These men are not drunk, given it is but the third hour of the day.
Thanks to these words of St Peter we know the precise time of day of the descent of the Holy Spirit: the third hour, the hour of Terce, that is, according to our modern reckoning, nine o’clock in the morning. The hour of Terce has thus become the hour of the Holy Spirit, and each day we invoke Him at that hour to come into our hearts and give voice to our praise. We ask Him to take possession of our whole being, that it may be entirely given over to the praise and glory of God.
True, the apostles were not drunk with wine, but they were inebriated with the Holy Spirit. It was He who inspired them with words they knew not, with languages they had not learned, with boldness and prodigious deeds that astounded the witnesses and, to this day, make of this event one of the most holy days of the year, the day of the foundation of the Church.
On this day, the preaching of the Gospel rings out for the first time. The apostles, from weak, timid and ignorant men, are transformed in an instant and become the source of the faith of the entire Church. Power is given to them beyond the forces of nature. As men inebriated with the Holy Spirit, they become fearless in proclaiming to the world the truths it does not want to hear.
Indeed, what does St Peter tell us in this first Pentecost Homily? He makes three points.
First of all, he cites the prophet Joel as having foretold the event. In so doing, he links the Old and New Testaments. The Gospel does not appear out of nowhere, nor is it in a vacuum. For centuries God had been preparing this moment, and it has come.
Secondly, he proclaims that Jesus was sent by God, His countless miracles bearing witness to His divine mission. “This Jesus whom God sent to you as Saviour, you rejected Him, you killed Him. But God raised Him up on the third day and made Him Lord of all”. Here too St Peter quotes the Old Testament, this time a psalm, showing that the resurrection of Jesus had been prophesied all along and has actually now come to pass.
The third point draws the conclusion. You need to repent and be baptised in Jesus’ name for the forgiveness of your sins.
It is now easy to see why and how this first apostolic sermon is paradigmatic for all subsequent preaching in the Church. The Holy Spirit, as third Person of the Blessed Trinity, unites all periods of history, He shows the beauty of God’s plan who, from the beginning did not abandon the human race but promised a Saviour and announced His coming in so many different ways. And now in these latter days, His plan of salvation is made manifest, and it is incumbent upon us to welcome the message and turn to Jesus for the salvation of our souls.
St Peter’s words at the end of his discourse are addressed to every generation, but seem to be spoken to us today with growing vehemence: “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation”. If we desire salvation, we must turn our backs on the corrupt world around us, for there are, sad to say, always many souls who refuse the message of Christ crucified and risen, who close themselves to the saving power of the Holy Spirit, and who therefore reject the forgiveness of their sins. They go on sinning and are lost.
And so my dear friends, let us not be among those who resist the Holy Spirit, but rather let us open ourselves wide to His saving grace. Let us become drunk, not with the debilitating pleasures of the senses and the world, but with the invigorating presence of God’s Spirit.
If we do, then we too will find the strength to proclaim to the world the truths it does not want to hear but which it so dearly needs to hear, for they alone can save it. May the Spirit of truth and love inspire us with zeal for the glory of God and the salvation of all souls, through the intercession of Mary Immaculate, Mother of God and Mother of the Church.