The Christian holiday of Pentecost is a moveable feast, which is celebrated on the 50th day (the seventh Sunday) from Easter Sunday. It commemorates the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles and other followers of Jesus Christ while they were in Jerusalem celebrating the Feast of Weeks, as described in the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 2:1–31).
The holiday is also called ‘White Sunday’ or ‘Whitsunday’ or ‘Whitsun’, especially in the United Kingdom, where traditionally the next day, Whit Monday, was also a public holiday (since 1971 fixed by statute on the last Monday in May). The Monday after Pentecost is a legal holiday in many European countries.
In Eastern Christianity, Pentecost can also refer to the entire fifty days of Easter through Pentecost inclusive; hence the book containing the liturgical texts is called the ‘Pentecostarion’. Since its date depends on the date of Easter, Pentecost is a ‘moveable feast’.
Pentecost is one of the Great feasts in the Eastern Orthodox Church, a Solemnity in the Roman Rite of the Catholic Church, a Festival in the Lutheran Churches, and a Principal Feast in the Anglican Communion. Many Christian denominations provide a special liturgy for this holy celebration.
Jn 14:15-16, 23-26
Everyone moved by the Spirit is a son of God… it is the spirit of sons, and it makes us cry out, ‘Abba, Father!’
In his 16 January General Audience, Pope Francis spoke about the need for us Christians to develop a relationship with God “like that of a child with his father”. To know that God loves us unconditionally and unceasingly. His love also resembles that of a mother, who continues to love us even though we may no longer deserve anything.
A lot of us here can remember the times when our parents would give us a warm and tenderly hug. So warm an embrace! And so much love passing between our parents and us!
But some of us among here may have had a difficult childhood, or may not have grown up with parents, and we may struggle to understand what love truly means.
We can always refer to 1 Corinthians 13 for what love is. But it takes a truly personal encounter with God to know what love is.
Sometimes, I fail to grasp what love truly entails. I struggle with giving love freely to others around me. I often expect people to reciprocate the love that I give them; and if they do not reciprocate, I may stop loving them.
But the Holy Spirit will prompt me during prayers to see how I failed to love a fellow brother or sister in Christ when the opportunity arose! But the miraculous thing is that despite knowing that I may have failed for that one moment of time, the Spirit’s presence around me fills me with hope. Hope that I will be able to repent and improve myself. And I can hear Him speaking in my heart, telling me lovingly that not all hope is gone, and how I can learn from my mistakes and give love more freely to my loved ones and colleagues. And then I seek His mercy when I seek out forgiveness from the person whom I have wronged, and when I go for confession.
And this must be what having a loving father is like. God is our Father! He knows everything about us, the good, the bad and the ugly. But He won’t leave us to sink in despair or to wallow in our pride. If we are in despair, we should turn to the Spirit, and He will give us the spark of hope, love and peace that no one else can give us. If we are unable to see our own flaws, we should still turn to the Holy Spirit (and yes, it can be really hard, because it’s a lot more comfortable to see only the good in ourselves) and ask Him for the grace to see ourselves as who we really are. Yet, God truly loves us, and He will help us to be pruned and to be holier. He will never abandon us, even if the whole world seems to be against us for whatever sins or crimes we may have committed. For “though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red as crimson, they shall be like wool.” (Isa 1:18)
Brothers and sisters, let us continue after Pentecost to carry out His mission; and spread His love to everyone that we encounter in our life.
(Today’s OXYGEN by Brenda Khoo)
Prayer: Dear Lord, please help us to love others freely. And to accept Your love as an unconditional and unceasing one, that we are Your children no matter how sinful we are. Amen.
Thanksgiving: Heavenly Father, thank you for being our loving Father. Thank you for loving us as Your children, and for allowing us to spread Your love to Your sons and daughters around us. Amen.