June 4, 2017 — Pentecost Sunday
Today we celebrate the Feast of Pentecost, which is significant to us as Catholics in multiple ways. It marks the completion of our Easter season, but it is also known to many as the birthday of the Church. We recall that it began with Jesus calling to His Apostles to “Follow me.” Now some three years later the Lord sends them out filled with the Holy Spirit to preach the “Good News.” Throughout His ministry Jesus prepared His followers for this moment, as it was clear He intended to give them the authority to build the Church and to do His work.
The Lord breathed on them granting them the Holy Spirit, just as God breathed life into the first humans during creation. Thus, this was a moment of re-creation. St. John Chrysostom pointed to Pentecost as the time when those who follow Jesus (which includes each of us), paralleled Moses when he came down from the mountain carrying tablets of stone in his hands, the Ten Commandments. St. John Chrysostom said, “The Apostles came down from the mountain carrying the Holy Spirit in their hearts. They were a living law, living tablets.” That should be true of us as well.
The First Reading today from the Acts of the Apostles reports the happenings on this day. It was on this day that the Holy Spirit was gifted to Jesus’ followers and on this day we received the gifts of the Holy Spirit, which allow us to live, proclaim, and model a Christian way of life. We hear that “they were all together in one place” when this occurred.
That is what we do when we gather, and that is what we are doing at this moment. At Mass we share gifts, especially the gift of the Eucharist, but we also share a love for God, a trust in the Lord. We, too, are filled with the Spirit. However, before we can be filled, we must recognize and acknowledge our emptiness.
We gather together to worship, to pray, in obedience. By being here we accept the fact that we need the guidance and help and strength of the Lord to carry out our mission. We have to rely on God.
St. Paul, in the Second Reading from his First Letter to the Corinthians, speaks of the spiritual gifts we have received. He points out that each of us has received that gift, but acknowledges that the gift we receive may vary in some ways. Nevertheless, all of our gifts combined make up the Body of the Church. Are you using your gifts? Have you prayed and considered what they might be and how you might use them to serve the Church and one another? Pentecost serves as a reminder to us that we must do that for the Church to be whole and for the Church, including our parish to be effective.
Every gift and every one of us is important in the eyes of God and important to the health of the Church. The Holy Spirit is always present in us but sometimes it may be more apparent both to us and to others. We must understand that the gifts we have received are intended to benefit all, not just us.
Pentecost falls 50 days after Easter. Our Gospel Reading from St. John records the first time Jesus appeared to His Apostles after the Resurrection, in other words on Easter Sunday. Just as today we are reminded of our call, so we are through this reading. Jesus says, “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” We have been given a mission to continue the work of Christ here and now. Every time we gather for Mass and receive Christ through the Eucharist we should have awareness and an understanding of that mission. When we leave here today, whenever we go out in the world, we are to share and spread the Good News.
The best way to do that has to do with how we live, what those around us see and experience through us. There is an idea that best explains what that means; that concept is stewardship. On Pentecost it became clear to the followers of Jesus that they were the stewards of His mission, the stewards of His Church. That sense of stewardship has been handed down for centuries and now rests on us. With the help of the Lord, permeated with the Holy Spirit, we need to go forth from here; indeed we need to go forth each and every day, to accomplish that mission. That is what the Church is all about, and that is what life should be all about for us.