Readings: Acts 2: 1-11; Psalm 104, Response: Lord, send out your spirit, and renew the face of the earth.; 1 Corinthians 12: 3-7, 12-13; Gospel: John 20: 19-23
Today, Pentecost Sunday, we transition from the great season of grace of Easter into ordinary time tomorrow. Pentecost is our pivot point, our being sent out into the world armed with the Spirit who will keep alive the graces of the past seasons.
If you followed the liturgical celebrations—from the Lenten daily and Sunday Masses to the Holy Week liturgy culminating in Easter Sunday, and finally the Easter daily and Sunday Masses—you will see and experience the flow of grace.
This was evident in the weeks of Lent and Holy Week when we were invited, led to renew and enter—or not to enter—the core of our relationship with God in Jesus.
We can synthesize the flow in the beautiful witness of St. Paul in his letter to the Galatians (2:20): “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”
Easter, perhaps one of the most meaningful Easters many of us have had in recent memory because of the pandemic and its ensuing crises, moved us from overcoming our fears and sense of despair to remembering, and to a new burst of hope.
The two disciples on the road to Emmaus give us one of the core graces of Easter: “Were not our hearts burning within us while he spoke to us on the way and opened the scriptures to us?” (Luke 24:32)
With “hearts burning within us” we took our Easter journey with the Risen Lord, remembering our own mission journey with the Crucified and Risen Lord—what God wants us to do, why he wants us to do it, why we say “yes,” and perhaps most deeply, how we are to live out this mission.
Last Sunday, Feast of the Ascension, the Risen Lord entrusted to us his mission—accomplished and with the guarantee of victory—to continue in our world today, especially in the context of this global crisis.
Today we are given the Spirit that will help us bring to completion the mission entrusted to us for a joyful and hopeful continuation.
The Gospel for Pentecost (John 20:19-23) outlines the characteristics of this mission. Three main points: one, we are sent; two, we are given the Holy Spirit; and three, we are commissioned to proclaim God’s mercy and forgiveness.
First, mission means we are sent. The Risen Lord clearly defines the character of this mission, i.e., he is the one who sends us. It is in the same manner that he is sent: “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” (John 20:21)
One of my favorite examples of this concrete living out of this mission is Peter’s cure of the paralytic. “I have neither silver nor gold, but what I do have I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazorean, rise and walk.” (Acts 3:6)
Our identity and mission take on the identity and mission of the Son, of Jesus Christ the Nazorean. As we were often told in the seminary, we become an alter “Christus” in the world, another Christ.
This is the core of mission, to bring Christ to others and to bring others to Christ. As I made it my “motto” as a high school teacher 40 years ago, I was to “help the youth of the high school discover Christ in their life.”
The second characteristic of mission is that we live it out in, through and with the Spirit of the Risen Lord. The Risen Lord gives this Spirit in the Gospel and reminds also of how, in the story of creation, God breathed his Spirit into creation.
We are now in the new creation, and scripture again synthesizes this: “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth. The former heaven and the former earth had passed away…Behold, God’s dwelling is with the human race. He will dwell with them and they will be his people and God himself will always be with them as their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there shall be no more death or mourning, wailing or pain, for the old order has passed away. The one who sat on the throne said, ‘Behold, I make all things new.’” (Rev 21:1-5)
Mercy and forgiveness
Finally, there is the commission to proclaim God’s mercy and forgiveness. This brings us back to the core of our Christian mission to heal the world with this message of mercy and forgiveness.
Pope Francis’ core message is this mercy and forgiveness of God. In this sense, he ushered in a renewal of the Church when he said that we must once more be more pastoral, bringing God’s compassion and mercy to people, and less dogmatic.
The final lines of the Gospel for today give the mission the power to forgive and to retain sins. I would like to think that while there is a dogmatic understanding of this, the core is in the Spirit of Christ commission.
Let men and women know God is mercy and forgiveness, and empower them to make a choice. Our mission as part of the Church is to inspire, to edify people to choose to accept and embrace this mercy and forgiveness.
We empower one another with this spiritual freedom to make the Risen Lord our personal Lord and Savior.
This is the Spirit of the Risen Lord, empowering, edifying, leading us to the spiritual freedom to dedicate and devote ourselves to God, and to fill our world with his mercy and love. —CONTRIBUTED