Pentecost 2015 Year B:
Today we celebrate the feast of the Holy Spirit. Pentecost is the day when we remember the birth of the Church as we know it. For once the Holy Spirit was poured out on the Church, she began to carry out her mission. The Church’s mission is simple: the Church is called to carry out the very mission of Christ. Just as Christ was anointed priest, prophet, and king, so the Church is called to teach, lead, and sanctify. The Holy Spirit gives the church the power to act in the person of Christ for the salvation of the world. Today we do well to remember this fundamental calling. It is also good to remember that this mission was not given to the apostles alone, but to the whole Church. Each one of us is called to embrace this mission and fulfill it in our own special vocation. Whether we are married, single, priests, sisters, lay persons, we have all received God’s Spirit, given to us to empower us for our mission.
Now I don’t want to cause a lot of fear and anxiety, but it is not too much to say that every one of us is responsible for carrying out the mission of Christ. All of us are responsible to preach the gospel, to lead others closer to Christ, to make this world a holier place where God can dwell. I think that now, more than ever, the world needs the truth of the gospel. There is a bunch of crazy stuff going on in our times. There is war and violence. There is poverty and pain. There is immorality and the weakening of the life of the family. These things are all around us.
But, in many ways, things are not so different than what the apostles faced. Look at what they accomplished. Because of their preaching millions and billions of people throughout the whole world came to know Christ. They started with nothing, outside of a few people in Jerusalem, no one had heard of Jesus. They were able to do great things. If we can zero in on how they were able to carry out their mission, it will enlighten us as to how to carry out our mission. Jesus explains it well: the Father will send the Spirit of Truth, he will testify to me, then you will testify.
As I said above, it is the Holy Spirit that empowers the Church to carry on the mission of Christ. It was the Spirit that moved in the hearts of the apostles to preach the good news. The same Holy Spirit is alive and with us today, it is this spirit that allows us to fulfill our mission as well.
First, the Spirit testifies. I think it is perfectly natural and ok to remember that we still have a lot to learn. None of us is there yet. We all need to open our hearts to the message of the Spirit. Where do you still need to grow? Maybe it is in accepting some truth of the gospel. I know that so many people in today’s society fail to see the truth of our belief about marriage. So many people struggle to see the value of every human life. So many people find it difficult to move away from sin. No matter where we are on this continuum, today is a day for us to open our hearts to the Spirit of Truth. He will teach us and strengthen our faith in the truth.
Then we testify. Once we listen to the Spirit of Truth, he will strengthen us for our ministry. I think it always works like that: we are growing in our personal faith, but then we express that in our lives. One without the other is incomplete. If we grow in our life of faith, but it doesn’t move us to look beyond ourselves, we become that inward looking Church that Pope Francis has been denouncing. But, if we are working in the world without being guided by the Spirit of truth we become political activists or social workers. Both have their place, but that is not the same as carrying out the mission of Christ.