Preparing for a Birthday
Today’s feast of Pentecost is often called the “birthday” of the Church. It was on this day that the Holy Spirit came upon Mary and the Apostles gathered in the upper room and the Church was then made very visible as they spilled out into the streets proclaiming the good news. Although we can rightfully see this as a sort of “birthday,” it would be incorrect to think that the Church began on this day.
When a baby is born, we celebrate that we can see the baby now visibly in the world, but no one would claim that somehow the baby only came into existence at the moment of its birth. For the previous nine months the baby was being formed in his or her mother’s womb. In a similar way the Church was being formed for 9 days following the Ascension in quiet and expectant prayer in the upper room. Although Jesus had given the Church it’s mission at his ascension, he did not send them off on their own at that point. Rather he told them to wait in Jerusalem for coming of the Spirit. Only when they had received the Spirit were they ready to go out.
There is an important message here for all of us. We can’t be the Church by each of us going off and doing our own thing. The first reading tells us plainly that “they were all together” when the day of Pentecost came. We need to gather together in prayer to receive the Holy Spirit. We gather today in the “upper room” of our church, around the altar of the Eucharist, with the Apostles and Mary and we pray. Come Holy Spirit. It is the birthday of the Church once again.