As we conclude the Easter Season, we celebrate that great outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles, gathered in prayer with Mary. One year ago, public worship resumed after the onset of the pandemic. Although we have been limited by the pandemic, we give thanks to God for all that He has accomplished in the Church and in the world during the past year. In two weeks, that is, on the weekend of June 5-6, the dispensation from the obligation to attend Mass on Sundays and Holy Days will be lifted. We look forward to welcoming more people back to Mass. Please be attentive to our forthcoming plans for accommodating more people in church.
Today’s Gospel is the “Pentecost Event” in the Gospel of John, set on the evening of the Resurrection. The disciples were locked behind closed doors in fear and isolation, ashamed of their cowardice and abandonment of Jesus during His Passion. The Risen Lord passed through those barriers, showing them His wounds of love, and the disciples rejoiced to see the Lord. They recognized that He who had been crucified was alive. The power of the Resurrection transformed their sadness and fear to joy!
Then, Jesus wished them peace twice and said: “As the Father has sent me, so I send you. Receive the Holy Spirit.” Jesus breathed His Spirit on them, symbolically breathing new life into them. That is what the Lord offers: fullness of life. His breathing on them recalls Genesis 2:7, when God breathed the breath of life into man, making him a living being. It hearkens to the prophecy of the dry bones in Ezekiel (37:9), whereby the Spirit restores life, putting flesh on the dry bones. It reminds us of the restoration of life to the Shunammite woman’s son by Elisha (2 Kings 4:32-37), who breathed on the child. Jesus’ breathing the Spirit on the Apostles represents the Spirit as the Lord and giver of life. He brings new life to the Apostles so that they are more fit for their mission.
As the Father has sent me, so I send you. Receive the Holy Spirit. Jesus did not come to condemn the world but to show forth God’s mercy and His power over sin and death. God the Father sent His Son in poverty and humility. He sent Him to bring glad tidings to the poor and to proclaim liberty to the captives. Jesus associated Himself with tax collectors, sinners, and the lowly of the earth. At the Last Supper, Jesus bent down to wash His disciples’ feet. Jesus sends His Apostles forth in a spirit of humility, service, and love.
Nevertheless, He gives them a power – the power to forgive sins. He confers His Spirit upon them so that they may bring God’s mercy and deliverance to those in need. He gives them the power of the love He shares with the Father, namely His Holy Spirit, which transforms the Apostles. Beginning with Pentecost, the Spirit worked through the Church, through the Apostles, to restore unity to the human family. This mission continues with us today.
At Pentecost, the Spirit of God rushed upon the Apostles and there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim. What is the language that the Spirit, the source of this unity, taught the Apostles? It is the language of humility. This is what everyone understood. Whether it is Luke, writing in Acts, or John, writing in his Gospel, the Apostles are sent forth. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.
Sent in a spirit of humility, they learned to preach not themselves but God, who humbled Himself accepting even death on a cross and who made Himself low in descending among the dead. Because of His humility, the Father exalted Him, seating Him at His right hand. After Pentecost, the community of believers was gathered in prayer, shared everything and was of one heart and mind (Acts 4:32).
At Pentecost, the Holy Spirit equipped the Church for her mission: to bring unity and new life to the world. As we, emerge from the pandemic, we have a special responsibility to bring life and healing to a hurting world, but we do so with humility, cognizant of the gifts that we have received from the Holy Spirit. Our mission begins with the mighty works of God. Speaking of Pentecost, Saint John Paul II wrote:
“That event is the beginning of God’s new ‘self-giving’ to humanity. The apostles are the sign and pledge not only of the ‘new Israel,’ but also of the ‘new creation’ effected by the paschal mystery…This victory of life over death, of grace over sin, achieved by Christ works in humanity by means of the Holy Spirit. Through Him, it brings to fruition in our hearts the mystery of redemption. Pentecost is the beginning of the process of spiritual renewal.” (Pope John Paul II, General Audience, 22 July 1989)
At this moment in time, after a year marked by death, our world needs a Church that proposes to them the abundance of life that Christ offers. That first Pentecost was a privileged time, but the Church today needs a new Pentecost, a new outpouring of the Spirit. The Church must call upon the Spirit to bring life to the world. God gives us this this moment to be the Church – to mediate the Presence of Christ in the human reality through a renewal in the power of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, with one voice, we cry out: Veni, Sancte Spiritus.
Last week, at the conclusion of my column, I thanked Laura Sieve for her more than three decades of service to the community as a teacher and Vice Principal. This week, I want to thank Len Johansing for his tireless dedication for more than three decades in leading our parish RCIA team. Many people have come into the Catholic Church as a result of his efforts, working with a very dedicated RCIA team. As Len takes a step back from directing the RCIA, we want to express our heartfelt gratitude to him and his team for all their efforts. Please join us at a celebration in Loyola Hall following the 10:15 Mass, as we say, “Thanks be to God. Alleluia! Alleluia!”
– Fr. Fernandes