Feast of Pentecost
In 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 vivified the Apostles and, through the Apostles, formed the reality of the Church as the community of believers and bearer of salvation in Christ to future generations everywhere.
This first reading recalls the first Pentecost and its aftermath. Under Peter’s leadership, 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, St. John, died as a martyr, and John was persecuted.
An important lesson is that the Christians very clearly were in a solid 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 is vital. Without grace, humans are confused and liable to even fatal misstep.
St. John’s Gospel is the source of the last reading, a Resurrection Narrative. The Risen Lord appears before the Apostles, commissioning them to forgive sins. The reading is profoundly relevant for Catholics.
As God, possessing the Holy Spirit, Jesus gave the Apostles the power to forgive sins. This power awaits the repentant today. It lives in, and through, the Church.
For weeks, the Church has rejoiced in the Resurrection, excitedly 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, once committed to Christ, are bound together in the Church because they share their identity with Christ, a bond with Christ, and a life in Christ.
Faith 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 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.
Nothing is more Catholic, more traditional, then than the recent popes’ call for evangelization by Catholics in all walks of life. Nor is anything more Catholic than the attention of Pope Francis to the desperate and outcast. He stands now in a great line of caring and of acting.
On this feast, the Church teaches a very contemporary lesson. In 2021, as 20 centuries ago, we believers compose an Apostolic Church, a community created by God to bring divine mercy to weary and wandering humans.
Through the Church and through us, as in Jerusalem so long ago, Christ serves all and offers hope to all.
Think about it: How can we refresh the world?
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