Msgr. Owen Campion
The Sunday Gospel
May 18, 2024 // Perspective

At Pentecost, Pray to Strengthen the Gifts of the Holy Spirit

Msgr. Owen Campion
The Sunday Gospel


This weekend, the Church celebrates the feast of Pentecost. The Acts of the Apostles provides the first reading, the dramatic story of the first Pentecost. In this passage, the imagery is very important, because these images spoke volumes to the people in the first century in Palestine who heard the story.

For example, the story tells that suddenly, as the apostles and the community of Christians were gathered in a secluded place in Jerusalem, a strong, loud wind was heard and felt. In the Old Testament, God often appeared with, or amid, a strong, loud wind.

God came in the form of fire on several occasions in the Old Testament, as when God spoke to Moses from a burning bush. Small flames, or tongues of fire, appeared and settled above the apostles.

As would be the case today, communication among people then was burdened by the differences among many languages. (Another image is here. In the view of pious Jews, multiple human languages did not just evolve but were the direct result of efforts to avoid God’s justice and to outmaneuver God.)

After being empowered by the Holy Spirit, the apostles were understood in all languages. The people saw in this a sign that God willed the Gospel to be heard by all, and further, that through Christ sins were forgiven.

God produced the many human languages to punish the people for their defiance long ago.

The reading lists the nationalities represented in Jerusalem on this important Jewish feast day. It notes almost every major area of the Roman Empire. All nations, therefore, were eligible to hear the Gospel of Christ.

St. Paul’s First Epistle to Corinth supplies the second reading. Paul declared that no human conclusion, in and of itself, can truly impel a person to turn to Christ. Second, the very life of Jesus, given in the Holy Spirit, dwells within each Christian, uniting Christians in a very basic bond.

When persons open themselves fully and humbly to God, the Spirit comes to them. They recognize the Lord. They are no longer blind.

St. John’s Gospel supplies the last reading. It recalls the visit by Jesus, crucified but risen, to the apostles who are afraid, anxiously huddled together. Jesus, undeterred by locked doors, appears in their midst, bringing peace and confidence.

He is the only source of true insight and of strength.

The Lord commissions the apostles to continue the work of salvation. He bestows the Holy Spirit on them, conferring powers far above all human power by empowering them to forgive sins, a divine power, and giving them the right to judge the goodness, or otherwise, the actions of others.


For weeks, the Church has joyfully proclaimed the glory and divinity of Jesus, victorious over death. Throughout the process, the Church has been careful to say that Jesus did not come into, and then depart, human history. He still lives.

He still teaches the truth. He still forgives sinners. He still brightens and sweetens lives with acts of mercy. All this occurs through the visible, institutional Church.

Human beings, weak before temptation, are limited in their judgments. Indeed, human beings lead the Church. Pope Francis often reminds us that he is a mere mortal.

The inadequacy, or worse, of members or leaders of the Church may be disappointing.

What is wondrous is that the life of Christ, through grace, uplifts and strengthens so many to do great things for God in the name of the Church.

At Pentecost, pray to receive and to build upon that grace. It comes to all who truly love the Lord. It is what the Church is all about.

Nothing can deny us this access to God, except our own sin.

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