Sunday, May 26, 2013

Homily - The Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ (Year C)

The Most Holy Body & Blood of Christ (Year C)
                                                (“CORPUS CHRISTI”)

First Reading: Genesis 14:18-20        Second Reading: 1 Corinthians 11:23-26        Gospel Reading: Luke 9:11b-17

It was related that once when the Duke of Wellington remained to take Holy Communion at his parish Church, a very poor old man went up to the opposite aisle, and reaching the Communion table, knelt down close by the side of the Duke. Immediately, tension and commotion interrupted the silence of the Church. Someone came and touched the poor man on the shoulder, and whispered to him to move farther away, or to rise and wait until the Duke had received the Bread and the Wine.
But the eagle eye and the quick ear of the great Commander caught the meaning of that touch and that whisper. He clasped the old man’s hand and held him to prevent his rising; and in a reverential but distinct undertone, the Duke said, "Do not move; we are equal here."

This Sunday we celebrate a second Solemnity during this period of Ordinary Time in the Liturgical calendar. Today is the Solemnity of “The Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ.” The Feast owes its existence to Blessed Juliana, an Augustinian Nun, in Liege, France, who had a great veneration for the Blessed Sacrament around 1230 and longed for a special feast in its honor. Largely through her insistence, in 1264 Pope Urban IV commanded its observance by the Universal Church, on Thursday after Trinity Sunday; however, where it is not a day of obligation it is usually celebrated on the Sunday following Trinity Sunday.
In a way, we have already celebrated this feast. We did so on Holy Thursday in Holy Week. On that occasion, the emphasis was on the institution, the gift of the Eucharist to us as one of Jesus’ last acts before his suffering and death. It was, moreover, to be an enduring memorial of that great liberating act by which God’s love would be forever kept before our minds. One reason why we may have this second feast of the Eucharist is that it takes place during the more joyful period of the Ordinary season when we can celebrate it with greater freedom from the constraints of Lent and Holy Week.

The feast actually sums up three important confessions about our faith: Firstly, God became physically present in the person of Jesus Christ – true God & true man. Secondly, God continues to be present in his people, as they form the Mystical Body of Christ in his Church. And thirdly, the presence of God under the form of bread & wine is made available to us on the altar of Holy Mass, and is preserved there for our spiritual nourishment & worship.
Let’s now look at the Scripture Readings chosen for today to see what light they shed on the whole issue of the Eucharist:

In the First Reading of today from the Book of Genesis we hear about a very primitive man called Melchizedek, king of Salem (early name for Jerusalem) who comes to greet Abraham who is returning from a victorious battle. Melchizedek, who is also a priest, blesses Abraham with the offering of 'bread' and 'wine.' Obviously, he becomes important in the New Testament, for in the early Christian tradition bread and wine were taken to prefigure the bread and wine of the Eucharist. Melchizedek, a man of unknown origins, was also seen to prefigure Jesus Christ. Just as the bread and wine celebrate Abraham’s victory over his enemies and his reunion with his brother, Lot, so does our Eucharistic sacrifice celebrate Jesus’ victory over death, evil and sin and enable us to remember our union with Jesus. Later, in the the Psalms of the Old Testament, Melchizedek is mentioned again in Psalm 110 – “The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind: You are a priest forever, according to the order of Melchizedek.” Christians have taken this to mean that Jesus is a priest forever in the offering of bread and wine.

Today’s Second Reading from St. Paul's First Letter to Corinthians was used as the Second Reading on Holy Thursday’s Mass of the Lord’s Supper. It is Paul’s traditional account of what Jesus did at the Last Supper. This is the most ancient text we have of Jesus’ institution of the Eucharist, for St. Paul wrote before any of the others and he claims that he received these words from the Lord himself and from what he had been taught by the other Christians: “While they were eating Jesus took the Bread, said the blessing, broke it and giving it to his disciples said, ‘Take and eat, this is my Body.’ Then he took a cup, gave thanks and gave it to them saying, Drink from it all of you for this is the blood of the covenant which will be shed on behalf of many for the forgiveness of sins.' Jesus thus instituted the Holy Eucharist as the sign and reality of God’s perpetual presence with His people as their living, heavenly food, in the form of bread and wine. This was followed by the institution of the Ministerial Priesthood with the command, “Do this in memory of me."
These are the very words of Eucharistic institution that we hear at Mass each day. The bread and wine not only are symbolic of the action of sacrifice as they were for Melchizedek, but they are transformed in such a way that we can partake of them and have Jesus become a part of us, his sacrifice redeeming us and putting us at one with God again.
Paul ends with “For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes.” Paul’s understanding of the Eucharist is that it is a sacrifice that is repeated at each Mass and a proclamation of the saving power of Jesus. It is what we do till Jesus comes again. It is a way to celebrate the kingdom on earth.

