June 7, 2019

Pentecost Sunday / Msgr. Owen F. Campion

The Sunday Readings

Msgr. Owen CampionIn 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.

The Church also sees them all as highly important because of the lessons to be learned from the biblical readings at the Masses celebrated, lessons very useful for growth in the spiritual life and for understanding the faith.

Pentecost was an ancient Jewish feast, celebrating the first harvest. Set for the 50th day after Passover, it received its name of Pentecost, taken from the Greek word for 50, as the Hebrew culture increasingly was influenced by the Greek civilization.

For Jews, 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 the Gospel.

The first Christians almost invariably were of Jewish origins. The Apostles were Jews. So they observed Pentecost.

The first reading for this great feast is taken from the Acts of the Apostles and shows how, in the Jewish context, it celebrates the identity, unity and divine origins of the Church.

Pentecost is a great Christian 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.

For the second reading, the Church presents a passage from St. Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians. Absolute faith in Christ as God and as Savior is key. The message is challenging. Discipleship is not static and private. It is living with the Lord in redeeming the world.

St. John’s Gospel is the source of the last reading and is a resurrection narrative. The Apostles are afraid, clustered together in hiding. Then the risen Lord appears. Their fear vanishes. He grants them not only supreme confidence, but the divine power to forgive sins.

The reading is profoundly relevant for Catholics. As God, possessing the Holy Spirit, Jesus gives the Apostles the authority to forgive sins, extraordinary because only God can forgive sins. It was a power given by the Apostles in turn to their successors, the bishops, and the priests who are their co-workers.

Reflection

For weeks, the Church has rejoiced in the resurrection, excitedly proclaiming that Jesus is Lord.

Throughout the Easter season, the Church, in the readings at Mass, has called us to realize the effect the resurrection has upon us and upon human history. The salvation achieved by Christ on Calvary continues, available for all time and for all people.

How will this be accomplished? Through the Lord’s disciples in every age of history.

The bond between disciples and Jesus is experienced by every authentic Christian. It is so strong that all Christians themselves are bound together. In this bond, they form the Church.

In their union with Christ in the Church, they share in the mission of Christ to bring God’s mercy and wisdom to the world. It is an individual role but also collective, the collective dimension seen in the visible, active ministry and witness of the Church.

Not surprisingly, with this in mind, Acts reveals that the need of disciples to be near the Apostles, clearly under the leadership of Peter, was essential in the early Church.

No interpretation of Acts can avoid this fact.

This feast commemorates an event long ago, yet it teaches a very contemporary lesson. Today, as 20 centuries ago, our Church is the apostolic Church created by God to bring divine mercy to weary and wandering humans. As was the case in Jerusalem so long ago, it still loves all, serves all and reassures all, expressly gathered around the Apostles, with Peter at the center.

Christian commitment necessarily is personal and individual. It also is collective. †

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