Based on these readings: May 26, Pentecost Sunday (year B)
Today, we celebrate a very important moment in the history of the Church. Christ rose from the dead, and spent fifty days teaching and encouraging His Apostles and disciples to build and extend the Church that He founded on earth, as St. John recounts in the Gospel we just heard. Then, He ascended into heaven, leaving His followers behind. They wanted to carry out their mission, but there were very few of them, and they were up against the political and religious establishment.
Besides that, they were a very heterogeneous group of people, from many walks of life and different personal backgrounds. Some, like Peter, had been fishermen; others were former government employees (St. Matthew), home makers, farmers, or public sinners, united only by their conversion and faith in Christ. Most had little preparation for becoming leaders of the new People of God. They were still afraid and unsure of what to do next. Jesus told them to await the full coming of the Holy Spirit, who would continue to comfort, teach, guide, and strengthen them, so they gathered in prayer and worship, and waited.
Sure enough, when the Holy Spirit came down upon them, everything changed. As we hear in the second reading, they burst out of their seclusion to preach openly and convincingly. The Spirit made them courageous and strongly united, and enabled them to work miracles in the name of the Lord. They received many and varied special gifts to enable them to build up the Church, the Body of Christ, as St. Paul explains in the second reading. What was a small, scared group, became a driving force of faith that transformed the world.
We face our own challenges today, on all levels of the Church. I don’t need to describe them to you; we hear about them all the time on the news and in our own parish bulletin. We could feel tempted to be discouraged, to hide in fear like the Apostles before Pentecost.
On the contrary, what we should imitate is the apostles’ spirit of prayer and hope. Although the Holy Spirit has already come on the Church, that presence can always be renewed and strengthened. If we open our hearts and ask Him fervently in prayer, the Paraclete can transform us too, as a parish, a diocese, and a Church. He can unite us more and more strongly to bear witness to our faith in our lives, becoming an active force of evangelization in our world, strengthening and renewing our Church on all levels.
The Holy Spirit can come at any time, but the liturgy has its own special power. When we celebrate events of salvation history at Mass and in other forms of liturgy, the Holy Spirit makes us spiritually present to those events, and the endless fountain of God’s grace present in those events opens up to us. So today, let us ask the Holy Spirit to come into our hearts more strongly, and fill us with His great gifts, as He did those members of the early Church, so that the Body of Christ in Holy Family Parish, in all of the archdiocese of Boston, and throughout the world, may grow and flourish. Thus, may all people know and experience the loving power of God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – in their lives.