Bishop Ricken

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The Most Rev. David L. Ricken is the 12th bishop of the Diocese of Green Bay.

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Embracing the gifts of the Holy Spirit

By Bishop David Ricken | May 31, 2022

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

Happy Pentecost! This Sunday, June 5, is Pentecost Sunday and the birthday of the church.

What does this phrase mean? The word “Pentecost” means “50th” and was a Jewish feast that took place 50 days after Passover. It was a time when Jews from all over the ancient world would gather in Jerusalem to thank God for his generosity in blessing them for the harvest and asking his continued blessings on their families and the Jewish people.

To understand why Christians celebrate Pentecost, though, we need to go back to the days after Jesus rose from the dead. For 40 days, he appeared many times to his disciples and others in his risen body. After 40 days, he ascended into heaven.

But, before he ascended, he asked his followers to go to the Upper Room and WAIT for him to send a special gift. What he announced to them was that he would send an Advocate (Paraclete), a helper, to plead their case.

When we read Chapter 2 of the Acts of the Apostles, we learn that the disciples did exactly as Jesus asked them. They were waiting upon him, while also gripped with fear, because of the enemies of Jesus and his new movement. Then, 10 days after the Ascension and 50 days after Easter, the Holy Spirit rushed into that room like a strong driving wind. It would be as if 40 to 50 mile-an-hour winds rushed into your home when you were praying with your family or at a prayer group or right in the middle of Mass on a “normal Sunday.”

After the wind, flames descended upon them, in the shape of a large tongue that danced on their heads and eventually entered their body, mind and spirit. The flames of Divine Love entered each person gathered, including the disciples and Jesus’ mother, Mary. Their entire being, body, mind, spirit and emotions were purified; self-interest was burned out of their personalities.

Finally, they were “driven out” by the Holy Spirit into the city, telling the story of Jesus’ life, ministry, death and resurrection. They had the ability to speak in many different languages they never learned, so that the Jews, gathered in Jerusalem from all over the ancient world, could understand them. And they spoke boldly, without fear, despite the threat they faced from those who wanted to end this new “Jesus movement.” Their preaching made an immediate impact as 3,000 people were baptized that very day!

Friends, it can be easy to read a story like this and think, “That was then and this is now. These sorts of things don’t happen anymore.” We must resist this thought, which couldn’t be further from the truth.

The Holy Spirit is still being poured out and is very active in our day! Every time I celebrate the sacrament of confirmation, the Holy Spirit is present and active, pouring out gifts on those receiving the sacrament. Even beyond the sacrament of confirmation, the Holy Spirit lives in each of us through our baptism. He is as close to you as your next breath. He is living within you and is giving you life at this very moment!

Brothers and sisters, the church would not exist if the disciples did not receive the Holy Spirit and respond to the promptings in their hearts that day. This is why we call Pentecost “the birthday of the church.”

At the same time, for the church to continue to exist and thrive today, each of us needs to be open to the Spirit’s guidance and go where he is leading us. He is calling you to be more open to his presence and action within you. He needs more people to say “yes” to being used by him to win souls for the Kingdom of God. The same Spirit who guided the disciples on the first Pentecost is waiting to work miracles in and through you.

Merely repeat these words “Come Holy Spirit! Come Holy Spirit! Come.” Then just wait in silence and see what happens. Our church, our world, needs your response!

Have a Blessed Pentecost!

Follow Bishop Ricken on Twitter, @BPDavidRicken.

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