Pentecost was a Jewish holiday, one of the three great annual festivals. It was fifty days after the Passover. So most likely the apostles were gathered in one place to commemorate this feast. All of a sudden, with audible and visible signs, rushing wind filled the house and divided tongues of fire settled on each of those gathered. They were filled with the Holy Spirit and began speaking in tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance. This drew crowds together and everyone was amazed that they heard the message about the mighty acts of God in their own language. And they asked one another what all this means.

This question we can take from the passage: What does all this mean? We know what it meant for the Apostles—a deep conviction and courage to proclaim what God had done in Jesus Christ by his death and resurrection. The same power of the Holy Spirit through Baptism and Confirmation gives us the same conviction and courage to believe in Jesus Christ so deeply that it transforms our lives.

This transformation is twofold. The first is an awareness that the Spirit is operative in our lives: we say things and do things that affect others’ lives more than we imagined. It could be that word of comfort that changed another’s tears into a smile. Secondly, the Spirit gives us hope. In the midst of tragedies in our lives, the conflict between nations and the fear of terrorism, we can trust that good will come out of evil events.

What does all this mean for me?

Fr. Douglas Leonhardt, S.J. is associate vice-president for Mission and Ministry at Marquette University where he is also pastoral minister for the College of Education and McCabe Residence Hall.