Acts 2:1-11 + 1 Cor 12:3-7,12-13 + John 20:19-23
June 4, 2017
“Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you.’”
The historical event that the Church celebrates this Sunday is described not in today’s Gospel passage, but in the First Reading. In one sense, the Church’s focus today moves beyond the four Gospel accounts to the remainder of the New Testament.
The first four books of the New Testament present the life, death, Resurrection and Ascension of Jesus. All of that makes possible what comes next. The rest of the New Testament’s books present the life of the Church as the Mystical Body of Christ, continuing Christ’s presence here on earth.
Today’s feast, then, celebrates this transition. Pentecost is a celebration of God entrusting the life of His Son to the members of the Church, similar to how He entrusted Him to Mary at the Annunciation. The New Testament books that follow the four Gospel accounts are not merely historical records of the first Christians striving to live as the Church. These books are a template or roadmap for us in the 21st century as we struggle to live—not as individual Christians—but as the members of the Mystical Body of Christ.
The Power of the Holy Spirit alone makes the transition to this way of life possible. The Second Reading this Sunday (or at least, the first of two options) focuses on the unique role of the Holy Spirit within the Church. Sometimes the Holy Spirit is metaphorically called “the soul of the Church”, in contrast to us human persons who are the body’s members.
Saint Paul uses three sets of contrasts to drive home the Holy Spirit’s unique role. He points to “different spiritual gifts”, “different forms of service” and “different workings”. All of these flow from God. Consider the second of these.
While “there are different forms of service”, there is “the same Lord.” St. Paul here links the “service” of the Church’s members to the one “Lord”. The Church’s members serve their Lord.
St. Paul is challenging those who trivialize the Power of the Holy Spirit and His Lordship. In our day when egalitarianism and individualism are so highly prized, we minimize the notion of God as our Lord. God the Father we might more easily consider as a “lordly” figure, but less so Jesus, who is more considered friend than Lord.
Even less do Christians today consider as Lord the Holy Spirit, who is often reduced to a gentle spirit who encourages us to follow our spiritual hunches. Without overlooking the truth of the Holy Spirit as Comforter and Advocate, we need to recognize the Holy Spirit as our Lord. Christian service serves the Holy Spirit, and aims to the establishment of His rule.
In the Nicene Creed we profess the Holy Spirit to be “the Lord, the giver of life”. As Christians, we serve the Holy Spirit who is our Lord. We serve Him so that His Kingdom of life—which proceeds from the Father and the Son—will rule in our world, so as to bring many through death into the everlasting life of the Trinity.
The Church is God’s means to establish the rule of the Holy Spirit. The purpose of the Holy Spirit’s varied gifts, service and workings is proclaimed in the refrain of Pentecost’s Responsorial Psalm: “Lord, send out your Spirit, and renew the face of the earth.”