Pentecost…now what?

If you’re like me, there seems to be a real disconnect between the solemnity of Pentecost and the swift change immediately into Ordinary Time. (Thankfully, Pope Francis gave us a little buffer with the memorial of Mary, Mother of the Church). But still, going from the imagery of fire, water, tongues, and brilliant shades of red back to “normal” in the course of 24 hours is a little too much for me to process. Previously, there used to be an octave for Pentecost (8 days of celebration, as for Christmas and Easter), but in the new calendar Ordinary Time begins right away. 

While we could certainly get into further conversation about the origins of this change and the rationale behind it, the fact of the matter is that the change has been made. We now have the season of green following the splendid day of red so close in sequence that you would think they were Christmas colors. 

Thankfully, our Lord works in the present moment. He is the God of “the now.” Whether you are a fan of the change, ardently disagree with it, or find yourself indifferent, perhaps we can look at Ordinary Time in a new way – as a time of God’s immanent action. 

At Pentecost, of course, the Spirit is sent upon the disciples who were gathered together in the Upper Room with Our Lady. It was at this point that they began to live the apostolic life in the Holy Spirit. In other words, they were given the Spirit of Christ so that they could bring his very presence to the ends of the earth. They couldn’t simply rest in the Upper Room – the Spirit compelled them to go out and to live their life in the Spirit. 


And so, perhaps we can begin to look at Ordinary Time as the time to live our lives totally immersed in the Holy Spirit. Traditionally, the green of the season is symbolic of new life and Christian hope – both gifts of the Spirit. And also the first Sunday celebration in Ordinary Time is the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity – who comes to dwell in the baptized soul by the power of the Holy Spirit. The week after, we celebrate Corpus Christi in which we remember the gift of Christ’s Body and Blood made sacramentally present at each Mass through the action of the Spirit. 

In a certain way, Ordinary Time is the perfect time for the Spirit to manifest his ever-new creativity. Throughout the Advent and Christmas seasons, along with Lent and Easter, we focus our attention on the salvific acts of Christ. Ordinary Time, however, is the time in which we can better focus on the power and creativity of the Spirit who always seeks to make present those realities in our daily lives in an ever-new way.

 In other words, perhaps we can look at Ordinary Time like the Church intends it to be understood – as a time of hope and new life. Thinking back to the apostles who left the Upper Room following Pentecost, I can only imagine that they were filled to the brim with those two gifts. And upon bringing the saving work of Christ to the nations, I’m sure those gifts only continued to increase, even in spite of danger and difficulty. 

Come to think of it, the color of this time is green. 

And green means “go.”  

Come, Holy Spirit, and send us forth with new hope in order to bring new life!

Brian Isenbarger, MA ’14, is an alumnus of the Saint Joseph’s College Online Theology Program. He is currently a seminarian at Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg, MD, preparing for the priesthood for the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend.


Eucharist: What is it and have we taken it for granted?

Though we celebrate the liturgy of the Eucharist everyday at Mass, there is a tendency to get complacent.  Have we taken this great gift of Christ for granted?  This seems to be our human nature, because if we do something enough we tend to go through the motions.  I have the feeling that this has happened to many with the Eucharist.  During these strange times we have not been able to have this gift.  With public Masses beginning to resume, it is important to remember how great of a gift it truly is.

We have all been forced to take a step back and take a moment to remember what an awesome gift the Eucharist is.  With this in mind I want to take a brief look and see what scripture and the early church tells us about the blessed sacrament.


Though some terms for the Eucharist developed over time, the belief of what the Eucharist is has been around since New Testament times.  Jesus gave a speech that we call the Bread of Life Discourse in which he says that unless we eat his flesh and drink his blood that we have no life within us (John 6:53).  The synoptic Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke give us the words of institution that we hear so often (Matthew 26:17-30, Mark 14:12-26, and Luke 22:7-39). In summary, Jesus tells us to eat the bread and says “This is my body”.  Then he takes the cup of wine and says “This is the cup of my blood that was given for you”.  Notice how our Lord says “this is” and not that it is merely a symbolic action.

The real presence of Christ in the Eucharist is one that held true in the doctrine of the early church.  The big heresy going around in the first couple centuries of the church was Gnosticism.  The Gnostics believed that all matter was evil, and as such, Jesus himself didn’t actually die on the cross.

Since all matter was deemed evil by the Gnostics, the Eucharist was something that was unfathomable.  After all, if matter were evil, then there was no way that the bread and wine can transform into the body and blood of Christ.

The early church fathers understood the Gnostic line of thinking and used the Eucharist as a way to refute them.  In approximately 107 A.D., St. Ignatius of Antioch writes in his letter to the Smyrneans, “They [the Gnostics] abstain from the Eucharist and from prayer, because they confess not the Eucharist to be the flesh of our Saviour Jesus Christ, which suffered for our sins, and which the Father, of His goodness, raised up again”.

Justin Martyr, writing around 150 A.D., states that the bread and wine changes into the body and blood of Christ upon the prayer of the priest.  In his great work titled Against Heresies, St. Irenaeus writes “the bread, which is produced from the earth, when it receives the invocation of God, is no longer common bread, but the Eucharist.”

There are many other such quotes like this, spanning for several centuries.  One such quote comes from St. John Chrysostom who died in 407 A.D.  Describing the Eucharist, the great saint states, “How many of you say: I should like to see His face, His garments, His shoes. You do see Him, you touch Him, you eat Him. He gives Himself to you, not only that you may see Him, but also to be your food and nourishment.”

These quotes go on and on, and through them we see that the teaching of the church from the beginning is that the Eucharist is the body and blood of Christ.  At this point you are probably wondering why I am quoting all these great saints.  Friends, my heart hurts.

For every one person that enters the Catholic church, there are six people who leave.  Why would they leave such a great gift such as the Eucharist?  When I ask those that leave, their answers range from the sexual abuse scandal to a disagreement with a priest.

However, a majority that I have spoken to leave because they do not believe what the church teaches about the Eucharist.  Some didn’t even know the church’s teaching.

Perhaps we have taken this great sacrament for granted and our actions no longer show the reverence it deserves.  Perhaps some have just been poorly catechized. Maybe it is both.

I urge you, my friends, to take a moment to reflect on the greatness that is the Eucharist, especially if we have not been able to partake of it in a while. The very gift of Himself that our Lord gives us to nourish and strengthen us – may we never take it for granted and always show it the reverence it deserves.

William Hemsworth is an alumnus of Saint Joseph’s College Online Theology Program. An author, blogger, and podcaster, he is a columnist at Patheos and Catholic Stand, and President of the Tucson Institute of Catholic Apologetics.