Pentecost Sunday
(50 days after Easter)

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Pentecost - by Jean RESTOUT -  from Musée du Louvre, Paris


Acts 2:1-11

They were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to speak in different languages.

When the day of Pentecost came it found the brethren gathered in one place. Suddenly from up in the sky there came a noise like a strong, driving wind which was heard all through the house where they were seated. Tongues as of fire appeared which parted and came to rest on each of them. All were filled with the Holy Spirit. They began to express themselves in foreign tongues and make bold proclamation as the Spirit prompted them.

Staying in Jerusalem at the time were devout Jews of every nation under heaven. These heard the sound, and assembled in a large crowd. They were much confused because each one heard these men speaking his own language. The whole occurrence astonished them. They asked in utter amazement, "Are not all of these men who are speaking Galileans? How is it that each of us hears them in his native tongue? We are Parthians, Medes, and Elamites. We live in Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus, the Province of Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt, and the regions of Libya around Cyrene. There are even visitors from Rome -- all Jews, or those who have come over to Judaism; Cretans and Arabs too. Yet each of us hears them speaking in his own tongue about the marvels God has accomplished".

John 20:19-23 (A,B,C)

On the evening of that first day of the week, even though the disciples had locked the doors of the place where they were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood before them.

"Peace be with you", He said. When He had said this, He showed them His hands and His side. At the sight of the Lord the disciples rejoiced. "Peace be with you", He said again. "As the Father has sent Me, so I send you". Then He breathed on them and said: "Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive men's sins, they are forgiven them; if you hold them bound, they are held bound".


Pentecosts of the Old and New Testaments

The Pentecost is an Old Testament Jewish Feast, and also the time of the Holy Spirit descending on the disciples in the New Testament. Pentecost is a Greek word meaning 'Fifty' (50) and comes from the Feast of Weeks of Leviticus 23:16. Fifty days had elapsed from the Resurrection of Jesus until the descent of the Holy Ghost.

The Hebrew Feast of Weeks or Day of the First-fruits, as it was also called, came seven weeks after the Passover. It was one of the three great annual festivals held in Jerusalem, the other two being Passover and the Feast of Tabernacles. Also called the Feast of the Harvest, the First-fruits of Labor, the Feast of Weeks and the Day of First-fruits. All males, no matter where in the world they lived, were required by law to attend these Feasts. Consequently the city of Jerusalem was filled with devout Jews on the day of the first Christian Pentecost, it was a Sunday.

The whole period of 50 days, being kept in honor and memory of the Savior's Resurrection, was a time of more than ordinary joy, and it was a custom of very general observance to worship standing, instead of kneeling, during the whole of this space, to mark the joyful character. Many churches throughout the empire would sprout by this first introduction of the seed of the Gospel by those Jews who came up from thence, from Jerusalem, and witnessed the events of the day of Pentecost. Thus at the day of Pentecost there were at Jerusalem (on account of the dispersion) devout Jews out of every nation under Heaven.

Pentecost was also the Anniversary of the Law. It was on that very day that Moses gathered Israel around Mount Sinai and God came out in majesty and gave His Law with His thunders and lightnings and they stood trembling and entered into the Covenant of Works with Him. The Holy Ghost came on that anniversary because the Holy Ghost is the New Law of the Christian. The Old Law was written on stone. The New Law is written on the hearts of every person.

Upon the death of Jesus, the disciples hid themselves behind closed doors for fear of the Jews. Fifty days later they stood in the midst of the multitudes who had witnessed the death of Jesus to proclaim the great fact of His Resurrection. The announcement of that fact, ran like fire through the populace; a new light streamed into their minds, a new force moved their hearts, a new society, the Church, was begotten by the Spirit of God Who came to reveal the Truth of the Life and Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Eternal Son of God. New life, new joy, the victory over sin and death, came through His triumph. Many people who had watched Jesus die believed all the disciples said about His Resurrection.


Pentecost Sunday

by Father Charles Irvin, M.Div, J.D.

