He breathed on them. Pentecost is the climax of Eastertide and the birthday of the Church. Fifty days after the resurrection, the public fountain of sanctifying grace was unsealed. From heaven Christ breathed forth the Holy Spirit upon His infant Church, publicly. He had already done so privately in the upper room on the first Easter day when He gave the apostles His own authority and power to absolve sins.
At Pentecost the infant Church was ensouled, delivered, baptized and confirmed, all on the same occasion. It was an indelible drenching, a total immersion, of the infant Church by the Third Person of the Godhead.
In that outpouring of the Spirit we see the template of God’s plan for humanity. Part of that plan is the merciful reversal of the tragic diversity of human tongues, the curse imposed by heaven when human pride overreached itself by constructing the tower of Babel (Gen.11:1-9).
At Pentecost the curse of Babel is reversed. By the power of the Holy Spirit the long process of healing our fragmentation is begun. The Lord and giver of life creates a new and supra-national human family, with a single new religious identity and a single new credal language.
Our new language is not just another transient human dialect. The Spirit bestows a far higher gift than clumsy human speech. The new language is the sublime language of Christian faith. Jesus is Lord! That is the new tongue with which God will reunite the fragmented human race.
They heard what sounded like a powerful wind from heaven…and something appeared to them, which seemed like tongues of fire. The Church’s mission to convert the world to Christ began in flame and whirlwind. The fiery proclamation of the new Truth by the apostles is heard by representatives of all mankind. The mighty works of God are miraculously understood by all, in spite of the arbitrary divisions caused by multiple languages and nationalisms. All hear. All understand.
This is an icon of God’s plan for the human race. The Catholic Church, on fire with the Holy Spirit, is empowered with the force of a mighty rushing wind to reunite mankind within the new and irreplaceable religion, in the new and everlasting covenant: a new religion based on a new faith, faith in Jesus Christ the Son of God – the only Name under heaven by which we can be saved.