05-20-2018Weekly ReflectionFather Barnabas Duniya

The historical event that the Catholic Church celebrates this Sunday is described in today's Gospel as 'Pentecost': "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so l send you". Jesus 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". The Acts of the Apostles focus here on how the end of the Easter Season moves beyond the four Gospel accounts to the remainder of the New Testament. The Holy Spirit is the new law, the power that leads us to do good, from within our heart. The Holy Spirit is also a source of unity (it pulls down all barriers) and wherever it is, it destroys sin.

The first four books of the New Testament present the life, death and Resurrection of Christ in His earthly Body. The rest of the New Testament's books present the life of the Church as the Mystical Body of Christ. Christ continued to walk this earth after His Ascension to the Father's Right Hand, but in a radically different way. These 23 books—Acts of the Apostles, the 21 apostolic letters, and The Book of Revelation—offer a roadmap for us in the 21 st century as we struggle to live, not as individual Christians, but as the conjoined members of the Mystical Body of Christ.

We are the Church of Pentecost. Jesus sends the Holy Spirit to us that we may become true sons and daughters of God. Every time we grant or receive forgiveness; every time we show concrete signs of reconciliation, justice, fraternity, openness, honesty, active charity; every time we transmit a genuine faith, every time we confess that Jesus Christ is Lord; every time we allow the Spirit to use us through His many gifts; every time we resist temptation, we experience a new Pentecost.

Anyone who wishes to make right choices in the affairs of life, to discern the truth in all occasions, to avoid sin and every occasion of sin must be disposed to receive the Holy Spirit. Give the Holy Spirit space to direct your life. He is a person you can receive and experience. Welcome Him in your life as a special friend. Pentecost celebrates this transition from the earthly life of Christ to the Mystical Body of Christ. The Power of the Holy Spirit alone makes the transition to this life possible.

The Second Reading focuses on the unique role of the Holy Spirit within the Church. It is a consequence of the presence of the Holy Spirit in a community. We are enriched by the gifts of the same Spirit, gifts that must not be a source of competition between us. Sometimes the Holy Spirit is metaphorically called "the soul of the Church", in contrast to us human persons who are the body's members. St. Paul uses three sets of contrasts to drive home the Holy Spirit's unique role. Consider here just 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 with the one "Lord". The Church's members "serve" their "Lord". Perhaps this seems obvious. But it bears an important consequence for those who choose to practice stewardship as a way of life.

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. We might more easily consider God the Father as a "Lordly" figure. But we're less inclined to consider Jesus our Lord, since we want in our day and time to consider Him more as a friend than Lord. The Church is God's means to establish the rule of the Holy Spirit. The earthly 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."