Posts Tagged Holy Spirit

John 20:19-23 Jesus Breathes The Spirit (Pentecost Sunday)

Today we celebrate the great feast of Pentecost. Pentecost comes from the Greek word “Pentecostes” which means “Fiftieth.” As we celebrate this Feast we commemorate the sending of the Holy Spirit by Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior or the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the disciples in particular, and the Church in general fiftieth day after Jesus had risen from the dead.

We also celebrate the birthday of the universal Church, because as you know, today the Church was fully born, through the breath of Christ, the Holy Spirit. As Pope Paul VI wrote:

“Today, as you know, the Church was fully born, through the breath of Christ, the Holy Spirit; and in the Church was born the Word, the witness to and promulgation of  salvation in the risen Jesus; and in him who listens to this promulgation is born faith, and with faith a new life, an awareness of the Christian vocation and the ability to hear that calling and to follow it by living a genuinely human life, indeed a life which is not only human but holy. And to make this divine intervention effective, today was born the apostolate, the priesthood, the ministry of the Spirit, the calling to unity, fraternity and peace” (Paul VI, “Address”, 25 May 1969).

There are three most important reasons why Jesus promised then sent the Holy Spirit to his disciples and to his Church which he established on the foundation of the apostles:

First, Jesus sent his Holy Spirit to guide her to the whole truth. If you still recall “God wills all men to be saved and to come to the fullness of the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim 2:3-4), that is,  Jesus, who is “the way, the truth, and the life” (Jn 14:6). This is the context why Jesus said, “When the Holy Spirit comes, he will guide you into all the truth” (Jn 16:13). What Jesus had said in Jn 8:31-32, “If you remain in my word you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free,” will ultimately be realized through the intervention and assistance of the Holy Spirit to the disciples after Jesus’ departure.

In what ways the Holy Spirit will guide the Church to the whole truth?

·     It is through the Scripture. Paul is very clear about this in his letter to Timothy: “All scripture is inspired of God and is useful for teaching, for reproof,  correction, and training in holiness so that man of God may be fully competent equipped for every good work” (2 Tim 3:15). Hence, read, study, pray with the Scripture and be a walking Bible which even the illiterate person can read and understand. Be reminded of the words of St. Jerome: “Ignorance of Christ is ignorance of the Scripture.”

  • It is through the magisterium or teaching authority of the Church. St. Paul is also very clear about this authority of the Church to teach and proclaim Christ and his Gospel when he wrote: “The Church is steward and teacher of the mysteries of God.” Let us therefore, listen to the teaching of the Church especially in the areas of faith and moral. As Jesus himself warned: “Whoever listens to you listens to me, and whoever rejects you rejects me, and whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me”  (Luke 10:16).

Second, Jesus sent his Holy Spirit to the Church to be the source of forgiveness and holiness. Mother Teresa of Calcutta once curiously interviewed by the reporter whether she felt uneasy to hear some people calling her “living saint?”  In reply she simply said, “What is something extraordinary about that? Are we not all called to be saints? Sanctity or holiness is to be perfect and mature in our love of God and neighbor and to be another Christ in the world. How do we know that we are somehow already in the state of holiness? As St. Paul says, “When it is no longer I who lives in me but Christ.”

Holiness requires conversion of heart on our part. Conversion requires repentance. Repentance requires humble recognition of our sinfulness and wickedness before God. Recognition of our sinfulness and wickedness to be true and fruitful requires confession and forgiveness of sins through the ministry of reconciliation. This is the reason why in the Gospel Jesus said: “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you shall forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained” (Jn 20:23). This is also the context why the formula of absolution contained: “Send you Holy Spirit among us for the forgiveness of sins. And through the ministry of the Church may God give pardon and peace. I absolve you in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.”

Third, Jesus sent his Holy Spirit to the Church to empower her to fulfill the saving mission entrusted by Christ. I think it worth recalling that Jesus before he ascended to heaven and seated at the right hand of the Father, he gathered his disciples and gave them a mission: “As the Father has sent me, so I send you” (Jn 20:22); “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to the whole creation” (Mk 16:15); “Go . . . and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. (Mt 28:19). Jesus Christ last words before his return to the Father constitute a “missionary mandate”.

The goal of missionary activity is to make the Good News of Salvation reach the farthest ends of the earth; the Church began to spread it on the day of Pentecost itself when the Holy Spirit descended upon Mary and the Apostles gathered in the Upper Room. By evangelizing the nations, the Church fulfills her own vocation, because she exists in order to evangelize (cf. Evangelii Nuntiandi, 14).

