A New Era of the Church

Pentecost Sunday

ACTS 2:1-11

When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled, they were all in one place together. And suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house in which they were. Then 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. Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven staying in Jerusalem. At this sound, they gathered in a large crowd, but they were confused because each one heard them speaking in his own language. They were astounded, and in amazement they asked, "Are not all these people who are speaking Galileans? Then how does each of us hear them in his native language? We are Parthians, Medes, and Elamites, inhabitants of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the districts of Libya near Cyrene, as well as travelers from Rome, both Jews and converts to Judaism, Cretans and Arabs, yet we hear them speaking in our own tongues of the mighty acts of God."

1 Corinthians 12:3B-7, 12-13

Brothers and sisters: No one can say, "Jesus is Lord," except by the Holy Spirit. There are different kinds of spiritual gifts but the same Spirit; there are different forms of service but the same Lord; there are different workings but the same God who produces all of them in everyone. To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit. As a body is one though it has many parts, and all the parts of the body, though many, are one body, so also Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, slaves or free persons, and we were all given to drink of one Spirit.

John 20:19-23

On the evening of that first day of the week, when the doors were locked, where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, "Peace be with you." When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you." And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained." Thomas, called Didymus, one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples said to him, "We have seen the Lord." But he said to them, "Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger into the nailmarks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe." Now a week later his disciples were again inside and Thomas was with them. Jesus came, although the doors were locked, and stood in their midst and said, "Peace be with you." Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here and see my hands, and bring your hand and put it into my side, and do not be unbelieving, but believe." Thomas answered and said to him, "My Lord and my God!" Jesus said to him, "Have you come to believe because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed." Now, Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples that are not written in this book. But these are written that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that through this belief you may have life in his name.

Pentecost is a solemnity celebrated by the Church 50 days after Easter to commemorate the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles, the preaching of Peter and the other Apostles to Jews in Jerusalem, and the baptism of some 3,000 people to the Christian community; it is regarded as the birthday of the Catholic Church (cf. 1995 Catholic Almanac, p.248).

Hold on… “Birthday of the Catholic Church”? Are we saying the Church did not exist before the event of Pentecost as narrated by Luke in Acts 2:1-11? Not really. As noted by Vatican II, the Church, as an assembly of people called to believe in Christ, was “already present in figure at the beginning of the world”; she “was prepared in marvelous fashion in the history of the people of Israel” and “will be brought to glorious completion at the end of time” (Lumen Gentium n.2).

As a result, the Pentecost event is considered the “birthday” of the Church in the sense that the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles has become a symbol of the Spirit’s new and active presence in the Church. This typifies the beginning of the Church of the New Covenant and fulfills Jesus’ promise made before his departure from this world — to send the Advocate whose mission will complete the mission of the Son through the Church (cf. Dominum et vivificantem, n.25, 63).

The event of Pentecost ushers in a new era of the Church wherein the Holy Spirit is her founding gift – the soul that animates the body of the Christian community, the overseer of her missionary efforts, the invisible dispenser of grace that sanctifies her life through the sacraments, and the Spirit of truth that guides her leadership “into all truth” (cf. Ignatius Catholic Study Bible New Testament on Acts 2:4).

With this understanding of the event of Pentecost in mind, suddenly we see a whole new significance in the resurrected Jesus’ “breathing on” and the Church leadership’s “receiving” of the Holy Spirit in today’s gospel reading (cf. John 20:21-23). In a gospel that is filled with imagery and symbolism, these simple gestures are the prelude to a new era in human history that makes even the French Revolution or the lunar landing of Apollo 11 pale by comparison. What we are hearing – what is being proclaimed with renewed vigor and enthusiasm – on this Pentecost Sunday is the dawning of a new era of the Church – the era of the Pneuma that Jesus breathed forth on the Cross and in the Upper Room (Luke 23:46, John 20:22); the era of the Holy Spirit.

Posted: June 4, 2017

Edmond Lo

As a Catholic speaker, writer and RCIA Catechist, Edmond is very active in promoting and defending the Catholic faith. He has a MBA, a CPA-CMA, and a MTS (Master of Theological Studies) from U.T., St. Augustine's Seminary. Having worked many years as the CFO of a non-profit organization, he retired at 55 to follow his special vocation of evangelization. The activities he conducts include the CMCC Bible Study Program, the Catechism Revisited Program, the FLL Spiritual Formation Program, Living in the Holy Tradition, RCIA, family groups and retreats, etc. Edmond is a member of the FLL Core Team. He writes Sunday Mass reflections regularly for the weekly FLL NewSpiration. His personal blog: http://elodocuments.blogspot.com/

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