Photos from the Diocesan Wedding Anniversary Mass, held Sunday, May 14 at Notre Dame Cathedral, are available at: goo.gl/AC1iF5
Today we celebrate the “birthday” of the Church. The outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the apostles and disciples gathered in the Upper Room signalled the beginning of the work which Jesus had entrusted to them with the words “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations. Baptize them … and teach them to observe all the commands I gave you” (Matthew 28:19-20). One might say that with the fire of the Holy Spirit descending upon them, they were, at last, unafraid to proclaim the message of salvation. Throughout his ministry, Jesus had said to them “do not be afraid” and yet they had hidden in the Upper Room with the doors locked for fear of the authorities (John 20:19). Now, having been filled with the indwelling Spirit of God, they emerged from that room confidently making known the death and resurrection of Jesus, by which he became both Lord and Messiah. They did so in many languages so that people from across the Roman Empire and beyond could understand the good news of God’s salvation.
We know the story of Pentecost and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit: we, in our baptism and confirmation receive this same indwelling presence of God who is with each of us individually and equally. No one receives only a little of the Holy Spirit; everyone receives the fullness of that Spirit which, as St. Paul tells us, makes us “cry out ‘Abba, Father’” (Romans 8:15) even as the Spirit in us cries out “Abba, Father” (Galatians 4:6) praying on our behalf. For the Spirit of God does not only reside within us (John 14:17), he is active (he really wants to be), in teaching us to pray (Catechism of the Catholic Church, § 2670; Romans 8:26), helping us to listen to Christ and to remember what he has taught (John 14:26), and by guiding us into all the truth (John 16:13). Each of us shares fully in the gift of the Holy Spirit according to our willingness to cooperate with him who is given as the gift of the Father and the Son (John 17:26). If we, like the Blessed Mother, the apostles, and disciples at Pentecost, are open to receive this great gift, if we ask to receive this great gift, our heavenly Father will give us the Spirit for he never refuses the Holy Spirit to those who ask (Matthew 7:11).
On this day, we recall the Church’s beginning in the Upper Room. Gathered with Mary, the Mother of Jesus, the apostles and the disciples received the Holy Spirit who gave them the courage they needed to bear witness to Christ and his gospel. Jesus had prepared them for that moment and when the Spirit descended upon them their hearts were open to receive him. Pope Francis urges us to open our hearts to the Holy Spirit, to invite him into our lives so that we might, at his inspiration, carry out our God-given work of proclaiming, as did St. Peter in Jerusalem, Jesus is both Lord and Messiah, crucified for our redemption and raised up in glory for our sanctification. The apostles’ message has gone out from Jerusalem and Judea; the nations of the earth know of Christ and his gospel. We continue the great proclamation which began on Pentecost Day in what we say and do in the name of Jesus and by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. The Church is born and we are born again by the outpouring of the Holy Spirit through whom we celebrate the mystery of our faith and confidently proclaim: Jesus Christ crucified and risen, the Son of God, and our Saviour and Redeemer.
Rev. Paul Shepherd, Pastor