The Word Among Us

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The Descent of the Holy Spirit

Authentic Faith Is Open to the Holy Spirit in All Times and Places

By: Mitch Finley

The Descent of the Holy Spirit: Authentic Faith Is Open to the Holy Spirit in All Times and Places by Mitch Finley

When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability. —Acts 2:1-4

We rely for this mystery entirely upon a single New Testament account in the Acts of the Apostles. Acts 1:14 includes “Mary the mother of Jesus” among those who, after the ascension of Jesus, “were constantly devoting themselves to prayer.” Christians naturally assume, therefore, that Mary was among those who “were all together in one place” for the descent of the Holy Spirit on the first Pentecost.

Whether this narrative is meant to be taken as a literal account of events witnessed by everyone present, or whether Luke, the author of the Acts of the Apostles, used symbolic and metaphorical language to express the truth of a shared faith experience is largely unimportant. Either way, the point is that a profound transformation took place among the first followers of Jesus that could only be attributed to the activity and grace of God.

From this point on, the disciples have the courage and authority to proclaim the gospel and call others into loving intimacy with the risen Lord and with the community of his followers, the Church. Chapter 2 of Acts concludes with a description of a life of shared faith that Christian communities have held as an ideal ever since:

All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need. Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved. (Acts 2:44-47)

Again, whether or not this is a literal historical description is unimportant. What matters is that it is a clear statement of the belief of the author of Luke and Acts—and presumably, the faith community he wrote for—that faith needs to be much more than a private, personal matter. Authentic Christian faith can’t help but have an impact on a believer’s lifestyle choices. Also, any who request membership in the community of faith do so in response to the presence and beckoning of Christ. Therefore, we who welcome them had better be careful about taking any credit for ourselves.

This is a selection from the Revised and Updated Edition of The Rosary Handbook: A Guide for Newcomers, Old-Timers, and Those In Between by Mitch Finley (The Word Among Us Press, 2017). Available at