Happy birthday to the Church! The feast of Pentecost marks the birth of the church. On listening to Bishop Robert Barron’s homily, I thought it’d be good to share some important points of his joyful message along with some Marian details of my own. For some of us, we have celebrated this feast year after year, for others this may be the first Pentecost feast, and perhaps even for some they may never have understood or even heard of Pentecost. No matter where you are on the journey, you are most welcome and may this message fill you with the breath of God, the Holy Spirit himself, our advocate who Jesus sent to be with us always and to “remind you of all that I have taught you”, making extraordinary the ordinary routines of life.
At mass every Sunday we recite the Creed - “I believe in one, holy, Catholic and apostolic Church”. All four of these are graces from the Holy Spirit we can see at the event of Pentecost. So how are they still alive today?
In the upper room after Jesus’ death, the apostles gather in the upper room united in prayer with Mary. So too, do we gather together in prayer and in union with Christ.
Being the Month of May (the month of Our Lady), let us remember that she will always lead us to her son, as no one can love the Son as much as Our Lady did, and full of grace, no human was more united to the Holy Spirit as was she. With no doubt, mistrust, fear or betrayal, the Blessed Mother trusted fiercely, loved boldly and was courageously obedient to the trinity for she knew He came not to condemn us, but to save us. So too does she become the Mother of us all when Jesus asks her on the cross to take the apostle John as her own son, as she does with all the apostles and the entire world. Sitting as the Queen of Heaven, she continues to intercede for us on our behalf, sending down the graces of the holy spirit from the Father and Son (as depicted in the miraculous medals we wear).
“How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?” The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Mary knows God always wants the best for us, whether we can understand or see that can be hard sometimes. But we must let the Holy Spirit overshadow us, because His plan for our lives is always for the good, always for love and to always draw us into closer intimacy with Him. When we hear the spirit calling us, may our response be as the annunciation - “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May it be done to me according to your word.”
Even before Pentecost at the last supper, Jesus prayed to the father that “they may be one”. That means us! In Australia this past week it is no mistake that the week of Prayer for Christian unity is in between the feast of the Ascension and the feast of Pentecost. The two feasts are the commissioning and sending of the apostles, of the Church, of the world - of us, to all be united as one with the Father.
We accomplish the mission that the Lord gave us when we come together in unity. A divided Church is not going to unite the world.
This is not to say that there is no room for diversity, quite the opposite, as one body has many parts. St Paul says in his letter to the Corinthians says, The eye cannot say to the hand, "I don't need you!" And the head cannot say to the feet, "I don't need you!" so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. Take the Saints for example, wholly devoted to Our Lord, to the Church and their mission, and yet so wonderfully unique!
The Church is holy because it is filled with the Holy Spirit. It has the love that unites the Father and the Son. This can be seen from the event of Pentecost - the Spirit came upon the disciples gathered together to fill them that they may carry out the will of God, “as the Father has sent me, so I am sending you”. As the Son ascended to the Father, so does His spirit descend upon us that we may continue his work. We cannot do it alone, for we are human - but by His power we are able to transform the world with a holy, supernatural and undying love.
The Church is about the business of making people holy just as we are about drawing everyone into unity. Everything we do centres around our task - to be a mediator of the Holy Spirit. This is what the sacraments achieve; bringing the visible the invisible God through the power of the Holy Spirit into our very lives on earth! Baptism draws us into the trinity, reconciliation restores us from when we fall, confirmation strengthens us with the Holy Spirit, holy orders and marriage commissions us for the work of the spirit and mirror the marriage (union) we will enter into with God when we are taken to heaven - that’s what it’s all about!
Saints are not meant only for religious, Popes, bishops and so on, but for the laity too, for every person on earth - as mentioned before, that is the Church’s business; to make us all holy - to build up Saints!
Of course we know our Church is Catholic. The greek root of the word is katholikos meaning to be whole, or universal. The Church of Jesus Christ is meant to encompass all of the world and welcome all! Jesus says before his ascension, “Go and teach all nations. Baptising them in the name of Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.” As his final words on this earth, we should not gloss over this very important point.
Apostolic The greek word apostolos means the one who is sent off. We are sent people, people with a mission (which means to send!) Followers of Jesus are not meant to sit still. We were not made for sleeping in, lazing on couches or infront of our screens all day, passing by time with whatever entertains us. Throughout the Gospels Jesus finishes almost every interaction with people he encounters saying ‘go’.
After the Holy Spirit descends, the disciples “burst forth”! Speaking the languages of many, they proclaim the message of Jesus Christ. So must we too. Now that doesn’t mean download duolingo and learn all the languages you can. But rather we are meant to exist in all cultures, reach all people, make disciples and saints of all people on earth. For we are all purposely made. Loved into existence and sent to serve God and one another.
Ever noticed how obsessed the Church is about teaching? Well it’s a big part of the job, being sent to teach the world the good news of Jesus Christ. If you don’t know much about the Church’s teaching or the Gospel itself, there’s no time like the present. We are called in every moment, God’s not sitting in the waiting room, but with us now, eager for us to be open to His Spirit, to set the world on fire with love.
Perhaps this birthday you can give to God a beautiful present by not only celebrating the feast day, but ask yourself who am I in this one, holy, catholic and apostolic church. How am I sent? What is my mission? In what ways in my everyday life can I make it holy by proclaiming the good news of Jesus Christ?
If you’re still not sure where to start, well the best place to start is to actually ask the holy spirit. Come, Holy Spirit. Meditate on your circumstances, where God has placed you in this world. What are you passionate about, your hobbies, interests, your career, aspirations? Who are the people around you that need you, who are the people you want to help, who are the people that help you become the best version of you? The Holy Spirit wants to bring out the deepest desires of your heart and use the talents that you have to bring about good in the world. This is your mission. God has made no other being like you on this world and he wants you to help build up his holy Church so that all may be one.
Come, Holy Spirit,
Fill the hearts of your faithful.
And kindle in them the fire of your love.
Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created.
And you will renew the face of the earth.
By the light of the Holy Spirit
You have taught the hearts of your faithful.
In the same Spirit
Help us to relish what is right
And always rejoice in your consolation.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.