This Sunday we celebrate the birthday of the Church–Pentecost. I am amazed I look forward to this feast day so much; sometimes it seems even harder to wait for Pentecost than for Easter. I long for the baptism of the Holy Spirit just as most Christians long for the resurrection of Jesus Christ after a long Lent.This particular time of waiting was especially significant this year. We made the journey through the octave of Easter while in quarantine, which made our experience similar to that of the first disciples. When the Holy Spirit descended on the apostles, they were all hiding in the upper room, filled with fear. Doesn’t this sound familiar? My apartment is on the third floor of a grand old Victorian house and sits at the top of the highest hill in town–truly an “upper” room! But regardless of where people were quarantined, everyone shared a common emotion, the crippling feeling of fear. The apostles, too, were filled with fear and they had just received the promises of Christ in person. Our hearts have been filled with fear lately, although we remain devoted to the Lord and His promise that He has conquered the grave. In light of the current state of this world, the Catholic Church calls us to experience a personal Pentecost.
I strove to achieve this personal Pentecost; I was in dire need of spiritual renewal. During the final weeks leading up to Pentecost, I was enduring a growing sense of spiritual isolation, made worse by the knowledge that I was bringing it on myself. I let my daily devotions take a back seat just by being lazy. I missed seeing the face of Jesus. On the feast of the Ascension, I knew my faith needed reigniting, so I decided to pray a Holy Spirit novena. Through the nine days before Pentecost, some key events happened to me. First, I began to experience serious heartburn. Physical pain completely prevents me from focusing my devotion on the Lord. The fire inside my body was excruciating and nothing could put out the flames. As I walked up to the church on the vigil of Pentecost, my insides felt as though they were going to combust. Yet, sitting quietly in the pew, the Holy Spirit came over me, or perhaps I should say from within me. The fact that my acid reflux was causing my heart to burn in a sense was not lost on me. Suddenly, instead of seeing this heartburn as a curse, I saw in it a gift. Heartburn is truly painful, but it brought me closer to Christ because I could feel the Holy Spirit and was once again in communion with the Holy Trinity, which I had been missing throughout my spiritual isolation. As an added blessing, when I received the Holy Eucharist, the presence of Jesus Christ entered into my soul and body and took away the pain from the acid reflux.
I had a vision of the Holy Spirit coming into my heart in the form of a dove and starting to flap His wings. The flames in my heart were not extinguished, but dispersed. When the first disciples received the Holy Spirit, they were able to depart from the upper room, traveling the world sharing the good news that we have all been saved by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. In this time of personal Pentecost, we are once more called by Christ to go out and share His words. We need the Holy Spirit to fulfill this mission; He is the one who can extinguish our fear and ignite our fire.
One prevalent theme emphasized this year was thinking of the Holy Spirit as a person and not as “it.” I had fallen victim to this perception, viewing the Holy Spirit as more of a presence than an actual person like God the Father or Jesus Christ, His Son. The bishop of my archdiocese asked if I ever pray to the Holy Spirit. I was surprised that I didn’t. I prayed to the Father and the Son and usually allowed the Holy Spirit to move within me, but I never really prayed to Him. I have faith that miracles will come from this Pentecost. We can all attain a new relationship, a personal and intimate one, with the third person of the Trinity.