Monthly Archives: May 2010

Solemnity of Pentecost

Today we celebrate the great feast of Pentecost. Pentecost comes from the Greek word “Pentecostes” which means “Fiftieth.” As we celebrate this Feast we commemorate the sending of the Holy Spirit by Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior or the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the disciples in particular, and the Church in general fiftieth day after Jesus had risen from the dead.

We also celebrate the birthday of the universal Church, because as you know, today the Church was fully born, through the breath of Christ, the Holy Spirit. As Pope Paul VI wrote:

“Today, as you know, the Church was fully born, through the breath of Christ, the Holy Spirit; and in the Church was born the Word, the witness to and promulgation of  salvation in the risen Jesus; and in him who listens to this promulgation is born faith, and with faith a new life, an awareness of the Christian vocation and the ability to hear that calling and to follow it by living a genuinely human life, indeed a life which is not only human but holy. And to make this divine intervention effective, today was born the apostolate, the priesthood, the ministry of the Spirit, the calling to unity, fraternity and peace” (Paul VI, “Address”, 25 May 1969).

There are three most important reasons why Jesus promised then sent the Holy Spirit to his disciples and to his Church which he established on the foundation of the apostles:

First, Jesus sent his Holy Spirit to guide her to the whole truth. If you still recall “God wills all men to be saved and to come to the fullness of the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim 2:3-4), that is,  Jesus, who is “the way, the truth, and the life” (Jn 14:6). This is the context why Jesus said, “When the Holy Spirit comes, he will guide you into all the truth” (Jn 16:13). What Jesus had said in Jn 8:31-32, “If you remain in my word you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free,” will ultimately be realized through the intervention and assistance of the Holy Spirit to the disciples after Jesus’ departure.

In what ways the Holy Spirit will guide the Church to the whole truth?

·     It is through the Scripture. Paul is very clear about this in his letter to Timothy: “All scripture is inspired of God and is useful for teaching, for reproof,  correction, and training in holiness so that man of God may be fully competent equipped for every good work” (2 Tim 3:15). Hence, read, study, pray with the Scripture and be a walking Bible which even the illiterate person can read and understand. Be reminded of the words of St. Jerome: “Ignorance of Christ is ignorance of the Scripture.”

·     It is through the magisterium or teaching authority of the Church. St. Paul is also very clear about this authority of the Church to teach and proclaim Christ and his Gospel when he wrote: “The Church is steward and teacher of the mysteries of God.” Let us therefore, listen to the teaching of the Church especially in the areas of faith and moral. As Jesus himself warned: “Whoever listens to you listens to me, and whoever rejects you rejects me, and whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me”  (Luke 10:16).

Second, Jesus sent his Holy Spirit to the Church to be the source of forgiveness and holiness. Mother Teresa of Calcutta once curiously interviewed by the reporter whether she felt uneasy to hear some people calling her “living saint?”  In reply she simply said, “What is something extraordinary about that? Are we not all called to be saints? Sanctity or holiness is to be perfect and mature in our love of God and neighbor and to be another Christ in the world. How do we know that we are somehow already in the state of holiness? As St. Paul says, “When it is no longer I who lives in me but Christ.”

Holiness requires conversion of heart on our part. Conversion requires repentance. Repentance requires humble recognition of our sinfulness and wickedness before God. Recognition of our sinfulness and wickedness to be true and fruitful requires confession and forgiveness of sins through the ministry of reconciliation. This is the reason why in the Gospel Jesus said: “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you shall forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained” (Jn 20:23). This is also the context why the formula of absolution contained: “Send you Holy Spirit among us for the forgiveness of sins. And through the ministry of the Church may God give pardon and peace. I absolve you in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.”

Third, Jesus sent his Holy Spirit to the Church to empower her to fulfill the saving mission entrusted by Christ. I think it worth recalling that Jesus before he ascended to heaven and seated at the right hand of the Father, he gathered his disciples and gave them a mission: “As the Father has sent me, so I send you” (Jn 20:22); “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to the whole creation” (Mk 16:15); “Go . . . and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. (Mt 28:19). Jesus Christ last words before his return to the Father constitute a “missionary mandate”.

The goal of missionary activity is to make the Good News of Salvation reach the farthest ends of the earth; the Church began to spread it on the day of Pentecost itself when the Holy Spirit descended upon Mary and the Apostles gathered in the Upper Room. By evangelizing the nations, the Church fulfills her own vocation, because she exists in order to evangelize (cf. Evangelii Nuntiandi, 14).

Although the feast of Pentecost is the end of the Easter season, Pentecost is a beginning. It is the birthday of the Church. Pentecost is a grand beginning more than it is a grand finale.

