Sunday, June 4, is Pentecost Sunday (Year A). Mass Readings: Acts 2:1-11; Psalm 104:1, 24, 29-31, 34; 1 Corinthians 12:3-7, 12-13; John 20:19-23.
Human institutions fracture and fail, but not the Church. It has withstood human error for millennia. Or on the other hand, human institutions can stifle and limit our differences. But not the Church. The Holy Spirit is the reason for both.
The first thing he does is create unity where none would otherwise exist. And the second, opposite thing he does is create diversity where you would think that none could exist.
Today’s readings show how he does it. The first reading is about unity. “When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled, they were all in one place together,” says Acts. They were praying, as instructed, for the Spirit to come — and the act of waiting and anticipating has united them.
When he does come, they are united further. The international crowd assembled outside says, “Are not all these people who are speaking Galileans? Then how does each of us hear them in his native language?”
But then the second reading shows the diversity of the Holy Spirit.
“There are different kinds of spiritual gifts, but the same Spirit,” writes St. Paul. “There are different forms of service, but the same Lord; there are different workings, but the same God, who produces all of them in everyone. To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit.”
The Church calls these manifestations of the Spirit “charisms.” These are what make the Franciscans Franciscans, the Carmelites Carmelites and the Benedictines Benedictines, while they are all Catholic.
The Gospel shows the source of all this unity and diversity: Jesus Christ. “Receive the Holy Spirit,” he tells them and gives them the power to reconcile others to himself. “Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.”
The unity Catholics have, in and despite of their differences, comes from their common goal — to be like Jesus — and their shared means to reach a relationship with Jesus, especially in the sacraments.
The Holy Spirit always prepares a place for Jesus — and Jesus, who is God made man, sends us out to others: to be as different as we need to be and as united as we are.
The mission of Christ and the Holy Spirit become the mission of the Church: our mission.
Tom Hoopes is writer in
residence at Benedictine College
in Atchison, Kansas.
He is the author of What