Pastoral Message – May 28, 2023
For fifty days we have been celebrating the incomparable joy of the Resurrection. Today, Pentecost Sunday, we close the Easter Season by gratefully acknowledging the magnificent and mysterious work of the Holy Spirit. As we hear in the first reading, it is a day when very ordinary men were transformed by the Spirit and began the challenging process of founding the Church. These are the same men who ran away when Jesus was arrested and then, as we hear in the Gospel, hid in a locked room because they were afraid.
Who would have thought that men such as these were capable of starting a church? Well, Jesus for one. But He also knew that there was no way that they could accomplish this giant task on their own. So, He gave them the one thing that they were lacking – the power of the Holy Spirit. Both on the night of Easter Sunday and again on Pentecost, Jesus caused the Holy Spirit to enter into them and transform them into new men who were filled with courage, who could speak in tongues, and could inspire people to listen to the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus. Simply put, with the help of the Holy Spirit, they were on fire for the Lord!
In the Gospel passage, Jesus simply tells the apostles that, “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” Three years earlier, these apostles had dropped everything and followed Jesus. They put their own hopes and dreams on hold, they left their jobs, and they left their families. They put their egos aside, swallowed their pride and humbled themselves before Jesus. They truly had no idea what to expect. They spent three years with Jesus – listening, watching, and following. But very often, it seemed like they just didn’t get Him or what He was all about.
From Easter until Pentecost, the apostles were still trying to figure things out. They knew that they had a vitally important job to do. Yet, they were unsure about how to do it and were afraid to try. Maybe they were worried that they wouldn’t be capable or that they could not do anything without Him by their side. Even though He told them that He would send them an “advocate,” they did not understand what that truly meant. Finally, on the day of Pentecost, the enormous power of the Holy Spirit eliminated all of their doubts and fears. Now they were truly transformed and began to act out their commitment by preaching the Good News (in tongues, no less)!
So what does this mean for us? In the Creed, we say, “I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and giver of life…” This means that we believe that Christ, through the Holy Spirit, is working in and through us. Like the apostles, our relationship with God is enlivened and fueled by the Holy Spirit who helps us to believe. If we believe in the Holy Spirit, then we believe that God is at work in our lives. It’s not just each of us individually trying hard to be a better person. No, the living God, the God of heaven and earth, is making His power available to us to help us change, to transform us, to create in us a new nature, a whole new personality.
The Holy Spirit also transforms us through the Eucharist in two critical ways. First, without the presence of Holy Spirit in each mass, the priest would never be able to consecrate the bread and wine – to transform it into the Body and Blood of our Lord. Second, when we receive the Eucharist, the Holy Spirit helps us to become what we receive.
Just as the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord in the upper room, we should rejoice when we see the real presence of our Lord in the Eucharist. How often do we truly rejoice in the presence of the Eucharist? How often are we focused reverently, and exclusively on the Lord’ real presence when we receive Communion? Like the disciples, we should be strengthened and we should rejoice! The Holy Spirit set the disciples on fire so that they could start and grow the Church. The Holy Spirit sets us on fire to continue that mission.
Those of us that are here each week have already said “Yes” to our Lord. That’s a great start. The question today is how seriously we offer that “Yes.” We can say yes in our daily lives by sharing the Good News with complete conviction and by being the great light of encouragement in the midst of people who can all too easily become discouraged by darkness. To accomplish this, we must leave here energized and transformed by our experience. As the Father sent Jesus, He is sending US. With the help of the Holy Spirit we can spread the good news of our loving God with faith and determination. God is calling. God is asking. It is time for us to say, “YES!”
This Pentecost, let us pray that we recognize and accept the Holy Spirit acting in our lives and moving us to act in the lives of others.