We’ve been hearing readings after Easter about how much the early disciples were in fear and disarray after the crucifixion. As the good news of the resurrection surfaced, this lifted their initial fear but there continued to be uncertainty in the future direction of the Church. Thus our Lord sent an advocate, the Holy Spirit, the paraclete, to make firm the joy of the resurrection and embolden the disciples to share what they know about their Saviour. Truth took over their worst fears, their unshakable confidence provided the bedrock to grow the Church at a phenomenal scale over the past couple of millennia.
“God our Father, let the Spirit you sent on your Church to begin the teaching of the gospel continue to work in the world…” – Opening Prayer for the mass of Pentecost
Contrast that attitude to today’s Christians. How often is it that we are looking for a proper “balance” between the values of the secular world and the teachings of our Mother, the Church? When we go to parties, how boldly do we admit to being Catholic among strangers that we meet? How willing are we to give silent assent to legislation and even vote for legislation that contravenes life, family, and freedom because we’re told that the media knows better than the bishops? For all Catholics the temptation to be a weak witness is understandable, but not excusable. Jesus sent us the Holy Spirit to draw the same boldness and fearlessness that the Apostles knew in living out their Christian identity. I am encouraged whenever I see another year of confirmandis receive the charisms that allow them the potential to do the same.
“To be deep in history is to cease to be Protestant.” – John Henry Cardinal Newman
My second point about Pentecost is that the early Church matters. When discussing with Protestants about particulars of our Faith, our premise on history and tradition does not resonate. I look for an authentic expression of faith at the points in time when it was at its best. The energy of Pentecost overflowing into the early Church is just such a time. Sin clouds our judgment and understanding, and without divine intervention, precision of details can easily be lost over time. We have the treasured writings of the Church Father to confirm for us the constant moral and theological doctrines as well as the fundamentals of the Liturgy. For instance, filled with the Holy Spirit, how do you think the disciples would have revered Mary, the Mother of the Risen Son? Are we more willing to accept the theological innovations of a 15th century monk (Luther), or do we strive to align with those in the room when the Holy Spirit came upon them as tongues of fire? We trust in the Holy Spirit then to protect them from error and we rejoice in the continuation of that work in our leaders today.
To be filled with God is, literally, to be “enthused”. The Enthusiasm of the early Disciples is what is often lacking in us when we fail to close the gap between the vibrant teachings of the Church and the practical and heroic living out of those teachings. The solution is to remind ourselves of the authentic love of God and his powerful movement in salvation history, including the chronicles of our own individual lives – to keep up the spirit of Pentecost each step of our journey. And thus we pray, “Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit, and they shall be created. And You shall renew the face of the earth.”