May 22, 2015

Pentecost Sunday / Msgr. Owen F. Campion

The Sunday Readings

Msgr. Owen CampionIn the Church’s liturgical year, only Easter and Christmas eclipse Pentecost. The importance and grandeur of these feasts of course derive from the events being commemorated. But the Church also records the lessons taught by the feasts and, through the readings for these feasts, instructs us in how to follow the Lord as faithful and worthy disciples.

Pentecost also is an ancient Jewish feast. The first Christians very often were of Jewish origins. The Apostles were Jews. So they observed the Jewish Pentecost.

In the Jewish context, this feast celebrated the identity, unity and vocation of the Hebrew people. With the coming of the Holy Spirit and in the overall context of salvation in Christ Jesus, Pentecost took on a greater meaning for Christians, a meaning centered in Christianity.

Pentecost became a great Christian holy day, recalling the moment when God the Holy Spirit put new life in the Apostles and, through them, formed the reality of the Church as the bearer of salvation in Christ to future generations everywhere.

This first reading recalls the first Pentecost and its aftermath. Under the leadership of Peter, the Apostles were united. They were emboldened, never relenting in their mission of declaring Jesus as Lord and Savior. According to tradition, all but one of these Apostles died as a martyr. The only one who didn’t give his life for the Gospel was St. John, and he was severely persecuted.

An important lesson is in the fact that the Christians very clearly were a community gathered around the Apostles with Peter undeniably at their head.

For the second reading, the Church presents a passage from First Corinthians. Absolute faith in Christ, as God and as Savior, is key. It also is vital. Without grace, humans are confused and liable to even fatal missteps.

St. John’s Gospel is the source of the last reading, which is a resurrection narrative. The risen Lord appears before the Apostles. The reading is profoundly relevant for Catholics. As God, possessing the Holy Spirit, Jesus gives the Apostles the power to forgive sins, extraordinary because only God can forgive sins.

This reading makes abundantly clear the Lord’s conferral of divine authority and power upon the Apostles.

Reflection

For weeks, the Church has rejoiced in the resurrection, joyfully proclaiming that Jesus is, not was, Lord. He lives!

Throughout the Easter season, the Church in the readings at Mass has called us to realize what effect the resurrection had upon humanity. It has been a wondrously good effect.

Future generations, including our own, share in this effect. How? Christ lives again and encounters us, in and through the Church.

While true conversion requires a completely free and uncompromised individual decision, Christians are bound together in the Church because they share their identity with Christ, their bond with Christ and their life in Christ.

It is a gift and a challenge. Christians bear together the mission to bring God’s mercy and wisdom to the world. Christians, however zealous, cannot be ships passing each other silently in the night.

Rather, as Acts reveals, they are part of the community still gathered around the Apostles, under the leadership of Peter, still looking to the Apostles for guidance and direction.

The Church is the gathering of true believers, committed to making Christ known, to bringing themselves more closely to God by bringing others to God.

Nothing is more Catholic, more traditional, than the recent popes’ call for evangelization by Catholics in all walks of life.

On this feast, the Church teaches a very contemporary lesson. Believers today compose an apostolic Church created by God to bring divine mercy to weary and wandering people, just as the first believers did 2,000 years ago.

Through the Church, through us, as it first happened in Jerusalem so long ago, Christ serves all, and offers hope to all today.

Think about it. We can refresh the world! †

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