The Gospel Reading of today from St. Luke, unlike the other two, is not about bread and wine, but is about bread. For centuries this feast was called “Corpus Christi” which is Latin for 'the body of Christ' – the bread. Only recently has the name changed to reflect all the readings.
'The Miraculous Feeding of the Five Thousand' is the only miracle story recorded in all four Gospels and is full of Eucharistic symbolism. The setting is a ‘desert’ place, recalling the wanderings of the Israelites in the desert of Sinai. The hunger of the people recalls God’s care of Israel in the wilderness. God feeds His people in the deserts of life, but only if those called to be disciples recognise their responsibility to be the hands of God. ‘Send them away’ is one solution, clearly not the one preferred by Jesus. Rather, he says, ‘You give them something to eat.’
Then Jesus 'takes' the bread, 'blesses' it, 'breaks' it and 'gives' it to his disciples to share. Jesus’ actions and words over the bread (and the fish) have clear Eucharistic overtones. At the Last Supper, he will also 'take, bless, break & give' bread to the Twelve.
When the people sit down in circles and share their food, they find there is more than enough for everyone. The outdoor feast that Jesus served with the help of his disciples prefigures the 'abundant' nourishment that the community of believers receive from the celebration of the Eucharist. Indeed, the multiplication of the loaves and the feeding of the crowd with abundant food indicate that the messianic times have come. This miraculous event wrought by Jesus in a desert place for the hungry crowd that flocked to his care introduces us to the mystery of the Eucharist, which fulfills our spiritual hungers abundantly.
'They all ate and were satisfied.' The definition of satisfaction is fulfillment of one’s wishes, expectations, or needs, or the pleasure derived from meeting those needs. Satisfaction also means in theology the atonement of sins by Christ. This is what Jesus gives to us through the Eucharist – the forgiveness of sin and the pleasure of fulfilling our wishes and our needs.
The story also tells us that when we offer Jesus the little we have, he will bless and multiply it and use it to bless and nourish others.

Now, the Holy Eucharist is at the center of our Christian belief & life. We also are called the Eucharistic community. So, how do we actually look at the Holy Eucharist in the Church? What meaning & significance has it for us today?
First and foremost, the Holy Eucharist is a unique and inexpressible gift given to us by God: And it is truly a gift; there is nothing we could have done or nothing we could yet do to deserve or merit this gift. It is all pure gift, the gift of the God who loves us and cares for us beyond anything we could imagine. The Holy Eucharist is our celebration of the most beautiful and precious gift that God has given us. This divine gift of Jesus – from Him, to us is what the feast of the Body and Blood of Jesus is all about. And if we sometimes take it for granted, we have this feast each year to remind us of it.
Secondly, the Holy Eucharist is a sacrament: It is a visible sign that gives us God’s grace and God’s life . As a matter of fact, it is the most important and the most exalted of all the sacraments. We with great devotion say the prayer to the Blessed Sacrament - “O Sacrament most Holy, O Sacrament most Divine; All praise and all thanksgiving, be every moment Thine.” In the Tabernacle Jesus is really present in the form of bread, and there he waits for us to visit him and talk with him anytime.
Thirdly, the Holy Eucharist is a sacrifice: It is an unbloody re-presentation or re-enactment of Jesus’ sacrifice on Calvary, completed in his Resurrection. The Last Supper, during which Jesus instituted it, is the pre-figuration of Jesus' death on the cross for the salvation of mankind, for the remission of our sins. And we offer Jesus’ sacrifice to God the Father on the altar during Eucharistic celebration for the remission of our sins, using signs and symbols.
Fourthly, the Holy Eucharist is our spiritual food: The Eucharist is essentially a meal, like the one that Jesus shared with the people in a desert place. It is a true banquet, in which Christ offers himself as nourishment of our souls. We are nourished by the bread of the living Word and by the Eucharistic bread of Christ’s body, broken for the salvation of the world, and the Eucharistic wine of his sacred blood, poured out to seal our covenantal relationship with God as his own people. Without Holy Eucharist, our yearning for peace, justice and love will never be satisfied.
Fifthly, the Holy Eucharist is a sign of our unity, not only with Jesus whom we receive in our hearts, but also with our fellowmen with whom we participate in it, for we all share one bread & one cup. Holy Eucharist is essentially communitarian. Perhaps today we should emphasize more the community dimension of the celebration of the Eucharist which is often missing.
Sixthly, the Holy Eucharist is an offering of gratitude to God: Literally, the word, 'Eucharist' means praise & thanksgiving. Therefore, during the Holy Eucharist, we offer our praise & thanksgiving to God for what he has done for us.
Last but not least, the Holy Eucharist is the celebration of the abiding presence of a loving God as Emmanuel - God is with us – that we, his Church, may offer collective thanks to our Lord living with us in the Eucharist. Just as through the Incarnation Jesus became man, the bread and wine take on special significance as the bread and wine become Jesus, both symbolically and really – a kind of reverse Incarnation. So, the Eucharist, the Body and Blood of Christ Jesus the Son of God, brings to us God’s very Presence. And not only that, it joins God’s very own life into ours. Receiving the Eucharist is receiving within us God’s very own life.

