May 18, 2010 // Uncategorized

The Apostlic Church speaks of hope

Feast of Pentecost
Jn 20:19-23

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, as highly important for the spiritual lives, and understanding of the faith, among Catholics.

Pentecost also is an ancient Jewish feast. The first Christians almost invariably were of Jewish origins. The Apostles were Jews. So, they were observing 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.

So, Christians now see, and so long have seen, Pentecost as their holy day, recalling the moment when God the Holy Spirit vivified the Apostles. Receiving strength and power from the Holy Spirit, the Apostles then went forward to proclaim salvation in Christ to the entire world.

This first reading recalls this event and its aftermath. Under the leadership of Peter, the Apostles were united. They were emboldened. They never relented from their mission of declaring Jesus as Lord and Savior. According to tradition, all but one died as a martyr.

An important lesson is in the fact that the Christians very clearly were in a 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 also 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. The reading is profoundly relevant for Catholics. As God, possessing the Holy Spirit, Jesus gives the Apostles the power to forgive sins, extraordinary because only God can forgive sins.

This reading makes abundantly clear the Lord’s conferral of divine authority and power upon the Apostles.

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 has upon us and upon human history. The salvation achieved by Christ on Calvary never will end. It is for all time and for all people.

How will it be accomplished? It will be accomplished through the Lord’s disciples in every consecutive age.

While true conversion requires a completely free and uncompromised individual decision, Christians are bound together in the Church, because they share their identity with Christ and the grace of the Spirit.

Thus, they 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, and still looking to the Apostles for guidance and direction.

The Church offers itself. It is the gathering of true believers, who rely upon the Apostles for their knowledge of the Savior. Through the Apostles, the community links itself to the Savior, to the Father and to the Spirit.

On this feast, the Church teaches a very contemporary lesson. In 2010, as 20 centuries ago, it is the Apostolic Church, the community created by God to bring divine mercy to weary and wandering humans. As was the case in Jerusalem so long ago, it loves all, serves all, and speaks of hope to all.
Quite visibly, it still gathers around the Apostles, with Peter at the center.

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