Pentecost in the Upper Room

by Deacon Bill Brennan, Chair of NCRC

I recently had a powerful experience of Pentecost alive in our day, and I do not think I will ever forget what I saw and experienced. When I was serving as the chair of the Steering Committee of the National Association of Diocesan Liaisons (ADL) last year, I received an invitation from ICCRS (the International Catholic Charismatic Renewal Services) to attend a "Prophetic Consultation" in Bethlehem (Nov. 13 - 18, 2013). Three of us from the ADL Steering Committee were able to go. When we arrived in Tel Aviv after a long flight, I had no idea of what we would experience, since this was to be the very first Prophetic Consultation sponsored by ICCRS.

We were 148 leaders from the Catholic Charismatic Renewal throughout the world, and we came from 47 countries. English, French, Spanish and Portuguese were the languages spoken (with translators since everything was in English). We stayed in a new Palestinian Christian hotel on the edge of manger square in Bethlehem, with one day (Sunday) scheduled for Jerusalem. We were encouraged not to have an international conference or to be tourists or even pilgrims in the holy places. This was to be a time for all of us to sit at the feet of Jesus and listen. Every day of our stay in Bethlehem was blessed with lots of prayer, listening and ministering to one another. We did have time for visiting the holy places in the area of manger square and, of course, for shopping. Each day, it seemed, brought us new blessings and new encounters with the Lord. But for me, the highlight of our experience was what happened on Sunday when we were in the Upper Room, that holy place that honors the fulfillment of the promise the Risen Christ had given to his apostles and disciples: they were to stay in the Upper Room until the promise of the Father had come upon them, which occurred on Pentecost and marked the birth of the church.

We drove into Israel by bus and went directly to the Old City of Jerusalem where we began our one-day trek (mostly walking). We stopped at several holy places at each of which there was a presentation on some aspect of Life in the Spirit with the challenges that it presents to us. After each presentation we prayed and tried to listen to what the Lord was saying to us at that moment. After eating lunch at a Christian restaurant, we gradually made our way to the area of the Upper Room, which we reached just as night fell. I am sure that none of us expected what would happen to us in that holy place.

As we entered the Upper Room, all 148 of us, we filled about three quarters of the room, and there was no one else there except us. They gathered us on one side of the room, and we then had the invitation to prayer, which quickly became a rousing prayer meeting as the Spirit took over. Our prayer became thunderous, as we cried out to the Lord. The singing and praying in tongues went on and on in a joyous exaltation of the Lord. And Pentecost came down on us as the anointing of the Holy Spirit took hold. After we had been praying for a bit, rocking the place with our praises, Michelle Moran, the president of ICCRS said, "Oh look, others have joined us!" I turned to look and was amazed to see that the room had filled with people who had come in after we started and who had joined us in our prayer. The Upper Room was packed from wall to wall. There were even people standing on the staircase that rises on one of the walls of the room. There was prayer, there was prophecy, there was singing in joy in the Spirit and there were visions. For those few moments, we were in the Upper Room with the apostles and disciples and with Mary, the Mother of Jesus. And all the while lines of scripture kept running through my heart: the story of the first Pentecost, the prophecy of Joel that Peter referred to in the first homily ever given in the history of the church. All in all, it was a glorious event, life-generating, fire-igniting, joy-filling. I only wish all of us could have been there. And it touched my heart very deeply, to such an extent that I will never forget it. It has filled me with a deep sense of wonder, awe and gratitude that our God would love us so much that he would lavishly pour out the blessing of Pentecost on us in this day and age.

So I return from manger square in Bethlehem and Jerusalem in Israel on fire and ready to go, as those apostles and disciples went, compelled to go out of the Upper Room and into the world and the church, living life in the Spirit to the fullest. I pray that all of those who have experienced the fire of the Holy Spirit and the amazing grace of baptism in the Holy Spirit throughout the world, but especially in Northern California, never lose that sense of amazement and astonishment at the great things our God has done for us. I pray also that they never lose the capacity to be astounded by what our God is capable of doing if we would only say "Yes!" to him and join with Mary in praying from the heart, "Let it be done to me according to your word."

I am more convinced than ever that this renewal, which the American bishops characterized as "grace for the new springtime," is desperately needed in this day and age. We have only scratched the surface of what God has in store for us. There is much to do and certainly much to celebrate as we bring this grace to the church and the world around us in everything we say and do. Let's join together and live Pentecost to the fullest, for we have the promise of Jesus to trust: if we knock, the doors will open for us; if we ask, we shall receive; and if we seek, we shall find.