Sunday, May 24, 2015

A Homily for Today

Today, we are celebrating Pentecost Sunday. Some of you may ask yourselves, "What is the origin of Pentecost in the Catholic Church?" According to the New Catholic Dictionary of 1929, the word Pentecost is Greek for "pentecostes" which means "fiftieth." This feast "commemorates the descent of the Holy Ghost upon the Apostles, and takes its name from the fact that it comes nearly fifty days after Easter. It was a Jewish festival, and has been observed in the Christian Church since the days of the apostles. It is often called Whitsunday (White Sunday) from the practise of giving solemn Baptism on that day in early centuries, the candidates being attired in white baptismal robes."

Today's three readings made reference to the arrival of the Holy Spirit, being baptized in the Spirit and being sent forth to proclaim the Word of God so others may convert to the living faith.

The arrival of the Holy Spirit was affirmed in the First Reading [Acts 2:1-11] when we heard, "All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages. Being baptized in the Spirit was affirmed in the Second Reading [1 Cor. 12:3b-7, 12- 13] when it was said, "In the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body." And being sent to proclaim the Word of God was affirmed in the Gospel Reading [Jn. 20:19-23] when we heard, "As the Father has sent me, so I send you." These three passages are the gist of today's homily.

While preparing my homily, I was guided by the Spirit to review what the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches about Pentecost in relationship to the Church. Today, I would like to share with you some of those teachings.

"The prophetic texts that directly concern the sending of the Holy Spirit are oracles by which God speaks to the heart of his people in the language of the promise, with the accents of "love and fidelity." [Ezek 11:19; 36:25-28; 37:1-14; Jer 31:31-34; and cf. Joel 3:1-5] St. Peter proclaimed their fulfillment on the morning of Pentecost. [Acts 2:17-21] According to these promises, at the 'end time' the Lord's Spirit will renew the hearts of men, engraving a new law in them. He will gather and reconcile the scattered and divided peoples; he will transform the first creation, and God will dwell there with men in peace." (C.C.C. # 715)

"On the day of Pentecost when the seven weeks of Easter had come to an end, Christ's Passover was fulfilled in the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, manifested, given, and communicated as a divine person: of his fullness, Christ, the Lord, poured out the Spirit in abundance." [Acts 2:33-36] (C.C.C. # 731)

"'When the work which the Father gave the Son to do on earth was accomplished, the Holy Spirit was sent on the day of Pentecost in order that he might continually sanctify the Church.' [LG 4; Cf. Jn 17:4] Then 'the Church was openly displayed to the crowds and the spread of the Gospel among the nations, through preaching, was begun.' [AG 4] As the 'convocation' of all men for salvation, the Church in her very nature is missionary, sent by Christ to all the nations to make disciples of them." [Mt 28:19-20; AG 2; 5-6] (C.C.C. # 767)

"The Church was made manifest to the world on the day of Pentecost by the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. [SC 6; LG 2] The gift of the Spirit ushers in a new era in the 'dispensation of the mystery' the age of the Church, during which Christ manifests, makes present, and communicates his work of salvation through the liturgy of his Church, 'until he comes.' [1 Cor 11:26] In this age of the Church Christ now lives and acts in and with his Church, in a new way appropriate to this new age. He acts through the sacraments in what the common Tradition of the East and the West calls 'the sacramental economy'; this is the communication (or 'dispensation') of the fruits of Christ's Paschal mystery in the celebration of the Church's 'sacramental" liturgy.'" (C.C.C. # 1076)

"Since Pentecost, it is through the sacramental signs of his Church that the Holy Spirit carries on the work of sanctification. The sacraments of the Church do not abolish but purify and integrate all the richness of the signs and symbols of the cosmos and of social life. Further, they fulfill the types and figures of the Old Covenant, signify and make actively present the salvation wrought by Christ, and prefigure and anticipate the glory of heaven." (C.C.C. # 1152)

"From the very day of Pentecost the Church has celebrated and administered holy Baptism. Indeed St. Peter declares to the crowd astounded by his preaching: 'Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.' [Acts 2:38] The apostles and their collaborators offer Baptism to anyone who believed in Jesus: Jews, the God-fearing, pagans. [Cf. Acts 2:41; 8:12-13; 10:48; 16:15] Always, Baptism is seen as connected with faith: 'Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household,' St. Paul declared to his jailer in Philippi. And the narrative continues, the jailer 'was baptized at once, with all his family.'" [Acts 16:31-33] (C.C.C. # 1226)

