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PENTECOST SUNDAY 2014

We have come to the last day of Easter when we celebrate Pentecost and the coming of the Holy Spirit. Pentecost is very significant for us as Christians because it is the birthday of the Church. But it was first a Jewish festival more commonly known as the Festival of Weeks which commemorates God giving the 10 Commandments to Moses 50 days after the Exodus of Israel from Egypt. The Law gave birth to the Nation of Israel. It united them and made them one. But God promised a new law not written on stone but written on the human heart. And that is what we as Christians celebrate today. Fifty days after the Resurrection of Jesus, the apostles were gathered on the Jewish Feast of Pentecost and the Holy Spirit came down upon them from Heaven. It is true that Jesus died to pay for our sins and to give us salvation, and that he rose from the dead and ascended into Heaven – that’s what we celebrate at Easter. But the ultimate reason Jesus came was to give us the Holy Spirit.

What is the Holy Spirit but the very life of God. We know something has life when it breathes. We can think of a baby taking his first breath after being born. God breathes also, and his breath is the Holy Spirit. Jesus came to share that divine breath of life with us. That is why we heard in the Gospel today that after he rose from the dead Jesus appeared to the apostles and “breathed on them and said ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.’” This is the Breath that fills our souls and will allow us to breath forever even when our natural breathing on earth stops. In the first reading we hear described that once again when all the Apostles were gathered 10 days after Jesus ascended into Heaven, “there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house in which they were.” This wind was Jesus breathing down the Holy Spirit from Heaven which filled the Church with the God’s Breath. That is why we refer to Pentecost as the birthday of the Church: It is when the Church took its first breath.

But how do we know this truly happened? Well, how do we determine if someone was truly born? Well, first of all, we see the person so we know that had to be born. Also there are eye witnesses to the birth. It is similar with the Church. We see it present even 2000 years later after Pentecost. And even though we did not experience Pentecost, we have eye witnesses to it and they have passed down this truth for us to believe today. But I think the bigger evidence of the truth of this great event is that the Church is truly Catholic, that is, it is universal. It is no work of the human spirit. This is only possible by the power of God's Spirit. It is not just made of Jews, but of Gentiles. It is not just made up of people from one part of the world but from every part of the world. It is not just made up of English speaking people but Spanish speaking people as well as all the languages of the world. In other words, when the Church speaks, the whole world can understand her. This is what astounded those who witnessed the first Pentecost. They were from all different nations: Egypt, Asia, Italy, Greece, Mesopotamia, and yet they all heard the Apostles speak in their own language. They were able to understand all the things they said about God. And so this is the great proof that continues to give evidence to truth of Pentecost, people being united into one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church.

The power of the Holy Spirit unites us all as one. St. Paul explains this more in the second reading. He said: “For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, slaves or free persons.” So St. Paul explains at our baptism we become part of the Body of Christ, we are born again and take our first breath as Christian members of his Church. At Confirmation, the Spirit is poured out on us again and we are strengthened with the gifts of the Spirit. These gifts don’t put us in competition with one another but unites us in serving others.

Pentecost continues to occur today in each of us, uniting us and giving us power from on high. What is the evidence? Well, have you ever said that Jesus is Lord? Have you said it and meant it with your heart? Have you ever said it out loud or said in front of someone? Have you ever prayed that way to Jesus? Well, if you have, this is evidence that you have experienced Pentecost, that you have the power of the Holy Spirit in you because St. Paul said “No one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord’ except by the Holy Spirit.” The Holy Spirit strengthens us, empowers us, gives us the capacity to do things that we could not do on our own strength. But we have to cooperate with that power and not be afraid of it. If you feel that the power of the Holy Spirit is weakened in you, perhaps today you can just pray silently in your heart over and over again “Jesus is Lord.” That prayer alone stirs up the power of the Holy Spirit in your soul.

We need that power to resist temptation. The Devil is a Spirit. And he wants us to turn away from God. He doesn’t want us to breath forever. He does not want us to hear the truth the God speaks to us through his Church. And sometimes we do fall to the influence of his spirit and we commit sin. Sin is like asthma to our souls. And when we commit mortal sin we lose the Breath of God in our soul, that is, we loose the grace of eternal life.

But Jesus knew that this very well may happen to us. And that is why after he breathed on the Apostles and gave them the Holy Spirit, he said, “Whose sins you forgive are forgiven.” That is why priests today have the power to forgive sins. How blessed we are as members of the Body of Christ, as members of His Universal Church, that we can go to a priest and ask the forgiveness for our sins. When is the last time you went to confession? What are you waiting on? Confession resuscitates our souls when sin suffocates it. Imagine being in a room and the oxygen starts to go out. You become irritated and agitated. The same thing happens to our souls through sin. The result is we are sad, angry, full of anxiety. So do not wait any longer. The Holy Spirit is waiting to fill you once again with divine breath, to give you peace just like Jesus gave the apostles, to give you the grace to once again say “Jesus is Lord!”

So I want to wish every one a very Happy Birthday and I pray that the Holy Spirit would be renewed in you and give you the gift of peace. Amen

Father Timothy Gallagher

6-5-14

St. Bernadette Roman Catholic Church
101 South College Street
Cedartown, GA 30125
(770) 748-1517
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