A Reflection for Pentecost

Christopher O’Donnell, O.Carm.

All these were constantly devoting themselves to prayer, together with certain women, including Mary the mother of Jesus, as well as his brothers. (Acts 1:14)

At the beginning of his second book, Acts of the Apostles, Luke is particularly careful to set the scene for the birth in power of the Church at Pentecost. So we have three groups of witnesses assembled: the Twelve Apostles (“all these”, minus, of course Judas), who were witnesses to the public life of Jesus; the women, witnesses to the resurrection; Mary and the brothers, witnesses to the family of Jesus. These are described as being constantly in prayer awaiting the baptism in the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:5).

We see Mary at the heart of the infant Church. Only she and the Beloved Disciple had remained faithful at Calvary (see John 19:25-27). Mary knew from her own experience the coming of the Holy Spirit. She would surely have told the gathered Church to be expectant and open to what God would give them. Luke later tells us “all were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in tongues” (Acts 2:4). That “all” surely includes Mary.

One might wonder if Mary could receive the Holy Spirit again, after the Annunciation. We need to be careful about the word “fill.” We cannot imagine it like a bucket: if it is full, no more can be poured into it. The Holy Spirit comes with love and with gifts and can always give more to those who are open. Indeed members of the Jerusalem Church were twice filled with the Holy Spirit (see Acts 2:4 and 4:31).

After Pentecost, Mary disappears from the scene. We do not know how long she remained alive. In his encyclical on the Eucharist (Ecclesia de Eucharistia, 2003) Pope John Paul II invites us to attend Mass with the mind and heart of Mary, to receive Communion whilst mirroring her attitude.

The picture of Mary here is one of her constant prayer for the Church, of her complete openness to the Holy Spirit, and of her motherly concern for the Church. In this she is not only Queen of the Apostles, that is, of the Twelve, but also Queen of all apostles, namely of all those who serve her Son and proclaim his message.