May 15, 2016 — Pentecost Sunday — Mass During the Day
Today is Pentecost Sunday, popularly known as the birthday of our Catholic Church. It is 50 days after Easter, 50 days after the Resurrection of Christ. It is the day when Jesus sent His apostles forth to forgive others and to proclaim the Good News. In his homily on Pentecost Sunday a few short months after becoming Pope, our Holy Father Francis declared, “The Holy Spirit transforms and renews us, creates harmony and unity, and gives us courage and joy for the mission.” In that one sentence Pope Francis sums up the elation and strength we should experience on this Holy Day, and he summarizes our readings on this day.
The First Reading from the Acts of the Apostles explains exactly what occurred on Pentecost in Jerusalem centuries ago. Ten days prior to this day the Apostles and others had witnessed Christ’s Ascension into Heaven. The Holy Spirit was something with which those early followers were familiar for they had seen the Holy Spirit working through the Lord throughout His ministry.
Just as the Holy Spirit was promised to those early followers in order to build the Kingdom of God on earth, it is promised to us as well. The Apostles knew that the Spirit was worth waiting for, and we need to realize that also. The Holy Spirit is not granted just to us as individuals, but to our entire faith community. We, however, both as particular persons and as a united community must receive the Holy Spirit and then translate the power granted with the Holy Spirit into the work of Christ here and now.
Is there a more eloquent statement about what it means to be a Catholic community than our Second Reading from St. Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians? Paul explains how we as a group receive the Holy Spirit and how through that we become stronger and more unified. It is exactly as Pope Francis described it — we are transformed and renewed; we are united in one accord; and we are blessed with both the courage to be Christ’s disciples and the incredible jubilation which results from that.
It is worth noting that when Paul states that there are “different workings but the same God,” he is identifying for us what stewardship is all about. The original Greek word for what is translated as “workings” is energemata. One meaning of that word is “ministries,” but we can also see that it is the root word for our words “energy, energetic, and energize.” It is through our ministries that we energize and bring to life the Holy Spirit which we have received. We often say that Christ is calling us to not just believe in Him but to act on that belief — to do something, to reach out, to participate in the life of the Church.
On the day of His Resurrection Christ appears to others five times. In the appearance related in the Gospel of John today we witness Jesus charging His followers with a mission, a task to evangelize and to forgive and to go out to the world as His disciple and His witness. On this birthday of the Church we hear the same message and receive the same instructions. There is a sense of the energy and the dynamism which comes with the Holy Spirit found in our Church and in our lives but we must seek it and we must utilize it.
Pentecost Sunday marks the end of the Easter season, but at the same time it marks a beginning — the beginning of our Church, of our mission, and of the work we have to do here on earth. Today is the zenith of Easter; today is the day when we realize the power of Easter as the Spirit fills us. This is the beginning of a new day in the life of our parish and the life of the Church. We are empowered by the Holy Spirit, and we are called to spread the Good News of Christ to all.