May 17, 2024

Christ the Cornerstone

Live in the Spirit, bring Christ’s light to the world

Archbishop Charles C. Thompson

“Hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us” (Rom 5:5).

This weekend, we celebrate Pentecost Sunday. This solemn feast is the culmination of the Easter season and the anniversary of the birth of the Church.

Pentecost Sunday recalls the day when the Apostles were transformed from timid onlookers hiding behind locked doors to bold and courageous witnesses to the resurrection. On that day, the Holy Spirit appeared under the sacramental signs of wind and fire to breathe new life into the disciples and to set their hearts on fire.

As we read in the Acts of the Apostles:

When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled, they were all in one place together. And suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house in which they were. 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 2:1-4)

“Pentecost” is a Jewish harvest festival also called Shavu’ot, or the Feast of Weeks, which is celebrated 50 days after Passover. In Jesus’ time, the Feast of Weeks drew thousands of pilgrims from many different regions of the world to Jerusalem. Today, faithful Jews celebrate Shavu’ot by lighting candles and refraining from working (as on the Sabbath). They also decorate their synagogues with flowers and plants to recall the holiday’s agricultural origins.

Sacred Scripture tells us that it was on this holy day that the Church of Jesus Christ was empowered by the Holy Spirit to carry out the great commission given to the disciples by our Lord at the time of his ascension into heaven: “Go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature” (Mk 16:15).

And 2,000 years later, we know that what was accomplished by this small group of ordinary men and women “gathered in one place together” (Acts 2:1) “when the doors were locked for fear of the Jews” (Jn 20:19) could never have happened except as a miracle of God’s grace.

The Holy Spirit poured into the hearts of the disciples a love so strong that it was able to overcome every obstacle, including death. The Spirit’s manifold gifts allowed the Lord’s newly commissioned missionary disciples to gradually spread the good news of our salvation in Christ to every corner of the world.

Through “tongues of fire,” God’s Holy Spirit empowered the disciples to speak with one voice and to communicate with clarity and persuasive power to people of many diverse languages and cultures.

The first Christian Pentecost allowed the truth that is God’s word to penetrate the minds and hearts of the thousands of pilgrims assembled in Jerusalem for the Feast of Weeks. And from there, during the past two millennia, many millions of men, women and children have come to know, love and serve our Lord Jesus Christ through the presence and power of the Holy Spirit.

As amazing as it was, the miraculous work begun at Pentecost is far from complete. The great commission remains a task that every baptized follower of Jesus Christ is asked to carry out. Like the first disciples, to be successful, we need the gifts of the Holy Spirit. To overcome the many obstacles placed before us, we need to speak with confidence and hope. We need to proclaim with boldness and courage that the Lord is risen and that he is with us always—to the end of time.

When the risen Christ appeared to his disciples “on the evening of that first day of the week, he said to his disciples, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.’ And when he had said this, Jesus breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained’ ” (Jn 20:19-23).

With this was born the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church that has endured the trials and adversities of the past 2,000 years. This diverse community of Spirit-filled evangelizers continues to this day in faithful service to the mission that Christ has entrusted to us.

Come, Holy Spirit. Set our hearts ablaze with the fire of God’s love. Help us to cast off indifference and fear. Strengthen us with your abundant gifts and teach us to be true to our calling as faithful missionary disciples of Jesus Christ. †

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