4th Sunday of Easter, May 15th
Pentecost is the birthday of the Church. That is the third great feast day in the Church year. We celebrate it ten days after the Feast of the Ascension and fifty days after Easter Sunday itself. Pentecost may mark the beginning of the Church- in terms of the responsibility for proclaiming the Word of God passing now not from Jesus himself, but to the apostles as his witnesses. However, I prefer the dramatic scene that we see in today’s Gospel. That is, of course, the same text that will dominate Pentecost Sunday but here we have but an excerpt of it.
Peter and the other apostles have been holed up in their secret hiding place for ten days now, when they are transformed by the presence among them of the Holy Spirit. They had kept the doors locked, the windows shuttered, but then suddenly, after receiving the Spirit, Peter tells them that it is time to go forth. Peter then leaves the room, goes out into the city and begins to proclaim the Good News of God’s love for the human family and the redemption that has been accomplished by the death and resurrection of Jesus. His speech must have had tremendous power. The initial listeners were shocked and concerned about what they should do and Peter gives them very clear directions – Repent and be baptized, baptized in the name of Jesus Christ and the result of this would be that their sins would be forgiven. The text merely states rather casually that those who accepted the message were baptized and some 3,000 were added that day! Would today’s preachers be so successful.