May 29, 2009

Pentecost / Msgr. Owen F. Campion

The Sunday Readings

Msgr. Owen CampionThis weekend, the Church celebrates the great feast of Pentecost.

It corresponds with, and builds upon, an ancient Jewish feast. As such, it is the only Jewish feast still, albeit indirectly, commemorated by the Church.

The Jewish feast celebrated the gathering together of the Hebrew people into one nation, God’s Chosen People.

Acts again is the source of the first reading.

It is a passage abundant in meaning. The believers are assembled together. They hear a noise similar to a strong wind—an image the Old Testament used on occasion to indicate the presence of God—then tongues of fire appear before them. Fire was another image found in the Old Testament to describe God’s presence. The burning bush, seen by Moses on Mount Sinai, was one such appearance of God in fire.

All the Apostles received the Holy Spirit. The Apostles then went out to the public. In Jerusalem for the feast of Pentecost were devout Jews from many places. There was no common language, yet everyone was able to understand what the Apostles were saying about God.

First Corinthians provides the next reading.

The reading is frank. Faith is God’s gift. No one can sincerely and earnestly say that Jesus is Lord unless prompted by the Holy Spirit. The same Holy Spirit gives believers many gifts. All have special talents and instincts. Everything comes together in the common vocation to love God, in Christ, and to serve God.

No accidentals mar the absolute unity among all people who love the Lord. Ethnicity means nothing. Gender means nothing. Advantage, in the earthly sense, means nothing.

As its last reading, the Church proclaims a passage from the Gospel of John.

It is a Resurrection Narrative, and it is very compelling in its lesson for us.

The disciples had locked the doors. They quivered and retreated in their fear. The barred doors meant nothing to Jesus. He simply passed through them and stood among the disciples.

He bid them to be at peace. He showed them the marks of the Crucifixion. He had survived Calvary. He truly had died, but had risen again to life. With such power to protect them, the disciples had no cause for fear.

Then the Lord breathed on the disciples, employing another Old Testament symbol of transmitting divine power. He then empowered the disciples to forgive sins. Sin was, and is, an act defying God. Only God can forgive sin. Now the disciples, through Jesus, possess such power.


This weekend, the Church celebrates Pentecost. In so doing, the Church celebrates its own identity as the instrument by which redemption reaches humans, and the one vine from which Christians receive the nourishment of eternal life and bond with God in Jesus. It celebrates its own beginnings.

The Church is not simply an organization. It is the body of people whose faith bonds them with Christ and therefore with each other. They share the one life of Christ, given to them in grace. They share the Holy Spirit.

The Church’s magisterium has called this great company “The Mystical Body of Christ.”

As a body, the believers represent Christ on Earth. In this body of believers, they live with Christ, hearing the word, receiving the grace of the sacraments. Their holy lives bear witness to the Lord, obedient unto the death of the cross and risen to everlasting life.

We are the bearers of divine love. Indeed, as awesome as it is, we bear the Lord into our world.

In this body, Jesus still speaks through those whom the Lord commissioned to teach us, namely the Apostles.

First Corinthians calls us to be open to the Spirit. And it calls us all to remember that we—individually and in the community of the Church—must continue the redemption of Christ, with its mercy, justice and peace. †

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