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crucifixion3.jpg (1600 bytes) Many times Pentecost is spoken of as the "Birthday of the Church". One could likewise consider Good Friday, with the flow of water and blood from the pierced side of Christ hanging on the Cross, to be the birthday of the Church. Or perhaps Easter Sunday could be thought of as the birthday of the Church. At any rate, today is certainly the day when the Church "went public", when the Church burst out into the public square. It's good to celebrate this day, living as we do in a time when people want the Church to get back into the closet.

This being the birthday of the Church in the public sense, I'd like to point out some things that are right about the Church. We have plenty of people telling us about all that's wrong. They're a dime-a-dozen; at a moment's notice, in the most inopportune of moments and in most inappropriate of ways, they tell me about all that's wrong in the Catholic Church. They tell me that they don't go to Mass because of all the hypocrites that are at Mass. In other words, you're all a bunch of hypocrites and they don't want to be seen among you! They tell me that priests are power-hungry money grubbers, that I, because I'm not married I don't have a clue as to what life's all about, that I'm hung up on sex, that I am shielded from real suffering, and so forth.

In the interests of fairness we ought to take a look (at least once a year!) about what's right with our Church. After all, one doesn't attend a birthday party to tell all of the assembled guests about what's wrong with the guest of honor!

littlegoldcross.gif (962 bytes) The first thing that's right about the Church is that She is the creation of God. The story about Her birth is told in symbolic language. Literal language simply can't bear the weight of what's being communicated. Sometimes only the language of poetry and songs, symbolic language is strong enough to be adequate to the task.

The Church is not the result of mere human creation; it is not simply a voluntary association of like-minded individuals who have banded together to form a legal and political entity known as the Roman Catholic Church. The Church was not created by human hands. Certainly the way it was created was not the way humans create social or political or legal entities.

littlegoldcross.gif (962 bytes) The Church has a mission, a purpose given to her by God. She has a clear self-identity and a fixed purpose. Her mission is universal, communicated to people of every race, nationality and tongue. It speaks fiery words of love, of challenge and of vision, speaks in words that can be understood by people of every age, culture, race and continent. It needs to say the same thing over and over and over again until we finally "get it". And it needs to say it well, in language and in imagery that is inspiring, illuminating, comforting and yet challenging.

littlegoldcross.gif (962 bytes) The Church is a community, a family, a place where individuality and personal rights are balanced in a common good, in commonly shared rights and responsibilities, much like a family. Families are places where persons are individuated, where their personalities are formed and shaped in their relationships with others.

And the Church is directed outward, directed toward others. It needs to be an outreaching family, living out concerns for the marginalized, the oppressed, the dispossessed, the little ones, however hidden and unrecognized they may be. It needs to be the community in which a thousand sermons are not simply preached but actually lived; the Church is that privileged place where God's spoken Word is received in the living and in the acting out of it, not just in the listening to it.

littlegoldcross.gif (962 bytes) The Church needs to be, and in fact IS, the continuation of that Body of Disciples who first followed Jesus, who listened to what He had to say and then put into practice what He asked us to do. Our Church strives mightily to remain integrated with the Church of the Apostles, to retain the integrity and the truthfulness of full integration with the Mystical Body of the Risen Christ.

There are things that are wrong among Catholics and in the Catholic Church itself. There are attitudes and structures that need to be changed. But that's the way it has always been in our Church, from its very beginning, from the time Peter and Paul had to settle their differences about whether or not non-Jews could be members of the Church. Polarities, diversities and dialogue have vitalized the Church from its inception.

Perhaps there's something wonderfully right about our internal differences. Perhaps there's something wonderfully right in our diversities and even in our disagreements. Perhaps that dynamic allows us to turn to the Holy Spirit so that we might continually be re-shaped, molded, and re-formed as God would have us.

Perhaps we might even say the Church's birthday party is not over and never will be because God's Church is continually being reborn, renewed and raised up in a never-ending cycle of Passion, Suffering, Death and Resurrection. Perhaps, in spite of what all of the critics are saying, there's a whole lot that's right about our Church, and that being in the Church is really a good place to be. Hopefully that's exactly why you are here. I know that's why I am here.




Papal Homily

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