Pentecost, which we celebrate this Sunday, is the liturgical season after Easter. It celebrates the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Church. Pentecost begins the eighth Sunday, or 50 days, after Easter Sunday. The descent of the Holy Spirit ushered in a new era for the people of God.

When the Holy Spirit descended on the Apostles, they preached the Good News of Jesus Christ. Miraculously, people of many different languages and nations could understand the Apostles in their own languages. This miracle reflected God’s desire for the Gospel to be preached to all, and for all the peoples of the earth to be united in faith.

The Most Important Effect of Pentecost

The miraculous tongues of fire, along with the Apostles’ ability to speak in different languages, may seem to be the most impressive signs of Pentecost. However, the most important and most lasting effect of Pentecost went deeper than that.

Peter, the leader of the Apostles, stood in front of the crowds and preached. He preached with boldness and conviction. Consider that up until this point, the Apostles had not preached at all. Just 10 days before, the Apostles still thought that Jesus’ mission was to restore an earthly kingdom to Israel (cf. Acts 1:6). Now, however, Peter recognizes the mission of Jesus and boldly preaches instead of remaining hidden in a room.

The boldness that the Holy Spirit gave the Apostles on Pentecost gave them the courage and wisdom to preach to many nations and peoples. This, in turn, resulted in the spread of Christianity and the conversion of thousands of people. On the day of Pentecost, about 3,000 people were baptized (Acts 2:41).

Pentecost: The Birthday of the Church

Pentecost is the birthday of the Church because from that point on, the apostles carried the message of Christ to the whole world. The authority that Christ gave his Apostles through the Holy Spirit extends through the bishops today. The Holy Spirit continues to guide the Church. In fact, St. Augustine said that the Holy Spirit was the soul of the Church. Just as the soul gives life to the body, so also the Spirit gives life to the Church.

Red is used at Pentecost, recalling the fiery tongues that descended upon the Apostles when they received the Holy Spirit, and also at feasts of the Holy Cross, Apostles, and martyrs, as a symbol of their bloody passions (sufferings and deaths).