Pentecost Sunday, Year C
First Reading: Gn 11:1-9; Ex 19:3-8a,16-20b; Ez 37:1-14; Jl 3:1-5; Acts 2:1-11
Second Reading: Rom 8:8-17; 22-27
Gospel Reading: Jn 14:15-16,23b-26; 7:37-39
This Sunday we celebrate the Solemnity of Pentecost, considered to be the birthday of the Church, when the apostles were all “filled with the Holy Spirit.”
Jesus had promised them that the Holy Spirit would teach them “everything” and “remind” them of all he had told them, and that through the Holy Spirit, he himself would be with his Church until the end of the world.
From the beginning, the Church has understood his promise to mean that he will always preserve his Church from “teaching error as if it were truth, or condemning truth as if it were error,” as Scott Hahn puts it.
Accordingly, the apostles could say, in a letter to Gentile Christians, “It has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us.”
“In order to preserve the Church in the purity of the faith handed on by the apostles,” Christ “willed to confer on her a share in his own infallibility,” says the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
Accordingly, in forming our consciences, we should look on the Pope and the other bishops as “authentic teachers,” the Catechism says. We should not set “personal conscience and reason” in “opposition to the moral law or the magisterium.”
Someone told me recently that he feels “restricted” and “bound” by the Church’s teaching. “It doesn’t seem fair,” he said. “Non-Catholics can do pretty well what they want. If they don’t agree with one church, they can join another, and if they act in conformity with their consciences, they can still go to heaven; but we have to obey the Church.”
That sounds like a little child complaining that his mother will not let him play out on a busy street. “The other children are allowed to do it,” he says. “It’s not fair.”
We adults, who are wiser than the child, know that this child is the lucky one; his mother’s restrictions are saving him from all the dangers that confront children on a busy street.
Similarly, we see that teenagers whose parents will not let them go to certain parties or stay out after a certain hour are the fortunate ones, not those whose parents let them do whatever they want.
The Catechism says we have “the right to be instructed” in the laws of God, which “purify judgment” and, with grace, “heal wounded human reason.” From this right comes our “duty” to accept and observe the Church’s laws with “docility in charity.”
The Spirit of God in the Catholic Church liberates us from our human weaknesses so that we can become what God intended us to be: his adopted, “divinized,” sons and daughters. Our proper response is to rejoice at being shown the way to please God; to try to understand it better; and to obey even when we do not understand – not through fear, like a slave, but through a spirit of sonship.
“You did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption to sonship,” St. Paul says in this Sunday’s Second Reading.
Through trust and obedience, “a true filial spirit toward the Church can develop among Christians,” says the Catechism.
“It is the normal flowering of the baptismal grace which has begotten us in the womb of the Church and made us members of the Body of Christ. In her motherly care, the Church grants us the mercy of God, which prevails over all our sins and is especially at work in the sacrament of reconciliation. With a mother’s foresight, she also lavishes on us day after day in her liturgy the nourishment of the Word and Eucharist of the Lord.”
Let us pray, in the words of this Sunday’s liturgy, that the Holy Spirit will “bend the stubborn heart and will melt the frozen, warm the chill,” and “continue to work in the world through the hearts of all who believe.”
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