[Ordinary of the Mass]
[English Mass Text]
[Latin Mass Text]
“On this day, O Lord, Thou hast
instructed the faithful by the brilliant light of the Holy Ghost.
the grace, under His divine inspiration, to have a sense for the true, and a
taste for the good, and always to find our consolation and joy in Him.”
The Jews of New Testament times
celebrated Pentecost (which is a Greek word, and not Hebrew) as a feast
concluding the grain harvest. It was also held to be the anniversary of
Moses receiving the Law from God on Mount Sinai. Like Passover, it was one
of those feasts when men converged on Jerusalem if they lived anywhere
within reasonable travelling distance.
From the Catholic perspective, the
feast of Pentecost, of course, commemorates the descent of the Holy Ghost
upon the Apostles and the Blessed Virgin Mary, these fifty days after
Easter. Pentecost is, in an important way, the conclusion of God's plan to
reveal Himself, and to engineer our salvation. God revealed Himself to the
Jews in the Old Testament as the Father; the Creator. In a sense, He was
already known through the light of natural reason, but confirmed His
existence and some of His attributes to His chosen people.
In the New Testament, the Father
sends the Son, the promised Redeemer, who was to make right the damage done
to His creation by the work of sin. It is revealed to our Lord's followers
that while there is but one God, He subsists in more than one Divine Person.
At the completion of His work on
earth, our Lord Jesus revealed that there was, indeed, a third Person, the
Advocate, or the Paraclete, whom He would send not many days hence. This
Divine Person we know as the Holy Ghost, the Sanctifier.
Today, we celebrate the coming of
our Sanctifier. The readings treat us to a wonderful spectacle, as we see
God's plan come to fruition. There is a violent sound, of wind blowing,
which just fills the whole building. Tongues of fire seem to sit on their
heads, lighting up the room, and literally setting their hearts on fire.
They are given the courage to go out and preach to the crowds, knowing full
well that many in the crowd would be hostile to their message. When they
preach, everyone understands them in their own language—Jews, Parthians,
Egyptians, and so on. At other times they speak in unknown languages, or
they prophesy, or they heal the sick, in demonstration of the power of God.
The spectacle was necessary to get
the attention of the crowds. It miraculous enough to identify the Apostles
with Jesus, demonstrating their mission and authority. But accompanying the
spectacle, there were more truly important gifts given to the Apostles.
They received those precious gifts we know as Wisdom, Understanding,
Fortitude, Piety, Knowledge, Counsel, and Fear of the Lord. It formed them
to be good, and long suffering, and mild, and modest and chaste. It
confirmed them in charity, and joy, and peace, and patience. In a word, the
Holy Ghost confirmed them in holiness and in the love of God—much more
important than all of the spectacle surrounding the feast of Pentecost!
This is particularly important for
us to understand today. All too often, even among people claiming to be
religious, there is very little love of God. His Commandments often go
largely un-kept. Instead, they try to recreate the spectacle—trying to have
the external display, rather than a true inner holiness. Rather than
concentrating on doing good, they babble strange words in an attempt to
convince others that they are holy men. We shouldn't lose sight of what our
Lord tells us in today's Gospel: “If anyone love me, he will keep my word,
and my Father will love him, and we will come and make our abode with Him.”
That is to say that those who keep God's law and remain in the state of
grace will be temples of the Holy Ghost.
The moral law received by Moses on
Mount Sinai is still in full force. Christians do not observe the ritual
prescriptions of the Mosaic Law, but the moral commandments will never
change. Saint John tells us: “If anyone says, ‘I know God,’ and does not
keep His Commandments, he is a liar.”
And he also tells us: “If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother,
he is a liar.”
And the Gospel, again, tells us that
we who truly love God are not to “be troubled or afraid ... Peace I leave
you, my peace I give you; [yet] not as the world gives do I give you.”
We do well today to celebrate this
feast of the Holy Ghost at Pentecost—to celebrate the grand and glorious
conclusion to the groundwork of our redemption and sanctification. But,
please, let's not lose sight of the inner reality which is clothed in the
outward spectacle. The gifts of the Holy Ghost are not intended to make us
speak in strange tongues, or to hear the sound of strong winds, not even to
heal the sick. The gifts of the Holy Ghost are intended to make us holy; to
keep God's Commandments, to love our neighbor, and above all, to love God
God the Creator, God the Redeemer,
and now God the Sanctifier. May He bless you in the name of the Father, and
of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.