Today, we solemnly celebrate the feast of “The Most Holy Body and Blood of the Lord.” It gives us the opportunity to see the many facets of our weekly celebration of the Eucharist. Here, we remember the sacrifice of Christ on Calvary. We remember that Jesus Christ is present under the forms of bread and wine – real food and drink for our journey. And here, we experience a multiplication of grace and mercy as we humbly offer ourselves to God. Let us pray this day for a greater appreciation and deeper respect & love for the Body and Blood of Christ. And this is the Good News of today.


Sunday, May 19, 2013

Homily - The Most Holy Trinity (Year C)

The Most Holy Trinity (Year C)

First Reading: Proverbs 8:22-31            Second Reading: Romans 5:1-5            Gospel Reading: John 16:12-15


At confirmation, the Archbishop asked the children for a definition of the Holy Trinity. A girl answered very softly - “The Holy Trinity is three persons in one God.” The Archbishop, who was rather old and almost deaf, replied - "I didn't understand what you said." And the young theologian standing in front of him replied: "Well, His Excellency, you are not supposed to. The Trinity is a mystery. Nobody understands it."

The Easter season is over with Pentecost, which we celebrated last Sunday. Today we are back again to the remaining long period of Ordinary Season, to begin it with the solemn celebration of the feast of “The Most Holy Trinity.” It is a doctrinal feast, that is, one not occasioned by any particular event in the life of the Savior. Rather, what is brought to mind here is the very Reality of God, the Divine Mystery. 
Actually, the mystery of the Most Holy Trinity is difficult to swallow. But we believe in this mystery because Jesus who is God taught it clearly, the Evangelists recorded it, the Fathers of the Church tried to explain it and the Councils of Nicaea and Constantinople defined it as a dogma of Christian faith.

The mystery of the Most Holy Trinity is a basic doctrine of faith in Christianity, understandable not with our heads but with our hearts. It teaches us that there are three distinct Persons in one God, sharing the same Divine nature. Here, we are dealing not just with some terribly abstract theological doctrine, still less with a mathematical contradiction that 1+1+1=1. What Scripture reveals to us is a unity of three real Persons. Of course, to try to understand fully how one God can be three Persons is not really possible for us.
However, while dealing with this, we have to avoid two extreme measures: 1st, breaking our heads trying to work out fully how one God can be three Persons, and 2nd, saying, 'Oh, it’s a mystery' and not bother to have any understanding at all. On the one hand, we are constituted as human beings to want to understand, to find meaning in things, and we should always try to go as far as we can in making sense of our faith. On the other hand, there are many things in life which are and probably always will be far beyond our understanding. That does not mean we deny their truth or their existence. Even human life itself, even our own lives, our very identity as persons – body, mind & soul is something we never fully grasp. Instead, then, of trying to indulge in theological acrobatics or worrying about orthodox formulations, let us try to enter into a relationship with these three Persons, through whom God is revealed to us.

The basic doctrine of the Holy Trinity – viz. three persons in one God, equal in divinity, yet distinct in personality is not explicitly spelled out in the Bible. In fact, the very word 'Trinity' is never found in the Bible. There are only vague and hidden references to the Trinity in the Old Testament. However, we do have some limited passages in the New Testament to support it. For example -
1. At the Annunciation, God the Father sends His angel to Mary, God the Holy Spirit overshadows her and God the Son becomes incarnate in her womb.
2. At the Baptism of Jesus, when the Son receives baptism from John the Baptist, the Father’s voice is heard and the Holy Spirit appears as a dove.
3. At the Ascension, Jesus gives the missionary command to his disciples to baptize those who believe, in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

The Trinitarian Formulation:
In the Gospel Reading of today from St. John we see one of the earliest formulations of Trinity. Jesus speaks to his disciples and lets them know that he has so much to tell them but until the Spirit comes into them, they won’t be able to understand it. But when the Spirit comes, they will know and understand. And what the Spirit lets them know is that which Jesus wants them to know, because the Spirit and Jesus are one. But also, Jesus and the Father are one“everything the Father has is mine” - he says. And it is from this that we have developed the theological understanding of Trinity.

