A Day to Celebrate!
Today on Pentecost Sunday we celebrate the birthday of our Church, "The" Church that Jesus Himself established almost two thousand years ago. Every Sunday during Mass in our Profession of Faith, we state, "I believe in one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church." These characteristics -- one, holy, catholic and apostolic -- are known as the 4 marks of the Church.
"The Church is one: she acknowledges one Lord, confesses one faith, is born of one Baptism, forms only one Body, is given life by one Spirit, for the sake of one hope, at whose fulfillment all divisions will be overcome."St. Paul tells us in today's second reading, "As a body is one though it has many parts, and all the parts of the body, though many, are one body, so also Christ." With this "oneness" comes unity -- we are united under one leader, the pope; we worship one way through the seven sacraments; and we have one set of beliefs that has been handed down to us through the ages starting with Peter and the other apostles. Just as God is one in the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, so also is the Church one.
The Church is holy because her founder and head is Jesus Christ, the source of all holiness. Of course there are many sinners in the Church, but through history many saints have been made through the Church and her sacraments.
Jesus gave the first bishops the power to absolve sins in His Name, to bring healing and restoration to a sinful world. As we hear in today's Gospel, "Jesus said to them again, 'Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you." And when He had said this, He breathed on them and said to them, 'Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.'" As we celebrate Pentecost today, we are reminded that Jesus sent us His Spirit -- His Holy Spirit -- to be with us always. We have been given powerful gifts from the Holy Spirit to help us along our path of holiness. We, however, must choose to use these gifts . . .
The Church is catholic because it is universal -- for all people and for all time! At Pentecost, there were people gathered from "every nation under heaven" who spoke many different languages and yet, somehow, the Holy Spirit enabled the apostles to speak so that they were understood by all. Clearly God intended that everyone of all nations be united into this one body. Many people accepted the faith then and there and began carrying the Church back to their corner of the world. Today Catholic churches can be found throughout the world, where the Holy Mass is celebrated thousands of times each day, and yet it is the same Mass. And the Catholic Church is welcoming to all -- no one is excluded. However, it is up to each of us to go out into the world -- to leave the huddle of Sunday Mass -- and spread the Good News! The news is just too good to keep to ourselves . . .
And finally the Church is apostolic because Christ Himself chose the apostles and founded His Church upon them. Christ bestowed power and authority upon the twelve apostles, and this same power and authority has been handed down in an unbroken line of succession -- apostolic succession -- over these two thousand years to today's pope and bishops and priests. With the guidance of the Holy Spirit, the Church preserves and continues the teaching of the apostles, who were taught by Christ Himself. Jesus proclaimed, "He who hears you hears me" (Luke 10:16).
And so let us celebrate that we have been blessed to belong to the only Church that is truly one, holy, catholic, and apostolic. And let the joy of our celebration spread to others. Come Holy Spirit, fill our hearts with your love so that we too may go forth and renew the face of the earth!