Opening Our Hearts to Receive the Holy Spirit

Living in the Communion of Divine Love

Jesus is the Vine, We are the Branches

Jesus Christ: Our Cornerstone

Invitation to the Schools of Missionary Discipleship

Jesus Invites Us To Share In The Good News

Msgr. Joseph Prior

(Readings of the Holy Mass – Pentecost Sunday)

“The Lord is Risen! Alleluia! Alleluia!” “He is Risen indeed! Alleluia! Alleluia!”

The Easter greeting continues to resonate among us. Jesus’ triumph is celebrated continually. The gift of divine life poured out in us through Him fills us with joy as we live in this world full of hope for the world to come.

The gift of life handed on to us is celebrated in a special way today in the Solemnity of Pentecost. The gift of life conferred through Jesus’ passion, death and resurrection is the culmination of Jesus’ mission on earth.

Now, after ascending to the Father, he sends forth the Holy Spirit to continue His mission, the mission of life.

“Peace be with you, as the Father has sent me so I send you,” Jesus tells the disciples as He “breaths” on them and pours forth the Spirit.

This account recalls His appearance in the upper room where the disciples were locked in fear. He comes to them, risen in body, and commissions them to “go forth.”

The first reading recalls the event fifty days later, ten days after the Ascension, when the Holy Spirit is poured out upon the apostles and disciples binding them together in the one Spirit forming the Church.

The Spirit in this case is represented in great theophanies of the driving wind, the earthquake and the tongues of fire. The “breath” and the “wind” images harken back to the creation stories in Genesis.

As God speaks, His word is carried on “breath” and the world is created. He “breathed” into man and gave him life. Man, male and female, created in the image and likeness of God, became subject to death as man turns from God.

Now the return is accomplished in Jesus Christ; his victory has broken the power of death but has also has given mankind an intimate share in divine life so that death has no more power over mankind.

Jesus’ breathing on the disciples, the driving wind at Pentecost, convey the gift. The gift is meant to be shared, hence the mission continues.

The mission of life continues in the Church. At that first resurrection appearance Jesus sends the disciples. You may recall the gospel reading on the Ascension, the conclusion of the Gospel According to Matthew, Jesus’ final words while on Earth: “All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, make disciples of all the nations; baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Teach them everything I have commanded you and know that I am with you until the end of the age.”

The command is also a commissioning. Jesus wants everyone to be invited to a share in divine life, to incorporation into His Body, the Church.

Mission and membership are celebrated today in this feast of Pentecost, often celebrated as the “birthday” of the Church. The unity or “communion” established through Jesus in the Spirit is recalled in several ways in the Scripture readings for Mass today.

The tongues of fire start as one but “parted and came to rest on each of them.” One fire, many tongues. The language spoken. As soon as the gift of the Spirit is given, they “began to speak in different tongues (languages), as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim.”

Immediately the mission continues of spreading the good news and inviting others to faith. The many languages carry the one message.

All in this crowd of Jews from many different nations (who were in Jerusalem for a Jewish feast day also called Pentecost) are amazed and so they say: “Are not all these people who are speaking Galileans? Then how does each of us hear them in his native language?” It is the One Spirit who speaks in all of them.

The scene, like the theophany of the wind, harkens back to Genesis. Think back on the story of the Tower of Babel. Man, seeking to be gods themselves and of their own making, decided to accomplish this by building a tower to the heavens. Their effort was to end in failure for it is a gross act of pride to even contemplate such a possibility. The tower was destroyed and the peoples scattered. So as to lessen their vain attempts at divinity, they were given different languages to hinder their cooperation in such an effort.

Now, through the work of God Himself, mankind is given a share in His divine life. The One language that people need to hear is that of the Spirit. The many languages, but all hearing one message, theme points again to both the healing and gift that has been accomplished in Jesus.

Saint Paul, in the reading from First Corinthians, speaks of the union or “communion” in these terms: “No one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit. There are different kinds of spiritual gifts but the same Spirit; there are different forms of service but the same Lord; there are different workings but the same God who produces all of them in everyone.”

Likewise, all and each members of the Church are given gifts for the service of all.

Paul goes on here and elsewhere to use the human “body” as an image of the church. He says: “As a body is one though it has many parts, and all the parts of the body, though many, are one body, so also Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, slaves or free persons, and we were all given to drink of one Spirit.”

The Spirit unites us together in mission, so that we all “go forth” to invite everyone to a share in this divine life.

Our celebration of Pentecost is a joyful day of prayer. Prayer for the Church. Prayer for Her Mission. Prayer for all those who have not yet authentically heard or considered the invitation to life offered by Christ.

So as the Church gathers together around the altar where we celebrate this life, we call out “Lord, send out your Spirit, and renew the face of the earth.”

***

Msgr. Joseph Prior is pastor of Our Lady of Grace Parish, Penndel, and a former professor of Sacred Scripture and rector of St. Charles Borromeo Seminary.

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