Pentecost Sunday: Mass of the Day – May 28, 2023

 

Pentecost Sunday: Mass of the Day – May 28, 2023

Acts 2: 1-11; 1 Corinthians 12: 3b-7; 12-13; John 20: 19-23

Theme: Three Effects of Pentecost: New Creation, Oneness, and Sacrament of Confession

Last Sunday we celebrated the solemnity of the Ascension of our Lord Jesus. We learned that Jesus going back to his Father was not a farewell nor the end of everything but a commission.  Jesus commissioned us to be his witnesses, make disciples of all people, and teach them to observe what he commanded. We also learned that we would not do this mission alone. He reassured us of his permanent presence until the end of the age. That is why he enjoined us not to depart from our “Jerusalem” but to wait for the coming of the Holy Spirit. (Acts 1: 4). Today in this Mass of the solemnity of the Pentecost (which marks the end of the East Season), we have gathered here in our “Jerusalem” as our Lord ordered us to celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit. The scripture readings of today teach us three messages. First, with the Holy Spirit, God recreates us; we are a new creation, which means, our unity with God is restored. (See the Gospel). Second, with the Holy Spirit God breaks all barriers of divisions and restores unity among us. We are one in the Spirit. (See first reading). Therefore, though we come from different cultures and have different gifts, we all form one body with Jesus. (Second reading). Third, with the Holy Spirit God empowers the Church, through the ordained ministers, to forgive our sins, reconcile us with him and with our brothers and sisters, and heal the emotional, psychological, and spiritual wounds that sin causes. (See the Gospel).  

In today’s Gospel, Jesus uses the symbolism of “breathing” to fill his disciples with his Spirit. In the Old Testament, it was God who used that symbolism in the story of creation. When Adam was created out of the dust of the ground, he needed the breath for him to start living. The book of Geneses tells us that God blew into his nostrils the breath of life then Adam became a living being (see Gn 2: 7). Likewise, the disciples, though they followed Jesus for three years and were very well-trained to carry out the mission of the Church, they needed the Holy Spirit to start a new life. So, with Adam, we lost the Spirit God blew on us at the first creation, and with Jesus breathing on us today, we are re-created, and the Spirit of God is restored. From now on, we are breathing the new breath of the new creation. Feel it! Feel the Spirit of Jesus in you! Our Lord gives us a new life in the Holy Spirit. This is what Pentecost is about. It is the celebration of Jesus’ breath in each one of us which makes us new creatures.  

As the new creatures, we are called to live in unity, not in division. The first reading says that the disciples were filled with the Holy Spirit and started speaking in tongues as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim. Many people from different cultures and languages witnessed that first Christian Pentecost. They were astounded and amazed because each one could hear the disciples speaking in his/her native language. The Holy Spirit that we receive today is the Spirit of Unity. It enables all of us to speak and understand the Christian language of love, compassion, and forgiveness. God created us to be “one” with him and “one” with each other. However, based on the realities of our world today, we can see how we are losing this gift of “oneness”. Families are divided. Church members are not one in spirit as they should be. In our societies, rich people separate themselves from the poor, and racism separates people based on their colors and cultures. The devil is succeeding in dividing us because this is his principal job. We Christians are called to eradicate this virus of division among the people of God. We need to preach by words and example the unity wherever we live. This is what Saint Paul did in our second reading.

Saint Paul dealt with an issue of division that occurred in his community of Corinth as we heard in our second reading. In fact, among the Corinthians, a charismatic group originated, and the people started speaking in tongues (glossolalia). Dissension resulted. Those who had the gift of speaking in tongues looked upon others who did not have this gift as second-class Christians. Paul was called to solve the incident. He does not condemn the charismatic movement. On one hand, he sees in it the Spirit at work, and on the other hand, he stresses that the outpouring of the Holy Spirit must build up the community, not tear it apart. Using the analogy of the human body that is one, though it has many parts, Saint Paul teaches us all of us do not have the same talents and gifts of the Holy Spirit; we do not have the same skin colors, cultures, languages, and opinions; we do not have the same jobs and do not make the same incomes. Therefore, all these differences must build up our families, Church community, and societies but not tear them apart. We were all baptized into one body in one Spirit. We are one in the Spirit; we are one in the Lord.

We know that sin damages our relationships with God and with our brothers and sisters. To restore our unity with God and with our fellow humans, Jesus breathes on his disciples and on their successors today (the ordained ministers) and says, “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whoever sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whoever sins you retain are retained.” (John 20: 23). Here Jesus institutes the sacraments of confession (Reconciliation). He empowers the Church through ordained ministers to absolve sin. There are three things that we seek in the confession: forgiveness of our sins, reconciliation with God and with our fellow humans whom we offended, and healing of spiritual, emotional, or psychological wounds that sin causes.

First, in the confession, we implore Jesus to forgive our sins. The way we go to our shower rooms and take a shower to clean our body from any stain of dirt is the same way we need to go to the confessional room to take a spiritual shower and clean our souls from any stain of sins. On the day of our baptism, we wore a white garment and were given a lit candle. We were told to bring the white garment unstained and keep our lamp lit on the day Jesus returns.  These two symbolisms call us to always confess our sins and make sure that we are ready, without sins, because nobody knows when our Lord will return. Confession clears all our sins and makes us ready to welcome our Lord Jesus any time he comes to take us with him.

Second, because sin breaks our relationships with God and with our fellow humans whom we hurt, in the sacrament of confession, we seek two reconciliations: vertical reconciliation (reconciliation with God) and horizontal reconciliation (reconciliation with our brothers and sisters). Note that the priest who listens to our confessions plays two roles. First, in vertical reconciliation, the priest represents Jesus who stands on behalf of God whom we offend through our sins. When we confess our sins to a priest, we actually confess to Jesus himself who is our mediator with God. The priest who acts in persona Christi accepts our confession, absolves our sins, and reconciles us with God. Second, talking about horizontal reconciliation, note that for some reason, most of the time it is difficult and even complicated to meet face to face all the people whom we hurt and ask for forgiveness to seek reconciliation. In this case, in confession, the priest stands for all the people who are offended by our sins. He listens to us, accepts our apologies, forgives us, and reconciles with us on behalf of these people. So, confession restores our relationships with God and with our brothers and sisters.

Third, because sins can cause emotional, psychological, or spiritual wounds, in confession, we also seek healing. The way we go to the hospital and speak with a doctor to seek physical healing is the same way we need to go to the Church and speak with a priest to seek emotional, psychological, or spiritual healing through confession. Sometimes the process of healing takes time. In this case, I advise “us” to continue the process in a spiritual/psychological direction with the same confessor priest or with a professional therapist.

The sacrament of confession is a very important sacrament that we Christians need to use regularly whenever sin separates us from God and from our brothers and sisters. We should not feel ashamed or afraid to approach God through confession.

Let us celebrate this Feast of Pentecost joyfully because we are recreated today. We are breathing a new breath coming from our Risen Lord who instituted the sacrament of confession which recreates us when we receive absolution from the priest. As newly created people, we should now break all barriers of divisions among us. We are now one in the Spirit and one in the Lord. Let us pray in this Mass for all families and communities who are still divided that their unity may one day be restored. Amen.

Rev. Leon Ngandu, SVD

 

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