May 26, 2023

Pentecost Sunday / Msgr. Owen F. Campion

The Sunday Readings

Msgr. Owen CampionThis weekend, the Church celebrates the Solemnity of Pentecost, one of the most important feasts of the Church’s liturgical year. It is richly biblical in its background, and is profoundly formative in its own message and in its place in the chronology of events commemorated these past weeks: Good Friday, Easter and the Ascension of the Lord being the most important.

Once, Christians chiefly were of Jewish origin. Christians therefore observed the Jewish holy days. Very early in Church history, this changed. Missionaries such as St. Paul took the Gospel far and wide, winning converts among the gentiles. Then, as a result of rebelling against the Romans in 70 A.D., the Jews themselves almost were annihilated.

Consequently, Christians stopped celebrating the Jewish holy days. An exception is Pentecost, although the Christian observance centers upon the distinctly Christian character of the day.

Nevertheless, the Christian character heavily draws upon the Jewish context of the day. In time, Pentecost became for Jews a celebration of Jewish identity, rejoicing in the collective role of the chosen people.

For Christians, Pentecost commemorates the initial formation of the Church by God. This event revealed the divinity of Jesus and the perfect union of the Holy Trinity in essence and in mission.

Important in the first reading from the Acts of the Apostles describing the first Pentecost is the community of the Apostles and of believers with them. Together, as one, they received the power of the Holy Spirit, which had been promised by Christ.

The Holy Spirit comes as God. The imagery is strong with Old Testament associations. The divine Spirit comes as fire, an image so often used for God in the Scriptures.

Strengthened by the Holy Spirit, the Apostles have divine power itself. They are without fear. Fortified, too, are all the members of the Church.

Portrayed in the reading are people in Jerusalem from places across the Roman Empire. Salvation is offered all who love God.

St. Paul’s First Epistle to the Corinthians furnishes the second reading. This reading clearly states that belief in Jesus as Lord belongs only to the humble and faithful. Without humility, without faith, humans are confused and seriously subject to their own limitations.

St. John’s Gospel provides the last reading. It is a Resurrection narrative. The risen Lord appears before the Apostles. He is God, possessing the Holy Spirit, able to give the life and power of the Spirit. He gives this power to the Apostles, specifically vesting them with the most divine of powers, the power to forgive sins.


The Church concludes its brilliant story of the sacrifice and then resurrection of Jesus on this Pentecost Sunday. Jesus is the Savior. In Jesus, God offered the world salvation.

The story of salvation, then, has one central figure, Jesus the Lord. He lived a human life. God in every sense, Jesus was human and remains so. It is the mystery and miracle of the incarnation.

Jesus ascended to heaven. He did not desert us, however. To continue his mission of salvation, Jesus called the Apostles. Specially taught, present with him as no one else, they had unique lessons and revelations from the Lord.

Their task was to assist us in overcoming our human limitations and in understanding the Gospel.

The Church is not a happenstance of people standing side by side. In the Spirit they share one source of life. Thus, Christians act in communion, ideally.

Pope Pius XII three generations ago masterfully told us that the Church is the mystical body of Christ, no mere human institution. Holiness is not automatic, however, for its members. They must cooperate with the grace of God to be part of Christ’s mystical body. †

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