Pentecost (May 15, 2016)

Pentecost (May 15, 2016)


I’ve never really fashioned myself as one who would be able to be a missionary.  I remember as a kid in elementary school collecting money for “the missions,” proudly depositing spare change into a small metal bank that looked like the globe, or trying to fill a little milk carton each Lent.  I’ve always admired people who spread the Gospel and serve people in necessity in various places scattered all over the world. 


Our celebration of Pentecost today says a lot about who missionaries are, and what they are to do.  Before the day of Pentecost, the disciples of Jesus had encountered the Risen Lord numerous times and even saw Him ascend into heaven.  Yet, they were still huddled together behind closed doors, unsure of their next step.  Then the Holy Spirit “came to rest on each one of them.”  The Holy Spirit had been working throughout the course of history, but this is a new beginning.  Filled with the Holy Spirit, these disciples are transformed and are sent out to begin the mission of the Church.  Jesus had already commissioned them to evangelize, but now they have the courage, the strength, and the confidence to actually go out and do it, having been “clothed with power from on high.” [Lk 24:49]  They were not to rest on their own experience of the passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus; they must now go out and share that—they must be missionaries. 


The same is true for all of us.  If you don’t believe me, allow me to quote a bit at length from Pope Francis’ The Joy of the Gospel: “Throughout the world, let us be ‘permanently in a state of mission.’” [EG 25]  “In all the baptized, from first to last, the sanctifying power of the Spirit is at work, impelling us to evangelization.” [EG 119]  “In virtue of their baptism, all the members of the People of God have become missionary disciples.…Every Christian is challenged, here and now, to be actively engaged in evangelization; indeed, anyone who has truly experienced God’s saving love does not need much time or lengthy training to go out and proclaim that love.” [EG 120]  “We have a treasure of life and love which cannot deceive, and a message which cannot mislead or disappoint. It penetrates to the depths of our hearts, sustaining and ennobling us. It is a truth which is never out of date because it reaches that part of us which nothing else can reach.” [EG 265]  “All of us are called to offer others an explicit witness to the saving love of the Lord, who despite our imperfections offers us his closeness, his word and his strength, and gives meaning to our lives. In your heart you know that it is not the same to live without him; what you have come to realize, what has helped you to live and given you hope, is what you also need to communicate to others.” [EG 121] 


Each of us given new life through the transforming waters of baptism and sealed with the Gift of the Holy Spirit in Confirmation are fashioned to be missionaries, to witness and to evangelize, bringing the Good News of Jesus into every human situation and every human heart.  For a few folks this means going to a far-off land.  For most of us, though, it means going out to the world of our everyday lives—to our homes, to our families, to our jobs, to our schools, to our friends and our neighbors.  Now, because these may be much more familiar to us, the idea of helping God to dwell there may make us think that it just might be easier to head off to some developing country.  But that is where we’re sent. 


But of course we aren’t sent without help.  Like those first disciples, the Father and the Son give us the Holy Spirit, the Advocate—the same Spirit whose power enabled the Virgin Mary, through her faith and obedience, to give birth to the Word made flesh, so that Christ could dwell among us; the Spirit whose power raised Jesus from the dead; the Spirit that gave birth to the Church at Pentecost; the Spirit that gives unique gifts to each of us; the Spirit whose power transforms bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Jesus, so that Christ can dwell within us.  Having received Christ in the Eucharist, we are commissioned to witness to Jesus out in the world; to evangelize; to be missionaries in a way.  Surely, none of us are perfect missionaries, but the Holy Spirit is there to help us in our weakness, to transform us, and to help us carry out the work for which we were created and called—for it is through the Spirit that we are sent to begin with.  The key for us is to always be open to how the Spirit might be touching our hearts today, where He might be leading us today.  May we always be open to the power and the love of the Holy Spirit flowing in and through our lives.