us today.

Thirdly, we have the presence of Mary, the mother of Jesus. 

Appropriately, Pope Francis has designated the Monday after Pentecost as the feast of Mary, Mother of the Church. Mary was, in the words of the Holy Father’s decree, “a caring guide to the emerging church.” Mary continues to pray with the church, to strengthen the church and to point the church toward her son. 

Finally, there is the thunderous noise like a driving wind, the sign of the Holy Spirit drawing the church where the people of the church sometimes may not want to go. In the 16th Chapter of the Acts of the Apostles, for example, St. Paul makes reference to various places in Asia and Bithynia where he wanted to go to preach the Gospel but he was prevented by the Holy Spirit from doing so because the Lord wanted him elsewhere at that time. In such cases, God’s providence is like a strong driving wind. At other times, it is like a breeze described in the sequence today that cools us with the confidence that we are doing the Lord’s work. 

The tongues of flame, the many languages, the prayerful presence of Mary, the guiding wind of God’s will — all the components of that first, dramatic Pentecost Sunday are present in the church today. When we celebrate the Eucharist this weekend, let us try to see the abiding presence of Pentecost in the church and in our world. Pentecost is not only a historical event, it is an ongoing and dynamic drama in the life of the church that keeps the church one, holy, catholic and apostolic. All the elements of that first Pentecost are still present at every Eucharist and “You are There.”

Msgr. Krempa is pastor of St. Bridget of Ireland Church in Berryville. 

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2018