"What the soul is to the human body, the Holy Spirit is to the Body of Christ, which is the Church"
We invite our readers and viewers around the world to join in a period of prayer in preparation for Pentecost praying together, "Come, Holy Spirit, Come!" The Church was empowered by the Holy Spirit to live differently in the midst of a world awaiting the fullness of redemption; to lead the world back to the Father, through the Son, in the Holy Spirit. Can we live this kind of transformed Christian life in our own daily lives? Yes, by living them in the heart of the Church by the power of the Holy Spirit.
CHESAPEAKE, VA (Catholic Online) - "When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled, they were all in one place together. And suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house in which they were. Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim." (Acts of the Apostles, Chapter two)
On the day following the Feast of the Ascension of the Lord there is a custom among Catholics of praying for nine days (a "novena") for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the Feast of Pentecost. In many respects, the Holy Spirit, the Third Person of the Blessed Trinity, seems mysterious to many Christians. When I consider this I am reminded of one of the missionary stories recounted in the Acts of the Apostles.
Chapter 19 of Acts begins with these words, "While Apollos was in Corinth, Paul traveled through the interior of the country and came (down) to Ephesus where he found some disciples. He said to them, "Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you became believers?" They answered him, "We have never even heard that there is a Holy Spirit." (Acts 19: 1, 2)
Too often we live our lives like those disciples in Ephesus. We act as though we did not realize there even is a Holy Spirit! Yet an examination of the teaching of Jesus and the New Testament reveals the vital role of the Holy Spirit in the life and mission of the Church - and in the life and mission of of every believer. A study of the Tradition, the magisterial teachings of the Church and the Catholic Catechism underscores this reality.
Pope Benedict XVI told a group of young men and women in July of 2008 at a Prayer Vigil in Australia, "The Holy Spirit has been in some ways the neglected person of the Blessed Trinity. A clear understanding of the Spirit almost seems beyond our reach..." He then gave them an admonition which we should take to heart as we begin a Novena to the Holy Spirit leading up to Pentecost.
"Let us invoke the Holy Spirit: He is the artisan of God's works...Let His gifts shape you! Just as the Church travels the same journey with all humanity, so too you are called to exercise the Spirit's gifts amidst the ups and downs of your daily life. . To be truly alive is to be transformed from within, open to the energy of God's love. In accepting the power of the Holy Spirit you too can transform your families, communities and nations. Set free the gifts!"
The Second Vatican Council in the Catholic Church began with a prayer for a "New Pentecost." Since that Council, there has been a growth in what are called the "ecclesial movements" in the Church. Though they each have differing charisms and distinctive missions, they were all inspired and led by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit was poured out on Pentecost and continues to be poured out on, in and through the Church, for the sake of her mission in the world.
The early followers of Jesus gathered as the Lord commanded them, expecting the fulfillment of the promise. The promise was fulfilled. We traditionally refer to Pentecost as the "birthday" of the missionary church. Their encounter with the Holy Spirit in the Upper Room changed them. It was a call to carry forward in time His ongoing redemptive mission until he comes again.
The outpouring of the Holy Spirit is an invitation to all of us, in this age, to live lives of sacrificial love, holiness and service in a world that God still loves - a world into which He sends His Son through the Body of Christ, the Church, of which we are members.
The purpose of Pentecost was - and still is - the empowering of the Church with the same power that raised Christ Jesus from the dead! The Holy Spirit draws us into communion with the Lord and participation in His Divine Life and mission. That communion is lived in the Church. The Catholic Catechism, quoting St Augustine, affirms "What the soul is to the human body, the Holy Spirit is to the Body of Christ, which is the Church." (CCC # 797)
One manifestation of the work of the Holy Spirit in our age is what are called the "ecclesial movements" which both Blessed John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI have affirmed. We often feature the ecclesial movements on Catholic Online. We will once again do so as we progress toward the feast of Pentecost. Pope Benedict XVI recounted his first encounters with the ecclesial movements in these words " ...at a moment of weariness in the Church, at a time when we were hearing about "the winter of the Church", the Holy Spirit was creating a new springtime."
Though each have their unique charisms and missions, they have many commonalities. They invite Christians to have a "personal" relationship, an encounter, ...with the Lord Jesus Christ, who has been raised from the dead and is alive in our midst in the Church. They call their members to to live in the Heart of the Church, for the sake of that world. The Church is meant to become the home of the whole human race and those who participate in these ecclesial movements understand the implications of that fact. They live as leaven and seed in the loaf of human culture, in order to lead the world into the "new world", which is the Church.
They live a unity of life, where Christian faith is not compartmentalized but rather informs and permeates daily life. They deeply love the Church, recognizing that she is "Some - One" not something - the Body of Christ continuing His redemptive mission on the earth until He returns. They know the missionary calling extends to every state in life and every Christian vocation. They demonstrate that the gifts of the Holy Spirit are real and still available for all Christians.
The purpose of Pentecost is the birth - and continued rebirth - of the Church. The Church is "Plan A" and there is no "Plan B". The notion of a Christian group being "para" Church is far from the purpose of Pentecost. The Holy Spirit was not poured out on the disciples so that they could form movements outside of the Church, or compete with one another in movements within her. Rather, so that they could become full members of Christ's Church living His life within her bosom for the sake of the world.
Jesus told the disciples that He must ascend, to "my Father and your father, my God and your God" (John 20:17) because, in His own words "If I do not go I cannot send the comforter. And when he comes he will convict the world in regard to sin and righteousness and condemnation: sin, because they do not believe in me; righteousness, because I am going to the Father and you will no longer see me; condemnation, because the ruler of this world has been condemned."
And in the same Gospel "I have much more to tell you, but you cannot bear it now. But when he comes, the Spirit of truth, he will guide you to all truth. He will not speak on his own, but he will speak what he hears, and will declare to you the things that are coming." (John 16: 7-15)
The Church was empowered by the Holy Spirit to live differently in the midst of a world awaiting the fullness of redemption; to lead the world back to the Father, through the Son, in the Holy Spirit. Can we live this kind of transformed Christian life in the stuff of our own daily lives? Yes, by living them in the heart of the Church by the power of the Holy Spirit.
We invite our readers and viewers around the world to join together in a protracted period of prayer in preparation for Pentecost praying together, "Come, Holy Spirit, Come!" We will feature articles over these days of prayer which encourage devotion to - and life in - the Holy Spirit.
There is a lot of "bad news" in our contemporary culture. However, this culture is not all that different than the cultures into which the early Christians were sent on mission; cultures such as the one which the Christians in Ephesus confronted. They needed the Holy Spirit to do their work and so do we.
The answer for the malady of this age is the same as the answer of those early disciples,the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Like them we are called to present the new culture revealed in the heart of the Church through the power of the Holy Spirit. This is a new missionary age and we are called into the whole world. Come, Holy Spirit!
Posted by Ed Sousa, Sr. at 3:00 PM