1 Corinthians 12:3-7,12-13
In the celebration of the Ascension of the Lord last weekend, we heard the commission that Jesus gave to the Apostles. He told them, “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” What a difficult task to give to a bunch of cowards! Jesus didn’t give the Apostles a mission that brought them around to hospitable people who would listen attentively to their teachings and rejoice at finally hearing the truth. No – they were sent out as sheep among wolves. A single wolf in a flock of sheep can do serious damage; think about being one sheep in a whole pack of wolves. Their suffering was guaranteed by the Lord and certainly came to pass. In a world full of violence and murder, neglect of the poor, political trouble and corrupt leaders, racism, abortion and infanticide, human trafficking, religious persecution, war, and an overall lack of understanding of the true dignity of every man and woman, the Apostles and their followers preached a message wholly contradictory to the world. For it most of them won the crown of martyrs and certainly endured countless unknown trials before that final sacrifice. But you have to wonder: how does this group of men who abandoned our Lord for fear of suffering anything themselves come to have the courage to go before the whole world to preach and die for the gospel? They were filled with the Holy Spirit.
This group of men who are described in the Gospel today as being locked in a room for fear of the Jews are given the grace to go out into the world because the Lord sends the Holy Spirit upon them. As Saint Paul reminds us, “No one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ except by the Holy Spirit,” and so we see that it is only in receiving the Holy Spirit that they are able to truly preach the gospel. Without Pentecost, they would remain the same men that abandoned the Lord and locked themselves in their own room.
Throughout his twenty-six years as Pope, Blessed John Paul II often spoke of the reality that each of us is called to continue this mission given to the Apostles, that each of us is called to do and make disciples of the nations and teach all that He had commanded. While the Apostles and those we often think of as ‘missionaries’ today had the challenge of taking the gospel to people who had never heard of Christ before – the mission ad gentes or to the nations – there is yet another type of mission to be carried out. This mission is what the Blessed John Paul dubbed the ‘New Evangelization.’ Rather than trying to take the gospel to those who haven’t heard it before, the challenge that many nations face is the reality that many of our Catholic and Christian brothers and sisters have left the faith or have virtually no knowledge of the gospel. All of us gathered here have the mission to re-evangelize them, to be able to once again step out into a world that is not always hospitable to us and to preach the gospel just as the Apostles did in their day. We have the challenge to be that bold witness to the world that Jesus is risen, the Spirit is moving, and this life is only the first part of all eternity.
And just as the Apostles had the grace to continue the mission of Evangelization only because of the gift of the Spirit at Pentecost, we can only carry out the mission of the New Evangelization if we experience a New Pentecost in our own lives. We must let the power of the Holy Spirit descend upon us and allow Him to work through us! To use Blessed John Paul’s own words, “we must rekindle in ourselves the impetus of the beginnings and allow ourselves to be filled with the ardour of the apostolic preaching which followed Pentecost” (Novo Millenio Ineunte, 40).
Each of us received the gift of the Holy Spirit at our baptism, and if we were confirmed we were sealed with the Spirit once more. But just because we received the gift of the Spirit doesn’t mean we make use of it. Like when you squeeze chocolate syrup into a glass of milk – if you don’t stir it up, the syrup just settles on the bottom. The same thing can happen with the Holy Spirit. The challenge is to allow the Holy Spirit to be so stirred up inside of us that we are not just full of the Holy Spirit but that the Spirit is overflowing into everything that we do. Then we truly have the grace to carry out the New Evangelization. As I conclude the homily I invite all of you to join with me in prayer for the gifts of the Holy Spirit, that the Spirit might truly come alive in our hearts and be an impetus to change for our community.
O Lord Jesus Christ Who, before ascending into heaven did promise to send the Holy Spirit to finish Your work in the souls of Your Apostles and Disciples, deign to grant the same Holy Spirit to me that He may perfect in my soul, the work of Your grace and Your love. Grant me the Spirit of Wisdom that I may despise the perishable things of this world and aspire only after the things that are eternal, the Spirit of Understanding to enlighten my mind with the light of Your divine truth, the Spirit of Counsel that I may ever choose the surest way of pleasing God and gaining heaven, the Spirit of Fortitude that I may bear my cross with You and that I may overcome with courage all the obstacles that oppose my salvation, the Spirit of Knowledge that I may know God and know myself and grow perfect in the science of the Saints, the Spirit of Piety that I may find the service of God sweet and amiable, and the Spirit of Fear that I may be filled with a loving reverence towards God and may dread in any way to displease Him. Mark me, dear Lord, with the sign of Your true disciples and animate me in all things with Your Spirit. Amen.