Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Happy Pentecost! Today we celebrate the Holy Spirit rushing upon the Apostles gathered in the upper room with the Blessed Virgin Mary. Filled with the grace of the Spirit, the Apostles speak in tongues and go out proclaiming the Gospel in such a way that all those who are in Jerusalem to worship in the Temple, regardless of their homeland or language, understand the truth of Jesus Christ. Through the preaching of the Apostles, the Holy Spirit inspires the gift of faith in thousands who receive baptism that day. Truly on Pentecost, we can say that the Church is born. Yet Pentecost is not an isolated event in history; on the contrary, the Holy Spirit remains the vivifying power at work in the life of the Church even to this day. It is the power of the Holy Spirit that makes the sacraments channels of God’s grace, it is the power of the Holy Spirit that inspires the good works and charity of Christians, it is the power of the Holy Spirit that draws us together in worship and in reflection on the Gospel. On this Pentecost, then, let us reflect on three essential elements in the life of the Church.
First, let us reflect on the upper room where the Apostles had gathered in anticipation of the coming of the Paraclete. The Church must always have the upper room. It is in this place that the Apostles pray. From Ascension Thursday to Pentecost, the Apostles spend time each day worshipping in the Temple, and praying in the upper room. They turn their hearts and minds to God, opening their hearts more and more to His grace and inspiration. It is also in the upper room that the Apostles reflect. As they pray, they also call to mind all the things that Jesus taught, they reflect on the Scriptures, and they consider the implications of the Gospel on their lives. Tradition holds that it is in the upper room awaiting Pentecost that Mary, the Mother of Jesus, teaches the Apostles about the Annunciation, Nativity and early life of Jesus. With her maternal care, Mary instructs the Apostles in discipleship. And so the Church maintains an element of the upper room. We must go back to that place often in our hearts, to pray and to study, to come to know the truth of the Gospel more fully. So important is the upper room, in fact, that the Holy Spirit has, from the earliest days of the Church, inspired men and women to enter a sort of permanent upper room. The monastic life represents a perpetual novena of Pentecost, monks and nuns dedicating their whole lives to the apostolate of prayer and reflection for the sake of the Church.
Second, let us reflect on the zeal with which the Apostles go out to preach the Gospel. There is a constant outward direction for the Church. The Apostles go out on Pentecost, and then again, they go out constantly to proclaim the Good News. In the early days of the Church, we see the Apostles gathering the community of believers, mindful to care for the poor, orphaned, widowed, sick, and suffering. The natural consequence of proclaiming and believing in the saving message of the Gospel is that hearts, minds, and works are changed. By our profession of faith, we not only turn away from personal sin and enter a profound personal relationship with our Savior, we also begin to act with true compassion and charity for those around us. And so the Church today must always go out to preach the Gospel, must always be an instrument of healing, protection, and grace for the world.
Third, let us reflect on the Marian dimension of the Church. It is Mary who gathers the Apostles, teaches them, prays with them. She is with them to receive the Holy Spirit. Yet she does not go out with them to preach. Rather, Mary remains the constant intercessor for the Church, for all who will believe through the preaching of the Apostles. On the Cross, Jesus entrusted his apostle John to the care of His mother. But this was not only John. Rather, through that one apostle, Jesus was entrusting His whole Church to the care of the Blessed Mother. Thus, in the life of the Church, there is a constant Marian dimension. Mary intercedes for us with her Son, and Jesus refuses nothing that she asks. On Pentecost, Mary witnesses to the power and working of the Holy Spirit and truly becomes Mother of the Church.
These three elements only scratch the surface of what the Church is. But these three are necessary for each of us as members of the Church. We need to go to the upper room, which we find in liturgical worship at Mass, personal prayer, and study of Scripture and our faith. We need to go out as the Apostles did and live our faith in the world. And we need the guidance and prayers of the Blessed Mother. The power of the Holy Spirit is poured out on the Church again today. How is the Holy Spirit calling you to live these three ecclesial elements? How is the Holy Spirit inspiring you to build up the Body of Christ on earth which is the Church? Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful, and kindle in them the fire of your love. —