It shall come to pass I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions.
This prophecy from the Book of Joel foretold the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost (Acts 2:1-13). It would be further foretold by Jesus in the Gospel of John:
John 16:7-8: But I tell you the truth, it is better for you that I go. For if I do not go, the Advocate will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes he will convict the world in regard to sin and righteousness and condemnation.
John 16:13: But when he comes, the Spirit of truth, he will guide you to all truth. He will not speak on his own, but he will speak what he hears, and will declare to you the things that are coming.
Therefore, we can only imagine the excitement experienced by the apostles seeing this event fulfilled in their lifetimes. Not just with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit but also with the way it inspired the apostles in their preaching and actions.
One of the most inspiring examples is in Acts 3-4 when Peter and John confidently cured the crippled beggar and stood before the Sanhedrin and proclaimed their beliefs and mission even though they were being ordered to stop.
Acts 4:13 - Observing the boldness of Peter and John and perceiving them to be uneducated, ordinary men, they were amazed, and they recognized them as the companions of Jesus.
We must remember that this is the same Sanhedrin that took Jesus to Pontius Pilate with the intention of having Him crucified. Knowing this at that time, many of the apostles hid out of fear with Peter being the one to deny Christ three times. Now we have Peter and the one who stood at the foot of the cross standing before the Sanhedrin with a courage that could only come from being filled with the Holy Spirit, which prompted the Sanhedrin to acknowledge their boldness.
The courage given to the apostles at that moment is inspiring enough but we must remember that the work of the Holy Spirit continued to pour out for others. We hear of this happening in Acts 19:7 when St. Paul laid hands upon followers of John the Baptist. We are told that they spoke in tongues and prophesied, which means that these other 12 men experienced the same thing that occurred at Pentecost.
Still, there is much more to come and in the following we see that the Spirit not only came upon certain people but in a way that revealed more to the apostles than what was foretold in the Book of Joel (see Isaiah 56:1-7).
When a great persecution broke out in Jerusalem it was said that many followers were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria. Philip went to Samaria and proclaimed the Gospel while also performing many great deeds. Upon hearing this, the apostles sent Peter and John who laid hands upon them, which led to the Samaritans receiving the Holy Spirit.
The Jews saw the Samaritans as a heretical and schismatic group even though they had a common religious heritage (John 4 12). They were detested even more than the pagans because they were descendants of a mixed population. They also had some canonical differences, different legal traditions and worshipped at Mount Gerizim.
Meanwhile, the same Holy Spirit who descended on the Church in Jerusalem also fell upon the Samaritans after Peter and John laid hands upon them.
In this extensive story from Acts we see the Holy Spirit come upon the Gentiles while they listened to the words of Peter. Prior to that, Peter had already seen that God showed no partiality because, as stated in verse 35: ....in every nation whoever fears him and acts uprightly is acceptable to him. What is most interesting in this account was that the Gentiles received the Holy Spirit before being baptized, which was probably necessary because Peter could see the will of God, again, in the same Holy Spirit who came upon him and the other apostles at Pentecost.
Gentiles were non-Jews that were seen as idolaters who were subjected to every vice possible. This is why Jews were expected to maintain strict separation from them in matters of religion, marriage and politics. However, these Gentiles had proven a true fear of the Lord that allowed them to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
If we choose to live as the Lord commanded while also being open to the Gifts of the Holy Spirit we too will find ourselves in the same position as the followers of John the Baptist, the Samaritans as well as the Gentiles. This is our response to Jesus who promised to send the Holy Spirit.
In Matthew 5:16 the Lord says, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father. This is important because we are called to show the source of our joy and remind the rest of the world that this came from Jesus' promise to send the Holy Spirit.
However, we must remind ourselves that this gift is not to be taken for granted. As stated in Matthew 5:13: You are the salt of the earth. But if salt loses its taste, with what can it be seasoned? It is no longer good for anything but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.
We are the ones who cause the salt to lose its taste when we forget that we are called to a life of holiness that comes from a constant conversion. In doing this we continue to allow God to transform us into the people He made us to be. Thankfully, that is done through the work of the Holy Spirit, which is the same Spirit that transformed the lives of the apostles who then worked through the apostles when it came to changing the world.
Now we are called to continue with that work in both receiving the Spirit and sharing it with others.
McKenzie, John L., S. J. Dictionary of the Bible. MacMillan Publishing Company New York. Collier MacMillan Publishers London 1965 pgs. 303 & 765-766
Achtemeier, Paul J. (editor). Harper's Bible Dictionary. Harper San Francisco 1985 pgs. 338-339 & 898-900
- BA & MA in Religious Studies from Cal State Long Beach
- Certified Through the Theology of the Body Institute
- Instructor of Theology at St. Augustine Catholic High School