"According to the Apostle Paul, the believer enters through Baptism into communion with Christ's death, is buried with him, and rises with him: Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. [Rom 6:3-4; cf. Col 2:12] The baptized have 'put on Christ.' [Gal 3:27] Through the Holy Spirit, Baptism is a bath that purifies, justifies, and sanctifies." [CE 1 Cor 6:11; 12:13] (C.C.C. # 1227)

"Hence Baptism is a bath of water in which the 'imperishable seed' of the Word of God produces its life-giving effect. [1 Pet 1:23; cf. Eph 5:26] St. Augustine says of Baptism: 'The word is brought to the material element, and it becomes a sacrament.'" [St. Augustine, In Jo. ev. 80, 3: PL 35, 1840] (C.C.C. # 1228)

"This fullness of the Spirit was not to remain uniquely the Messiah's, but was to be communicated to the whole messianic people. [Ezek 36:25-27; Joel 3:1-2] On several occasions Christ promised this outpouring of the Spirit, [Lk 12:12; Jn 3:5-8; 7:37-39; 16:7-15; Acts 1:8] a promise which he fulfilled first on Easter Sunday and then more strikingly at Pentecost. [Jn 20:22; Acts 2:1-14] Filled with the Holy Spirit the apostles began to proclaim "the mighty works of God," and Peter declared this outpouring of the Spirit to be the sign of the messianic age. [Acts 2:11; Cf. 2:17-18] Those who believed in the apostolic preaching and were baptized received the gift of the Holy Spirit in their turn." [Acts 2:38] (C.C.C.# 1287)

"From that time on the apostles, in fulfillment of Christ's will, imparted to the newly baptized by the laying on of hands the gift of the Spirit that completes the grace of Baptism. For this reason in the Letter to the Hebrews the doctrine concerning Baptism and the laying on of hands is listed among the first elements of Christian instruction. The imposition of hands is rightly recognized by the Catholic tradition as the origin of the sacrament of Confirmation, which in a certain way perpetuates the grace of Pentecost in the Church." [Paul VI, Divinae consortium naturae, 659; Cf. Acts 8:15-17; 19:5-6; Heb 6:2] (C.C.C. # 1288)

"It is evident from its celebration that the effect of the sacrament of Confirmation is the full outpouring of the Holy Spirit as once granted to the apostles on the day of Pentecost." (C.C.C. # 1302)

"From this fact, Confirmation brings an increase and deepening of baptismal grace:

- it roots us more deeply in the divine filiation which makes us cry, 'Abba! Father!'; [Rom 8:15]

- it unites us more firmly to Christ;

- it increases the gifts of the Holy Spirit in us;

- it renders our bond with the Church more perfect; [LG 11]

- it gives us a special strength of the Holy Spirit to spread and defend the faith by word and action as true witnesses of Christ, to confess the name of Christ boldly, and never to be ashamed of the Cross: [Council Of Florence (1439) DS 1319; LG 11; 12]

Recall then that you have received the spiritual seal, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of right judgment and courage, the spirit of knowledge and reverence, the spirit of holy fear in God's presence. Guard what you have received. God the Father has marked you with his sign; Christ the Lord has confirmed you and has placed his pledge, the Spirit, in your hearts." [SL Ambrose, De myst. 7, 42 PL 16, 402-403] (C.C.C. # 1303)

"Like Baptism which it completes, Confirmation is given only once, for it too imprints on the soul an indelible spiritual mark, the 'character,' which is the sign that Jesus Christ has marked a Christian with the seal of his Spirit by clothing him with power from on high so that he may be his witness." [Council Of Trent (1547) DS 1609; Lk 24:48-49] (C.C.C. # 1304)

"This 'character' perfects the common priesthood of the faithful, received in Baptism, and 'the confirmed person receives the power to profess faith in Christ publicly and as it were officially (quasi ex officio).'" [St. Thomas Aquinas, STh III, 72, 5, ad 2] (C.C.C. # 1305)

Finally, "In the Lord's Prayer, 'thy kingdom come' refers primarily to the final coming of the reign of God through Christ's return. [Titus 2:13] But, far from distracting the Church from her mission in this present world, this desire commits her to it all the more strongly. Since Pentecost, the coming of that Reign is the work of the Spirit of the Lord who 'complete[s] his work on earth and brings us the fullness of grace.'" [Roman Missal, Eucharistic Prayer IV, 118] (C.C.C. # 2818)

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