The day of the first Christian Pentecost began with 120 people receiving the Holy Spirit at 9 AM (see Acts 1:15; 2:15), and these 120 brought the Holy Spirit to 3,000 people before the day was over (see Acts 2:41). The next day those 3,000 tried to reach several more thousands (see Acts 4:4). Over the centuries, some Christians continued to share Pentecost with others (e.g. Acts 9:17; 19:2ff), but some have “dropped the ball” and quenched the Spirit (see 1 Thes 5:19). At present, over two billion people have received the Holy Spirit through Baptism.  Now we are to share this Pentecost with over four billion people as soon as possible. When we do, the Spirit, as promised, will have renewed the face of the earth (Ps 104:30). Then Jesus will return; the world will end; and we who have been faithful in constantly proclaiming Pentecost will be with the Lord forever in perfect, infinite love.

As Pope John Paul II wrote in his Angelus’ message in 1980: The Church does not cease – cannot cease – to go with the Gospel to all those who do not yet know it. In the same way as she does not cease to return with the Gospel to all those who have strayed from it. She does so heedless of the difficulties that accumulate on her missionary way. She does so in the spirit of the Apostle, who wrote: “Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel” (1 Cor 9:16). The whole Church and everyone in the Church who lets himself be guided by the spirit of responsibility for the Gospel, must repeat the same thing. “The mission of the Church – the Second Vatican Council stated – is carried out by means of that activity through which, in obedience to Christ’s command, moved by the grace and love of the Holy Spirit, the Church makes itself fully present to all men and peoples in order to lead them to the faith, freedom and peace of Christ by the example of its life and teaching, by the sacraments and other means of grace” (Ad Gentes, 5).

“Missionary activity is a matter for all Christians, for all dioceses and parishes, Church institutions and associations” (Redemptoris Missio, n.2).  “The Lord’s call to proclaim the Good News is still valid today: indeed it is ever more urgent. The call to mission acquires a singular urgency, particularly if we look at that part of humanity which still does not know Christ or recognize Him. Like Paul, we are cursed if we do not preach the Gospel. Preach, therefore, Christ and his Gospel in season and out of season!” (Pope John Paul II, 75th anniversary of the World Mission Sunday).

In a noisy world full of confusions and characterized by divisive conflicts the Holy Spirit can be our Advocate – a teacher, a guide, helper and our intercessor. Turn to Him, therefore, at all times. He is our strength, courage, consolation and inspiration. He stays constantly by our side as he leads us to holiness

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Solemnity of Ascension

While blessing them, He was carried up to Heaven.

Welcome my brothers and sisters in Christ to today’s celebration of the Feast the “Ascension of the Lord” Jesus.

While reflecting on this Feast that the Holy Catholic Church has found worthy of including in the Liturgical Calendar, I asked myself, “What does the Ascension of Jesus mean to us?” After spiritual reflections, I was able to perceive some important factors that are associated with the Ascension of the Lord Jesus.

1. First of all, the visible departure of the Lord concluded the Risen Jesus’ sojourn on earth. For 40 days after His Resurrection, Jesus had been appearing to many of His followers and spoke to them about the Kingdom of God. [Acts 1:3] The days of His apparitions had come to an end.

If we are to take Chapter 24 of the Gospel of Luke or Chapter 20 of the Gospel of John as they stand, we would get the impression that all three, the Resurrection, the Ascension and the giving of the Holy Spirit happened on the same day. But this is not so. As I have just mentioned, there was “40 days” [Acts 1:3] between the day of the Resurrection and the day of the Ascension. This knowledge is made known to us by St. Luke who also wrote “The Acts of the Apostles.”

2. Secondly, I have come to perceive that the Ascension of Jesus completes our understanding of the awesomeness of the glorious Resurrection. Because the Lord Jesus was raised to Heaven after His glorious Resurrection, it is made known to us that our blessed hope of eternal life does not consist of dwelling in this world, but rather in Heaven.

3. Thirdly, the Ascension of the Lord affirms that Jesus was the Messiah. As the Gospel of Luke tells us, “He was carried up into Heaven.” [Lk. 24:51] The questions to ask here are, “Who carried Him?” and “Why did they carry Him?” It was the angels who carried Jesus to Heaven because they were created to “adore Him” [Heb. 1:6] and serve Him.

