Feast of Pentecost
John 14:15-16, 23b-26
This weekend the Church celebrates the feast of Pentecost. After Easter and Christmas, it is the most important feast of the liturgical year because of the momentous event that it commemorates, the miraculous coming of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles.
Pentecost occurred in Jerusalem, where the Apostles had gathered, some time after the Lord’s Ascension.
The first reading for this weekend, from the Acts of the Apostles, recalls this event.
In the first part of the reading, the identity of the Holy Spirit is clearly given. The Spirit is God and comes from God. To understand how clearly this identity is given it is necessary to be familiar somewhat with the symbols for God used in the Old Testament.
First, a “strong, driving wind” comes up. Ancient biblical writings associate great gusting winds with God. Secondly, fire appeared. Fire also often symbolized God in the Old Testament, as it symbolized God when Moses encountered God on Sinai.
Revealed is that the Spirit is God. The Lord’s divine identity again is affirmed, since Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit would come. Jesus and the Spirit, with the Father, are one.
The reading proceeds. After being empowered by the Spirit, and “prompted” by the Spirit, the Apostles went into Jerusalem. As a result of Pentecost, the Apostles suddenly had the power to speak in foreign languages. Very important is the revelation that the Spirit “prompted” to speak.
In the city were many visitors who had come to celebrate the Jewish feast of Pentecost. They came from all parts of the Roman Empire. Each could understand what the Apostles were saying. Each understood that God had accomplished marvels for all people, that God had provided salvation and eternal life through Christ.
For its second reading, the Church gives us a passage from Paul’s First Epistle to the Corinthians. St. Paul makes an important point. Truly to believe that Jesus is Lord requires enlightenment, and strength, from the Holy Spirit. A genuine confession that Jesus is Lord is more than an intellectual statement. To be authentic, it must be heartfelt in the most profound sense.
St. Paul then goes on to give the basis of the theology that would result, in these times, in Pope Pius XII’s magnificent encyclical, “Mystici Corporis”, and in the documents of the Second Vatican Council, especially its teachings on the Church.
In Christ, all the faithful are members of one body, bound to the Lord, but also bound to each other. No one is excluded from this body by any accidental, such as gender or race.
The third reading is from St. John’s Gospel. The Risen Lord appears to the Apostles. He tells them to be in peace. Then Jesus gives them the authority to forgive sins. This authorization, and power, confers divine power itself upon the Apostles.
Not too many days ago the Church celebrated the Lord’s glorious Ascension into heaven, but Jesus did not exit the earth. His words and power remain. His life remains. His love remains.
He remains, the Church expressly and joyfully tells us on this great feast, in the Church itself. The Apostles formed the Church. Their successors still preach the Lord’s words, bringing Jesus to us.
Thus, the Church carefully protects their teaching. It is not arrogant in this. Instead, it never wants to lose the teachings, or even part of, the teachings of Jesus.
We are the Church, gathered around the Apostles, as were the first Christians in Jerusalem mentioned in Acts. We are bonded together, with Christ. In Jesus is our peace, a peace drawn from the realization that in the Lord we shall live eternally.
If we are the Church, in one body, then we too must bring Jesus to others.
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