Although the feast of Pentecost is the end of the Easter season, Pentecost is a beginning. It is the birthday of the Church. Pentecost is a grand beginning more than it is a grand finale.

The day of the first Christian Pentecost began with 120 people receiving the Holy Spirit at 9 AM (see Acts 1:15; 2:15), and these 120 brought the Holy Spirit to 3,000 people before the day was over (see Acts 2:41). The next day those 3,000 tried to reach several more thousands (see Acts 4:4). Over the centuries, some Christians continued to share Pentecost with others (e.g. Acts 9:17; 19:2ff), but some have “dropped the ball” and quenched the Spirit (see 1 Thes 5:19). At present, over two billion people have received the Holy Spirit through Baptism.  Now we are to share this Pentecost with over four billion people as soon as possible. When we do, the Spirit, as promised, will have renewed the face of the earth (Ps 104:30). Then Jesus will return; the world will end; and we who have been faithful in constantly proclaiming Pentecost will be with the Lord forever in perfect, infinite love.

As Pope John Paul II wrote in his Angelus’ message in 1980: The Church does not cease – cannot cease – to go with the Gospel to all those who do not yet know it. In the same way as she does not cease to return with the Gospel to all those who have strayed from it. She does so heedless of the difficulties that accumulate on her missionary way. She does so in the spirit of the Apostle, who wrote: “Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel” (1 Cor 9:16). The whole Church and everyone in the Church who lets himself be guided by the spirit of responsibility for the Gospel, must repeat the same thing. “The mission of the Church – the Second Vatican Council stated – is carried out by means of that activity through which, in obedience to Christ’s command, moved by the grace and love of the Holy Spirit, the Church makes itself fully present to all men and peoples in order to lead them to the faith, freedom and peace of Christ by the example of its life and teaching, by the sacraments and other means of grace” (Ad Gentes, 5).

“Missionary activity is a matter for all Christians, for all dioceses and parishes, Church institutions and associations” (Redemptoris Missio, n.2).  “The Lord’s call to proclaim the Good News is still valid today: indeed it is ever more urgent. The call to mission acquires a singular urgency, particularly if we look at that part of humanity which still does not know Christ or recognize Him. Like Paul, we are cursed if we do not preach the Gospel. Preach, therefore, Christ and his Gospel in season and out of season!” (Pope John Paul II, 75th anniversary of the World Mission Sunday).

In a noisy world full of confusions and characterized by divisive conflicts the Holy Spirit can be our Advocate – a teacher, a guide, helper and our intercessor. Turn to Him, therefore, at all times. He is our strength, courage, consolation and inspiration. He stays constantly by our side as he leads us to holiness

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Mt 28:16-20 Jesus Commissioning His Disciples (Ascension Sunday)

Forty days after Jesus has risen from the dead he ascended into heaven and seated at the right hand of God the Father. This is one of the great events in the history of salvation. The great event of Ascension, whose feast the Church celebrates today. The “forty days” of Luke (Acts 1:3) correspond to the biblical symbolism of the number forty: a period of time sufficient for the attainment of the desired purpose. The event closes the period of the Easter appearances.

The Gospels of Mark and Luke and the Acts of the Apostles report the mystery of the Lord’s Ascension. The witness of St. Luke makes it clear that the primitive tradition of the Church included a visible Ascension of the Lord, well separated in time from the Resurrection and not to be confused with the exaltation to heaven on Easter day. Luke describes the last departure of Christ, who had already ascended to his Father, come back several times to converse with his disciples, and now departs until the parousia. For Luke, the Ascension is important in relation to events still to take place: the sending of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost and the interval before the day of the final restoration (Acts 3:21). In Acts, the risen Lord explains that the period before the manifestation of the kingdom in the world is the time of the Holy Spirit and of the missionary Church (1:8).

What are the meanings and significance of this event for us?

The first meaning of the Ascension is that Christ in his human nature passes to the state of glory with his Father and the Holy Spirit: The risen One enters the heavenly intimacy of God. Christ’ ascension, therefore, marks the definitive entrance of Jesus’ humanity into God’s heavenly domain, whence he will come again (cf. Acts 1:11; cf. CCC 665). This is signified by “the cloud” (Acts 1:9), a biblical sign of the divine presence. The Ascension is included in the mystery of the Incarnation as its concluding moment. As in the Incarnation he laid aside his glory as eternal Son, so in the Ascension he now receives back divine glory, which has its impact on his human nature and ours. Jesus spoke several times about his having to be lifted up – on the cross – so that believers might have eternal life (cf. Jn 3:14, 8:28, 12:32); and the lifting up on the cross is the special sign and definitive foretelling of this other “lifting up” by his ascending into heaven.

