Bishop Alan on Pentecost and what it means for us

All the gifts we desperately need to live, to witness, to be alive in Christ – all those gifts are offered to us on Pentecost Sunday if only we look to almighty God and, like Mary, say yes to the spirit of God.

Bishop Alan Williams sm

Bishop Alan Williams sm said Mass for Pentecost at Our Lady of Good Counsel, Wickford on Sunday 31 May. Afterwards, he led the Rosary as part of the National Rosary Relay. If you missed it, you can listen to his homily for Pentecost or read a transcript below.

Bishop Alan Williams' homily


“It had been a long journey from the ministry with Christ, the learning about Christ, the learning about God in Christ to the passion, the death, the burial of Christ and then the resurrection on Easter Sunday – a long, long journey for the early Church.  And today at Pentecost, the Church found itself locked in fear in the upper room. There had been great joy knowing Christ; they had experienced transformation, healing, life, actually, everything – to know Jesus was to know God.

Yet at Pentecost the early Church found itself locked in fear in the upper room, for fear of the outside world. They couldn’t preach the Gospel, they couldn’t live the Gospel, they couldn’t witness to the Gospel. Something had gone very, very wrong. They had lost their heart; they had lost their soul. But two things transformed things on Pentecost Sunday. The first was the presence among the apostles, in the early church, of Mary, the Mother of Jesus. Mary, the woman who never lost faith, Mary, the woman who never forgot, Mary, the woman who held fast to Christ, Christ alive, Christ dead, Christ risen. One can imagine that in the locked upper room on Pentecost Sunday there was a glimmer of hope as Mary talked, as Mary prayed. We are told in the Acts of the Apostles that they were centred around Mary, the mother of Jesus. She is in their midst, she is witnessing still, she keeps the flame of faith alight.

Then something else happened on Pentecost Sunday that was remarkable. The clue is in the first reading today – one simple word:  ‘suddenly’, ‘unexpectedly’ – well words almost failed the writer of the Acts of Apostles, St Luke, and they can almost fail us – suddenly there was confusion, suddenly there was a mighty wind, suddenly there was noise, suddenly there were things happening that could not be written down, that could not be explained. Tongues of fire appeared. Well, rather than describe what happened, let’s simply think about how things changed. Well, the early Church suddenly found courage not fear; they found they could love the world, not simply hate it and that their faith flourished where doubt before had ruled everything. They found that instead of despair (that terrible word), they were filled with hope. They went outside, they preached the Gospel, they lived the Gospel – if they had been afraid of how to preach the Gospel, words were given them. Mighty things happened – many people became Christians because of their witness.

I said at the beginning of Mass, we call this the birthday of the Church. In many ways the Church began with Mary, of course, and all the events of Mary’s life came to fruition on Pentecost Sunday. Everything was changed.

So how might we celebrate Pentecost Sunday ourselves?

We are all aware of lockdown, aware of the great anxiety, terror even for many people of the virus. So many things unexplained, so many things seem simply too much. Today, of course, is the day when many of our candidates in parishes and at the Cathedral would be receiving the Sacrament of Confirmation. That is not possible today and my thoughts and prayers are with those candidates.

What we can do today, all of us, is again ask almighty God, Holy Spirit, Father and Son, to grant us a new Pentecost, a great renewal. All the gifts we desperately need to live, to witness, to be alive in Christ – all those gifts are offered to us on Pentecost Sunday if only we look to almighty God and, like Mary, say yes to almighty God, yes to the spirit of God.

I wish you a very happy Pentecost. All of us are uncertain of the immediate future – we don’t quite know when churches will be open, we hope that will be soon – all we do know is that things will be different in some ways afterwards. But what will endure, what will always be the same, is the love of God in Christ. The love of God for the world and the guarantee of the Holy Spirit with the Father and the Son: it changes our world, it changes our church, it changes our hearts so that we might conform ourselves more closely to the image, the truth, the life of Our Lord Jesus Christ.”