Q: Did our religion start before Jesus died?
– Reese Garnjobst, seventh grade, Notre Dame Junior/Senior High School, Burlington
A: This question really makes me think! So, here goes.
Public Christianity began on the day of Pentecost, as described in the Bible in Acts. One could debate this date. For example, one could say that Christianity began the day Jesus rose from the dead, or one could say that Christianity began the day Jesus was born, or the day he began his public ministry. Since “Christianity” is not defined precisely in the New Testament, one can always debate the day it started.
(In fact, the word Christian only appears twice in the New Testament, being used by outsiders, not the disciples.) However, this debate would probably not be a fruitful one. We call Pentecost the birthday of the Church.
The reason I picked the Pentecost date is twofold. First, the events in Acts Chapter two are the first recorded example of salvation in the name of Jesus Christ being preached to the general public.
Another reason I pick this date is that Jesus pointed to it very much as a beginning — some would say the beginning of the Christian age. The day of Pentecost was when the Holy Spirit was poured out with power on the disciples in a unique, miraculous way. God was definitely calling attention to the event! We see tongues of fire, people preaching and being understood in more than 10 languages, and great rushing wind.
On Pentecost, God was clearly trying to get people’s attention. We see the fulfillment of the great prophecy of the coming of the Kingdom in Joel 3:1-3. Peter (Acts 2:16) declared that the events on Pentecost were a direct fulfillment of this prophecy. Jesus clearly predicted the great pouring out of the Spirit more than once as a starting point (Acts 1:4-7, Matthew 16:19) for the kingdom of God on earth, as did John the Baptist (Matthew 3:11).
— Mary Wieser, director of Faith Formation for the Diocese of Davenport
(Students in grades kindergarten through 12 are invited to submit questions about the Catholic Church for The Catholic Messenger’s new Young & Curious feature, which is sponsored by St. Ambrose University. Send them to firstname.lastname@example.org or The Catholic Messenger, 780 W. Central Park Ave., Davenport, Iowa, 52804.)