May 9, 2008

Feast of Pentecost / Msgr. Owen F. Campion

The Sunday Readings

Msgr. Owen CampionPentecost, the feast celebrated this weekend, is the greatest day of the Church’s year save for Easter and Christmas. It is interesting in this sense. It is the only ancient Jewish feast still observed by the Church.

In the beginning, Christians almost invariably were of Jewish origins. However, quite early in Christian history, the Apostles took the Gospels far and wide. As a result of these missionary efforts, many people came into the Church who did not have Jewish backgrounds.

At that time, a series of political upheavals created great stresses in traditional Judaism. All these developments meant that the attention that once would have been paid to Jewish feasts, just as the Lord observed these feasts, faded and eventually ended altogether. Pentecost is the lone exception.

For Jews, Pentecost celebrates the divine bringing together of them as a people. In this act of God, more than just ethnic or genetic unity was created. They were unified as a people in their mission to be true to God and to profess God before all the nations.

Christians see Pentecost as their holy day, recalling the moment when God the Holy Spirit vivified the Apostles. Receiving strength and power from the Holy Spirit, the Apostles then went forward to proclaim salvation in Christ to the entire world.

This first reading recalls this event and its aftermath. Under the leadership of Peter, the Apostles were united. They were emboldened. They never relented from their mission of declaring Jesus as Lord and Savior. According to tradition, all but one of the Apostles died as martyrs.

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 a fatal misstep.

St. John’s Gospel is the source of the last reading, a Resurrection narrative.

The Risen Lord appears before the Apostles. As God, possessing the Holy Spirit, Jesus gives the Apostles the power to forgive sins, which was extraordinary because only God can forgive sins.


For weeks during this season, the Church has rejoiced in the Resurrection. It has excitedly proclaimed that Jesus is Lord and that Jesus lives!

As this season has progressed, the Church, through the readings at Mass, has called us to realize what effect that the Resurrection has upon us and upon human history.

The salvation achieved by Christ on Calvary will never end. It is for all time and for all people. It will be accomplished through the Lord’s disciples in every consecutive age.

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 and the grace of the Spirit.

Thus, they 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, and still looking to the Apostles for guidance and direction.

The Church offers itself. It is the gathering of true believers, who rely upon the Apostles for their knowledge of the Savior. Through the Apostles, the community links itself to the Savior, to the Father and to the Spirit.

On this feast, the Church teaches a very contemporary lesson. In 2008, as 20 centuries ago, it is the Apostolic Church, the community created by God to bring divine mercy to weary and wandering humans. As was the case in Jerusalem so long ago, it loves all, serves all and speaks of hope to all. Quite visibly, it still gathers around the Apostles, with Peter at the center. †

Local site Links: