1 Corinthians 12:3b-7, 12-13 or Romans 8:8-17
John 20:19-23 or John 14:15-16, 23b-26
Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim. (Acts 2:3-4)
Today the Church celebrates Pentecost Sunday. It is a very special day for Catholics and we honor this day with great solemnity and festivity.
We often call this feast day the "birthday of the Church." We do so with good reason. This is the day when the disciples of Jesus took on a new life, a new identity. It was a turning point for them. In dramatic fashion, they received the Spirit of Jesus and there was no turning back. They came into the world fully alive with the Spirit of Jesus.
The Church is no stranger to dramatic events. Each Divine Mystery unfolds in a dramatic way, and changes our lives forever. The Incarnation is celebrated through the Christmas narrative and peaks at the moment when Jesus is born in a stable of poor parents, surrounded only by Angels and outcasts, the shepherds of the field. The Passion story cumulates with the Crucifixion of Jesus, dying outside the city, rejected by everyone except his most faithful disciples. The Resurrection accounts have Jesus appearing to his disciples in dramatic ways that leaves them both joyful but anxious. The climax of these appearances is the Ascension of Jesus, when He is taken up to heaven, leaving the disciples longing for the days when Jesus walked with them in Israel.
With the feast of Pentecost, the central focus of the previous feast days changes dramatically. The focus is no longer on one person (that of Jesus) but on the entire community. St. Luke begins his account in the Acts of the Apostles by saying that "they were all in one place together." By the time Jesus ascended into Heaven, the disciples and all of his followers had resolved their differences with one another. Thomas no longer doubted. The disciples on the way to Emmaus had rejoined the community. The tensions between Peter and John were resolved. But they were not yet a community, a Church.
The Holy Spirit descended upon them, not as individuals, but as a Church. This is the basic teaching of this feast day. From then on, it was the Church community that continued the mission of Jesus and individuals became indispensible members of the one Body of Christ, as St. Paul so beautifully states in the Second Reading. While we are many, with many talents and abilities, there is only One Spirit, One Lord, One God.
The Power of the Spirit enables us to proclaim the Gospel of the Crucified Jesus with great passion and conviction. It enables us to be alive with the Love of God, when we are surrounded by the forces of sin and temptation. It enables us to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus, enabling us to overcome human frailty and failings, fears and anxieties. The Spirit makes us partners with Jesus and his mission.
Thank God for the Gift of the Spirit!
Fr. Clemente Barron, C.P. is stationed in San Antonio, Texas.