In concluding the writing of his Gospel, St. Luke emphasized that the proclaiming of repentance and the forgiveness of sins was to be proclaimed in His Name. [Lk. 24:47] This emphasis, in “His Name,” shifts the faith of the believers from Yahweh, the God of the Old Testament, to the divinity of Jesus. “For in Him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell bodily.” [Col. 1:19, 2:9]

4. Next, the Ascension of the Lord Jesus opened the door for the beginning of the Divine ministry of the Holy Spirit. Jesus had told His disciples not to leave Jerusalem but to wait there for the promise of the Heavenly Father. [Lk. 24:49; Acts 1:4]

5. Fifth, during the Gospel Reading, we heard that Jesus raised His hands and blessed His disciples. [Lk. 24:50] This action echoes a similar action that is found in the Book of Sirach in the Old Testament.

“The leader of his brothers and the pride of his people was the high priest, Simon son of Onias…” [Sir. 50:1] “Then Simon came down and raised his hands over the whole congregation of Israelites to pronounce the blessing of the Lord with his lips, and to glory in his name.” [Sir. 50:20]

From this passage, we come to perceive that the blessing of Jesus was not just an ordinary blessing. It was a blessing from the True High Priest, He who is a priest forever, according to the Order of Melchizedek. [Heb. 5:6, 7:17, 7:21]

6. Sixth, from the moment of the Ascension, the living hope of all Christians has been for the Second Coming of Christ, not to deal with sin, but to save those who are eagerly waiting for Him. At the moment of the Ascension of the Lord, the countdown began. “About that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” [Mt. 24:36] “Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.” [Mt. 24:44]

7. Seventh, once the Lord Jesus had ascended into Heaven, He sat at the right hand of God. [Mk. 16:19; Rom. 8:34; Col. 3:1; Heb. 1:3, 8:1, 10:12; 1 Pet. 3:22; Acts 2:33, 7:56-7] Since then, He has been the Mediator between God and humankind. [1 Tim. 2:5] “Jesus has now obtained a more excellent ministry, and to that degree He is the Mediator of a better Covenant, which has been enacted through better promises.” [Heb. 8:6]

8. Eight, from the moment of the Ascension of Jesus into Heaven, His glorious reign began as the King of kings. Through the Resurrection of Jesus, death was conquered. “The great dragon was thrown down (out of Heaven), that ancient serpent who is called the Devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world.” [Rev. 12:9]

Following the glorious moment of the Ascension of Jesus, the souls that dwelled in Limbo were finally released “Christ was the first fruits of those who had died.” [1 Cor. 15:20]

In theological usage the name “Limbo” has two meanings. The first is the temporary place or state of the souls of the just who, although purified from sin, were excluded from the beatific vision until Christ’s triumphant ascension into Heaven (the “limbus patrum”).

According to apocryphal Jewish literature that refers to the abode of the departed just, the following condition of the souls is generally agreed upon:

– that their condition is one of happiness,
– that it is temporary, and
– that it is to be replaced by a condition of final and permanent bliss when the Messianic Kingdom is established.

9. Ninth, while Jesus has ascended into Heaven, His Divine Presence continues to be with us where He is adored daily in the Sacred Tabernacles of the Catholic Churches.

The last verse from today’s Gospel Reading states, “And they worshipped Him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy; and they were continually in the Temple blessing God.” [Lk. 24:53] What is stressed here is that the believers were “continually” in the Temple and their “great joy.”

From this passage, it can be perceived that the physical Church mirrors the invisible Kingdom of God. The One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church mirrors the new Jerusalem and the new Temple. The Divine Presence of Jesus in the Sacred Tabernacles mirrors His Divine Presence among the saints and the angels in the Kingdom of God.

Why is there great joy? Because the celebration of the Holy Mass and the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist mirror the Heavenly Feast in which Jesus, the Blessed Virgin Mary, the saints and all the angels are partaking. To receive Jesus in the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist is to “worship God in spirit and truth.” [Jn. 4:24]

My brothers and sisters in Christ, the aforementioned raises the importance of the Feast of the Ascension of the Lord above the fact that the Lord Jesus was carried up to Heaven by the angels. While the Resurrection was the turning point in history regarding salvation, the Ascension was the turning point in history regarding the beginning of the Kingdom of God.

Following the glorious Ascension of the Lord, the endless righteous souls who had died from the days of Adam to the days of Jesus, all were finally released from their prison in Limbo. Finally, they could enjoy the eternal Presence of Christ the King. For these souls, the Resurrection of Jesus prepared the way for their freedom from a dwelling where they did not enjoy the beatific vision of Christ.

These are reasons to celebrate the Ascension of the Lord. There may be more than those that I have mentioned. But these are sufficient for us to rejoice, not only for ourselves, but for the countless souls of the days of the Old Testament who finally entered the Kingdom of God.

Source: Catholic Doors Ministry