Everyone loves birthdays. Treats, like cake and ice cream, a special meal, gifts, being the center of attention, at least for a day—what’s not to like? It may seem that birthdays are more enjoyed by the young, but even as we age there is something about being surrounded by family and friends, giving thanks for this marvelous gift: LIFE. Even as my aches and pains and infirmities increase, the celebration of the date of my birth in a few months will be special. Fran and family and friends will make it so.
This Sunday, we gather as a community of faith to celebrate and to give thanks to God on this very important birthday: the birthday of the Church. Today we hear two accounts of that first Christian Pentecost. (The word Pentecost has at its root the Greek word for 50.) So “Pentecost” originated as a Jewish feast that was celebrated 50 days after Passover. It was one of their three most important feasts just as it is one of our three most important feasts. This is what the Apostles and many other believers (most of whom were devout Jews) were doing with the Holy Spirit descended upon them. We Christians celebrate Pentecost, not as our Jewish ancestors did, but as the birth of the Church. Taken together, the two stories we hear today make clear that even though Jesus has ascended back into heaven, His work of building the Kingdom here on Earth was not completed. He was entrusting to His Apostles and to us by virtue of our Baptism the work He started.
It would not be a birthday celebration if there were not gifts. It is the birthday of the Church and we are the recipients of the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit: Wisdom, Knowledge, Understanding, Counsel, Fortitude, Piety, and Fear of the Lord. These are the tools that equip us in our mission as coworkers with Jesus. Filled with the gifts of the Holy Spirit, informed by the Word and nourished by the Body and Blood of Christ, we go forth to continue building the Kingdom of God here on Earth.
Happy Birthday to us, the Christian Church!