Every year when a child completes a year after their birth, the parents celebrate with music, songs and candles on top of a cake. The candles indicate the years the son or daughter has shone God’s light, love and truth into the world and family.
Today we celebrate the birthday of the Church, Pentecost Sunday, when the Holy Spirit was sent by God the Father, and his Son Jesus Christ, upon his Apostles and disciples. Pentecost is the birthday of the Church because the Holy Spirit had poured out the fullness of his divine gifts upon them.
We believe that the Holy Spirit is the Lord and giver of life, natural and supernatural life. Just as the soul organizes and vivifies the body, similarly the Holy Spirit organizes and vivifies the Church, the Mystical Body of Jesus Christ.
In the first reading of today, the Holy Spirit revealed himself as tongues of flame, that parted and rested upon the heads of the Apostles and disciples; and all were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in foreign tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to pro-claim.
And what did the Apostles and disciples proclaim? That Jesus Christ is the Messiah, the Risen Lord of life and history, and that every person that repents and receives baptism as a disciple of his Church can be assured of the path that leads to heaven. With the power of the Holy Spirit in our souls and the grace of the sacraments, every disciple can live the Lord’s Ten Commandments of life, true love and true freedom.
The tongues of fire over the heads of the Apostles and disciples were signs of the action of the Holy Spirit in their lives, and our lives also. Holy fire is good in order to illuminate, cleanse and make warm our souls with love for God and others.
Today the Church celebrates Pentecost, the day God the Father and God the Son gave the Gift of the Holy Spirit to enliven the members of God’s Church with God’s indestructible divine life, true love and love for truth. The gift of the Holy Spirit in our soul gives us the power and hope to overcome any temptations, sadness, loss or spiritual storms in our life, through prayer, worship, study and service.
Just as electricity starts and sustains appliances so that they can accomplish their purpose, so too the Holy Spirit enlivens the Church and we her members, in order to accomplish our purpose in life.
What is that purpose? To have a living relationship with God and one another through Jesus Christ in
the Holy Spirit. With the Holy Spirit we praise and thank God, and we can order our lives to God who is the source of true love, peace, forgiveness and eternal wis-dom.
When the Holy Spirit was sent upon the disciples who were in prayer with Mary, the Mother of Jesus, his seven divine gifts were fully given to them: wisdom, piety, fear of the Lord, knowledge, counsel, under-standing, and fortitude. These gifts perfect the divine virtues of faith, hope and love, as well as the four moral virtues: prudence, justice, courage and temperance.
Pentecost is celebrated in a special way during the Sacrament of Confirmation when those who are dis-posed receive the full outpouring of the Holy Spirit’s gifts and are sealed by the Holy Spirit, which completes the recipients Sacrament of Baptism. The Holy Spirit continues to work with Jesus Christ and his Church for the sake of empowering each of us to de-fend and promote Jesus Christ and his saving truth and love, and thereby help evangelize the world.
In a sense, the Apostles and disciples who had the flames of the Holy Spirit hovering over their heads, were the candles and the cake of Pentecost, and we can be too, because we can bring the sweetness of the supernatural life and light of God to the whole world, beginning with those people around us.
Happy birthday Church! Let us celebrate the perfect sweetness of Jesus Christ in his Word and Holy Communion by the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Peace in Christ,
Fr. Thomas McCabe