John 20:19-23
Come, Holy Spirit!
by Rev. Jerome A. Magat
Reprinted with permission of "The Arlington Catholic Herald"

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John wrote to show that Christ was
the Messiah, the Divine Son of God.

On the evening of that first day of the week, when the doors were locked, where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, "Peace be with you."  When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side.  The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.  Jesus said to them again, "Peace be with you.  As the Father has sent me, so I send you."  And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit.  Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained." 


The solemnity of Pentecost commemorates the event that occurred 50 days after Easter when the Holy Spirit descended upon the apostles and Mary, firmly establishing the Church and invigorating the apostles with the zeal to proclaim the Gospel to the farthest ends of the earth.  Pentecost, however, is not a holy day private to Catholics.  Pentecost originated as a Jewish harvest feast - it's one of the three major feasts of the Jewish calendar.  Of course, for the apostles, the harvest would not be wheat crops but the first believers of the Gospel.

What we know of the events of Pentecost is not recorded in any of the Gospels; rather, our scriptural account that narrate these events is found in the Acts of the Apostles.  Hence, the Gospel passage for this Sunday depicts Easter Sunday night when Christ breathed on the apostles and promised them that he would send the Holy Spirit.  The Greek word for "breathe" used in this account is found in only one other place is Scripture: in the Book of Genesis, when God breathed life into Adam.  In the Gospel, Christ is breathing new life into the Church.  At the time of the apostles' encounter with Jesus in the upper room at Easter, they are portrayed as a band of scared and inept men; at Pentecost, their lives would be changed forever.

It never occurred to the apostles that the Gospel should be kept a private affair among themselves.  Instead, they evangelized the known world.  Their evangelical posture is a challenge to Catholics who refuse to talk about their faith - those who fear that such discourse might offend less pious ears.  For others, their "private Catholicism" is a form of politeness so as not to "impose" the good news on others.  This apathy and lack of courage is not a sign of the Holy Spirit that filled the apostles at Pentecost.  Had the apostles not evangelized the world, would we have known names like Beethoven, Mozart, Palestrina, Michelangelo, Bramante, Fra Angelico, Louis Pasteur, Blaise Pascal, Leonardo DaVinci, Dorothy Day, Blessed Junipero Serra (the father of California), Blessed Teresa of Kolkata and Blessed Pope John Paul II? Would the Church have been the developer and the genius behind the modern system of economics (based on monastery bartering systems) or the system of modern diplomacy, or Western music (all rooted in Gregorian chant) or even the Julian or Gregorian calendars?

A true spirit of evangelization can only be accomplished through the Holy Spirit.  This power cannot be overestimated.  It is the same Sprit that pours forth the virtues and the gifts of the Holy Spirit into the soul of every person who is baptized.  It is the same Spirit whom the priest invokes at every Mass during the Eucharistic prayer.  The Holy Spirit gives power to our sacraments and makes Jesus present in the Church today as He has from Her inception, two millennia past.  Let us call upon the Spirit in confidence to assist our efforts to proclaim the good news!

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