Pentecost Sunday (A)Acts 2:1-11

Today is the birthday of Holy Mother the Church. We heard in the gospel that the apostles had received the Holy Spirit on Christ’s first appearance to them the evening of his resurrection. At that time Jesus breathed upon them giving each apostle the power to forgive sins. Confirming his divinity, for he himself said that only God could forgive sin. But the real story of receiving the Holy Spirit as a Church (Ecclesia) happens 50 days later on the Jewish feast of Pentecost. We find this story in our first reading from the Acts of Apostles. It begins with great drama and power as they hear a noise, as a mighty wind. We remember the words of Jesus to Nicodemus, “The wind blows where it will, and you can hear the sound it makes, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes; so it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” Then tongues of fire descend upon the Apostles, an outpouring of the Holy Spirit into the soul so each person shares more intensely the mission of Christ. This public manifestation intended to impress and amaze the Jewish crowds that thronged Jerusalem on that festive occasion. Many of these Jews gathered at the place where the apostles were staying. The gift of tongues was given to the apostles and all were ‘astounded’ that they heard these Galileans in their own languages. Languages from all over the Middle East and beyond. It was a miracle brought about by God.

A miracle that showed the crowds that Jesus, the man many of whom had called for his crucifixion, was the Christ whom God raised from the dead, proving he was the Messiah, he is God’s own beloved Son. At his Ascension Jesus said, “All power in heaven and earth has been given to me,” — think about that for a second, —it is quite a statement, who, but the Son of God could make such a statement? He followed that with another statement: “Go therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father , and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” However, Jesus does not ask the apostles to force this baptism upon anyone, like the Father and his bride the Church, he allows people their free will and their right to religious freedom. This is an indication of the Church’s divine institution.

This day of Pentecost was chosen by God for the opening mission of the apostles of Christ. To prove this was a mission backed by the divine power of the Holy Spirit this gift of tongues was manifested to all present. But beyond that there was an obvious miraculous change brought about in the apostles themselves. Here were eleven men who had hid in closed rooms, traveled under cover, and were in constant fear for their lives. Now standing and preaching before thousands without fear. Peter converted three thousand that very day. From this day forward they were men dedicated and burning with the fire of the Holy Spirit to one purpose and one purpose only, to bring the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the whole world.

As Peter stood up in front of these crowds and preached Christ, crucified, raised from the dead by the power of the Father, and now seated at his right hand in heaven, he pronounced the core belief of the Christian religion and raised that Christian standard for all to hear. He and all his fellow apostles (including Matthias and Paul who would come later) would give their lives to carry this standard and plant it throughout the Roman empire. The rest of this book of Acts of the Apostles tells the story of this infant Church. The story that was brought about by frail, uneducated, every day men, who were turned into spiritual super heroes —by the power of the Holy Spirit.

My brothers and sisters, twenty some centuries separate us from these heroic men of God. We have now entered into the twenty first century but the truth of their labors is still with us today thanks to the same Holy Spirit who has remained with the Church down through the ages. The same doctrine taught by those apostles is taught by Mother Church today. It is said by some scholars that the proof of the Catholic Church as the true Church of Christ is in the fact that she is still in existence, alive and vital, with well over a billion souls strong. While monarchs, armies, empires, philosophers and even at times her own clergy, have tried to destroy her for these many years. The Church survived because men and women of God valued eternal life and love of Christ more than their own comfort or personal safety. And they recognized his Church, his Bride, as the means to reach it.

Let today be our Pentecost, please God, let us be men and women of principle, Catholics who will put eternal values before personal convenience or material gain. As we all know, the Church has many enemies, they cry out with the same old themes that we have heard over the ages. But we need not fear. The Holy Spirit is still as strong as he was on that first Pentecost in Jerusalem. He is God, his power is divine and will never diminish; he is still at the helm of the barque of Peter. He will continue to guide us and bring many more to us as he has for two thousand years. We in turn need to save those who have jumped overboard through fear of the storms and attacks of the Evil One.