“After the glory of his Ascension he will be seen as judge on the Last Day, and even now he judges all things, and at the end of the world he will come as judge of humanity,” said St. John Chrysostom (c. 349-407). The Ascension appearance to the Apostles is, therefore, the starting point of the parousia. The full right to judge human actions and consciences definitively belongs to Christ as Redeemer of the world: The Father “has given all judgment to the Son” (Jn 5:22). He did not come to judge, however, but to save, to “give eternal life to all those you [the Father] have entrusted to him” (Jn 17:2).

We know for a certainty that Christ will come again at the end of time. We confess this in the Creed as part of our faith. However, we know “neither the day nor the hour” (Mt 25: 13) of his coming. We do not need to know it. Christ is always imminent. We must always be on the watch, that is, we should busy ourselves in the service of God and of others, which is where our sanctification lies.

The second meaning of the Ascension is the beginning of the kingdom of the Messiah, which realizes the prophetic vision regarding the Son of Man in the Book of Daniel: “To him was given dominion and glory and kingdom that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed” (7:13-14). Christ’s elevation to the right hand of the Father signifies his sharing as man in the power and authority of God. This sharing is manifested in the sending of the Paraclete, the Spirit of Truth, who brings about conversion of hearts (cf. Acts 2:37). In the power of the Spirit, the Apostles can now call Jesus Lord (cf. 1 Cor 12:3). After this event the apostles became witnesses of the kingdom [that] will have no end.

Jesus Christ is Lord because he possesses fullness of power in heaven and on earth. This is a kingly power “far above all rule and authority and power and dominion…he has put all things under his feet” (Eph 1:21-22). At the same time, it is priestly power, as the Letter to the Hebrews explains at length, commenting on Psalm 109 (110), 4: “You are a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek” (Heb 5:6). Christ’s eternal priesthood implies the power to sanctify, so that he becomes “the source of salvation to all who obey him” (Heb 5:9). As Lord, too, Christ is Head of his Body, the Church. “He has put all things under his feet and has made him the head over all things for the Church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all” (Eph 1:22). Christ also is Lord of the entire universe. “He who descended is also he who ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things” (Eph 4:10) (cf. 1 Cor 15:26; Vatican Council II, Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, Gaudium et Spes, 45).

“Jesus Christ, the head of the Church, precedes us into the Father’s glorious kingdom so that we, the members of his Body, may live in the hope of one day being with him for ever” (CCC 666). St. Leo the Great, preaching on the mystery of the Ascension in Rome in 450, declared: “Since the Ascension is our uplifting, and where the glory of our Head shall go, there the hope of the Body is called, let us then rejoice exceedingly with fitting joy…For this day, not only are we made sure heirs of paradise, but in Christ we have already reached the heights of heaven, and obtained more abundant gifts through the ineffable favor of Christ than we lost through the envy of the devil.”

Finally, “Jesus Christ, having entered the sanctuary of heaven once for all, intercedes constantly for us as the mediator who assures us of the permanent outpouring of the Spirit” (CCC 667). Christ, who is the Resurrection and the Life (Jn 11:25), opens to humanity access to the Father’s house by means of his cross and Resurrection. The Letter to the Hebrews assures us that Jesus Christ, the unique priest of the new and eternal covenant, “entered, not into a sanctuary made with hands … but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf” (9:24); “he entered …[through] his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption” (9:12); and “When he had made purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high” (1:3). Jesus Christ goes to the Father’s house to lead us there; without him, we could not enter. Now God himself is our “place” after this life, is the “last thing” of the creature.

“Left to his own natural powers humanity does not have access to the “Father’s house,” to God’s life and happiness (Jn 14:2). Only can Christ can open to man such access that we, our Head and our Source, has preceded us” (Missale Romanum, Preface of the Ascension; cf. CCC 661).

Given all these things we can be sure that in the last day when Christ comes in glory “he will change our lowly body to conform with his glorified body by the power that enables him also to bring all thing into subjection to himself” (Phil 3:21). Hence at all times strive to “seek the things that are above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not things that are on earth” (Col 3:1-2). “Begin a new life according to the Spirit, once and for all renouncing sin and everything that leads us to sin, loving only God and everything that leads to God” ( St. Pius X Catechism”, 77).

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