May 22, 2015

Rejoice in the Lord

Rivers of living water flow from those who believe

Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin

“Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.”
—Winston Churchill

Winston Churchill’s famous saying about “the end of the beginning” was intended to inspire the British people during the Second World War. Churchill wanted to affirm the progress being made while, at the same time, reminding his fellow Britons that they still had a long way to go.

This same sentiment applies to the Solemnity of Pentecost, which we celebrate now after seven weeks of Easter joy. Christ has risen and ascended to the Father. This is not the end for his disciples. It’s not even the beginning of the end. But we might consider it the end of the beginning, the end of a great period of preparation that now culminates in the Apostles’ baptism of fire by the Holy Spirit.

Up to this moment, the disciples have truly been disciples (followers, learners). While Jesus gave them various assignments during the time of his public ministry, they did not initiate anything or act on their own. They were students of a master who was also their friend and even their servant as we saw when he washed their feet during the Last Supper.

That was the beginning, their time of experiential learning or pastoral formation. That time is over now.

With the advent of the Holy Spirit, Peter and the Apostles are called to accept leadership roles, to take responsibility for continuing the mission and ministry of their Lord to the ends of the Earth and to the end of time. We might say that it is the end of the beginning and the inauguration or commencement of a whole new era in the history of the world. Pentecost initiates the time of the Holy Spirit and the birth of the Church.

The Church teaches that “by his coming, which never ceases, the Holy Spirit causes the world to enter into ‘the last days,’ the time of the Church, the Kingdom already inherited though not yet consummated” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, #732). This is our time, the time when we who wish to follow Jesus are called to lead and to serve; it is a time that requires courage and wisdom and all the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

Remember where the disciples were—and the state they were in—when “suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind” (Acts 2:2). They were huddled together in a room because they were afraid and didn’t know what else to do. “Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them. And they were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim” (Acts 2:3–4).

Until the Holy Spirit was given to them, the disciples were wimps. They were too scared to leave the house. They were too confused to take action, and too uncertain to know what to say or where to begin. The first Pentecost changed everything for them. It gave them the power to speak (in different tongues), and to act in ways that radically changed the course of world history. Pentecost was the end of the beginning for Christ’s disciples.

In the Gospel for the Vigil Mass of the Solemnity of Pentecost (Jn 7: 37–39), Jesus says, “Let anyone who thirsts come to me and drink. As Scripture says: ‘Rivers of living water will flow from within him who believes in me’ ” (Jn 7:37-38). He said this in reference to the Holy Spirit, St. John tells us. Rivers of living water flow from one who has received the Spirit’s gifts. And this living water casts out fear and gives us the courage to proclaim the Gospel in our words and our actions to the ends of the Earth.

This Pentecost, let’s pray for the courage to receive the gifts of the Holy Spirit and to act as bold, faithful disciples of our Lord Jesus Christ. Let’s make our own the Church’s constant prayer:

Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful
And kindle in them the fire of your love.
Send forth your Spirit, and they shall be created.
And you shall renew the face of the Earth.
O God, who by the light of the Holy Spirit,
Did instruct the hearts of the faithful,
Grant that by the same Holy Spirit we may be
Truly wise and ever enjoy his consolations.
Through Christ, our Lord. Amen.

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