June 12, 2011 – Pentecost Sunday
The whole season is magnificent, of course. We celebrated Christ’s glorious Resurrection and then his Ascension into heaven. And now comes Pentecost, when we commemorate the Holy Spirit’s descent upon the apostles gathered in prayer.
The Holy Spirit, as the Third Person of the Holy Trinity, had been active since Creation and throughout human history. His actions upon the Israelite leaders had been noted from time to time throughout the Old Testament, and Jesus had repeatedly taught about him. But the Spirit came in a fresh way on Pentecost to dwell with the Church forever.
The apostles would have learned about the Spirit as they studied the Scriptures while they grew up. They had heard Jesus tell them to receive the Spirit when he gave them authority to forgive sins. But they must have experienced the Spirit within and among them in a new manner on Pentecost, for they poured out of that Upper Room as changed men. Instead of being huddled together behind locked doors because of their fear, they boldly proclaimed Jesus as Messiah and Lord. They had received the power Jesus had spoken of just before the Ascension. That power was evident in the effects their ministry had, as large numbers came to put their faith in Christ.The Holy Spirit empowers, guides, and sanctifies the Church. In fact, one of the images of the Church list in the Catechism of the Catholic Church is “the Temple of the Holy Spirit.” But his activity is not limited to the apostles and their successors the bishops. Instead the Spirit comes to all the faithful. “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins,” St. Peter proclaimed, “and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38).
Thus the Holy Spirit is himself a gift who comes to us in Baptism and whose action in us is strengthened in Confirmation. But the Spirit is not only a gift we receive. The Spirit himself gives gifts, special gifts for our life in the Church.
This does not mean that we all have the same gifts or the same roles in the Church. There are different vocations – clergy, religious, and laity. Even among the laity there are those called to the single life and those called to marriage.
But God also gives different abilities and interests to the members of the Church. St. Paul refers to them in today’s Second Reading. “Different kinds of spiritual gifts … different forms of service … different workings” all come from the same divine Trinity. And the Church needs them all to carry out her divine mandate of bringing God’s salvation to the whole human race. Everyone has at least one gift; some have many; no one has them all. Pastors, teachers, evangelists, indeed, but also musicians, farmers, cooks, nurses, bookkeepers, electricians and all the others have their places in the Body of Christ, the Church, with their unique contributions to the corporate life.
That’s another point St. Paul insists on. The gifts are not given for our personal satisfaction, although we find that when we’re following God’s plan for our life. “To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit,” he wrote. The benefit he referred to is not for ourselves. It’s a benefit for the whole Church or for those members who need the particular ministry our gifts provide.
So Pentecost has a direct connection with stewardship. The Holy Spirit who distributes gifts and talents among Christians, the members of the Church, guides us and empowers us as we make our commitments to use our talent for the sake of building up the Kingdom of God. Let us celebrate with joy this Pentecost, and ask for guidance and strength to use the talents entrusted to us in the best possible way.