Pentecost Sunday, May 20, 2018
Deacon Charles G. Lewis, St. Stanislaus Parish
Today we celebrate the birthday of the Church! On Pentecost, the Holy Spirit descended upon the Apostles with POWER; thus began the mission of the Church in the world; a mission entrusted to this day, to us, right here, right now, in Lansdale PA.
Jesus himself prepared the Eleven for this mission, appearing to them on many occasions after his Resurrection (cf. Acts 1: 3). He made everything depend on the apostles. Think about it. He wrote no books or instruction manuals. In doing so, our risen Lord surely taught us how thoroughly serious he was in His intention to be one with His Church. He taught us that He lives and acts only through her.
Who is the Church? Everyone who is baptized is the Church. Yesterday at the Ordination Liturgy, Archbishop Chaput emphasized in his homily, that the ministerial priesthood is subordinate to the royal priesthood we all share through Baptism. In other words, Baptism is more important than Holy Orders. He remarked that some confuse this, which can result in clericalism. It is out of the royal priesthood, he said, that some of the royal priesthood are called to ministerial service and this service requires docility. It requires docility because we know we are just like the terrified apostles before they received the promise of the Father.
Prior to the Ascension into Heaven, Jesus ordered the apostles “not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father” (cf. Acts 1: 4-5); that is, he asked them to stay together to prepare themselves to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. And they gathered in prayer with Mary in the Upper Room, awaiting the promised event (cf. Acts 1: 14).
Two things we learn from this. First, staying together was the condition laid down by Jesus Christ in order to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit; second, the source of their harmony together was prolonged prayer.
Some think at times that missionary effectiveness depends primarily on careful programming, detailed plans and then subsequent intelligent application through concrete commitment, or feedback.
None of that is bad and our Lord certainly does ask for our collaboration and the best that we can do, but before our response, His initiative is necessary: His Spirit is the true protagonist of the Church.
The message of the Gospel today is: we will hear His voice in our lives through prolonged prayer within His gathered community. If we haven’t felt His presence strongly enough, today is the day to ask for it.
Each of us has been called to do our part.
St. Paul tells us that there are many spiritual gifts and there are many forms of service but the same Lord; there are different workings but the same God who produces all of them in everyone. To each individual, and that means everyone here in this Church today, the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit. In other words, the root of our purpose and of our action is God’s Holy Spirit.
The Church has been catholic and missionary from her very birth.
In the Holy Spirit, the People of God extend to the point of surmounting every barrier of race, culture, space and time. As opposed to what occurred with the tower of Babel (cf. Gn 11: 1-9), when people wanted to build their own way to heaven with their own hands and ended up destroying their very capacity for mutual understanding.
Pentecost, with the gift of tongues, demonstrates that His presence unites and transforms confusion into communion.
Human pride and egoism always create division; they build walls of indifference, hate and even violence. Let us remember, division is not of God. The Holy Spirit, on the other hand, makes hearts capable of understanding the languages of all, as He re-establishes the bridge of authentic communion between earth and heaven. For the Holy Spirit is Love.
But how is it possible to enter into the mystery of the Holy Spirit? How can the secret of Love be understood and experienced?
One way is given in today’s Good News. We would all do well to stay together as the apostles did, to reject the divisions of the devil, to stay united in prayer with Mary, united in his Church, for the Lord promised, that he will be with the Church until the end of time.
Therefore, regardless of its human failings, we must continue to gather as we do each Sunday but we must pray with new intensity, vigor, and it wouldn’t be a bad idea to begin on this great feast day.
This is the mystery of Pentecost: the Holy Spirit illuminates the human spirit and, by revealing Christ Crucified and Risen, indicates the way this mortal flesh can become more like him, that is, to be as Pope Emeritus Benedict has taught, “the image and instrument of the love which flows from Christ” (Deus Caritas Est, n. 33).
And so, let us all, here at St. Stanislaus this morning, pause from the hectic pace of our lives to celebrate our other birthday by making the prayer of the Church today our very own. Let us join her and she cries: “Veni, Sancte Spiritus! – Come, Holy Spirit. Please Lord, fill the hearts of your faithful and enkindle in us the fire of your love!”