The room was filled. People were sitting along the walls and not much room was left for walking around. It was warm but a gentle breeze was blowing--that would change. There was fear in the room. The Roman army was a thing to be feared. They had just crucified Jesus and it was a dangerous thing to associates of an executed criminal.
They were also anxious about the promise--the coming of the Spirit. The only thing they knew about God descending in fire was the experience of their ancestors at Mount Sinai. When that happened they all ran and hid and said to Moses, "Never let God speak to us again; you go talk with Him and come back and tell us what the said."
The people huddled in the Upper Room knew that Pentecost was approaching. Pentecost means "the 50th day." Fiftieth day from what? From the Passover. Almost fifty days ago the Passover lambs had been slain. The ultimate Passover Lamb had been nailed to a cross.
Then there was the forty days of mystery when Jesus was gone but not gone, with them but not with them, at least not like before. He kept just appearing and then disappearing.
He taught them a lot in those forty days, He had breathed on them, given them power to forgive and retain sins, fed them loaves and fish, appointed Peter as his shepherd, commanded them to go out from Jerusalem to the world. He had explained to them much about the Kingdom of God and their tasks as His emissaries.
The last meeting was the most unusual of all. He answered a few questions, gave a few instructions and then, without even a formal good-bye, He started going up--and continued going up until all they saw was the bottom of his sandals as he disappeared into a cloud. Daniel 7:13-14 says he went back to the glory of heaven.
Now they looked at each other with obvious concern on their faces--they were fearful. They locked themselves in the Upper Room to pray as Jesus had commanded. They were praying for what they feared--fire. They prayed for nine days, the first Novena, before the promise of the Holy Spirit fell.
We are specifically told that there were about 120 people in the room. Actually the Greek word is "names" not people. How strange. Can you imagine me saying, "About 120 names came on our pilgrimage to the Holy Land"? This made me curious so I looked up 120 in early Jewish literature and law. Sure enough, my research paid off.
In Israel, if a group of Jews desiring to leave the big city and start their own new community, they needed a minimum of 120 names on a list. What was happening here in the Upper Room? A new community was being started. The word "church" in the New Testament is ecclesia which means "a group of people called out." Even today the Knessett (lawmaking body in Israel) is made up of 120 representatives.
Mary is listed among the believers in that Upper Room. It was important that she counted among the others. She is the mother of Jesus. She gave birth to him in Bethlehem and was, in a sense, giving birth to him, His mystical body, again on Pentecost.
What is our affectionate term for Pentecost? Can you sing "Happy Birthday, to you..."? Yes, it is the Birthday of the Church.