Three Different Roles:
The Latin word 'persona' really refers to the mask that actors used to wear to indicate the role or function they were playing. The mask then comes to mean role or function or job. What the Trinity then says is that God has three 'masks' indicating three distinct roles or functions. God reaches us personally in three different ways. Although it took the Church a couple of centuries to express this in theological language, the three 'roles' of God are clearly delineated in the Scriptures, both Hebrew and Christian. The three Readings today are clear testimony of this:
1) God the Father creates and provides for His creatures. This is beautifully expressed in the First Reading of today from the Book of Proverbs.
2) God the Son redeems us and reconciles us with God the Father. He builds a bridge between the human and divine. He is the pontifex, the bridge-maker. God’s love becomes humanized and therefore tangible, understandable and able to be more easily followed and imitated.
3) God the Holy Spirit sanctifies us, strengthens us, comforts us, teaches us, forms us and guides us to God. We find God through His Spirit acting in and through us, in and through others, constantly creating and re-creating, making all things new.
So, the Most Holy Trinity is often seen and understood as God's three different functions; viz. - Father as the Creator, Son as the Redeemer and Holy Spirit as the Sanctifier. Inseparable in what they are, the Divine Persons are also inseparable in what they do. There is a beautiful prayer to the Most Holy Trinity quoted in a book on Celtic prayer, which expresses beautifully the different qualities of the three persons of the Holy Trinity, 'O Father who sought me,O Son who bought me, O Holy Spirit who taught me.'

Whole Physical Reality is Trinitarian:
But now, when we gaze into the physical reality of the world, then we find that all reality is essentially trinitarian. And it looks as if the whole physical reality is constituted in the image of the Most Holy Trinity. For example,
1. Space - Length, breadth & height
2. Time - Past, present & future
3. Numbers - Negative, zero & positive, ...and so on.
We remove one, either length or breadth or height, we cannot have a Space. Similarly, with Time & Numbers. The whole physical reality too is created in the image of the Trinitarian God.   

The Fullness of LOVE:
Actually, the Most Holy Trinity is the reality of God Himself, manifested as Father, Son & Holy Spirit. We also know through the Scripture that God has manifested Himself to the world as 'LOVE.' In the Second Reading of today, from the Letter to the Romans, St. Paul tells us how God’s love has been made known to us in the Person of the Son, Jesus Christ. We see God as Son in Jesus, the visible and human revelation and manifestation of God’s love and compassion for the whole world. This love is climaxed in the extraordinary events of Jesus suffering, dying and rising to life. He says, “The love of God has been poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit which has been given to us.” That is what it is all about. So, God is the fullness of LOVE, which is in fact Trinitarian; i.e. it involves three things, and is expressed symbolically as Father, Son & Holy Spirit. That is to say -
GOD = LOVE Father : The Lover
                           Son : The Loved One
                           Holy Spirit : The subsisting Love that is generated between the Father and the Son, which they send forth between them.
So, if there is a spirit that presides over the whole of this Mystery of the Most Holy Trinity, it is the spirit of LOVE, for it is truly love that leads the Father to give to his Son all that he has, and similarly, it is love that leads the Son to give back to his Father what he had been given by him. This is why the Holy Spirit is nothing other than the Love of God personified.

A Shared Community Life:
One final consideration: The Most Holy Trinity is a community of Persons, and God’s own life is a shared life, a life of mutually interacting relationships. From this we can consider that we are called to a shared living with the Three who are one God, with other people and with our whole created environment. We are called to find unity and harmony in the midst of ever-changing diversity.
Let us then turn to God in the community of his Persons, a community of perfect sharing and equality. We all are God's children and it is in his image that we have been created and it is to grow ever more into his image that we are called. It is a world of harmony, peace and joy. The feast of the Most Holy Trinity is the mystery of Divine Life, which reminds us that God is a community, a family of love and it is the model for both Christian life & Christian families. That is to say,
Christian life is trinitarian; i.e. WE – GOD – NEIGHBOR LOVE
Christian family is trinitarian; i.e. FATHER – MOTHER – CHILD LOVE
It is clear then that the Divine life of the Most Holy Trinity flows in each one of us and that it should be manifested in our Christian life & our Christian families. Its importance we can easily see for -
1.  All prayers in the Church begin with the sign of the cross, i.e. taking the name of the Holy Trinity and they end glorifying the Holy Trinity.
2.  All sacraments are administered (i.e. we are baptized, confirmed, anointed, our sins are forgiven and our marriage blessed) in the name of the Holy Trinity.
3.  The blessings are always given in the name of the Holy Trinity.

The mystery of the Most Holy Trinity is the central mystery of the Christian faith and of Christian life. God alone can make it known to us by revealing Himself as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Today, when we celebrate the feast of the Most Holy Trinity, let us praise & glorify the Triune God and bring ourselves in the peace and joy of living in communion with the Divine life of the Father, the Son & the Holy Spirit, which is actually the model of our Christian life & our Christian families.
Finally, today’s feast can be a reminder to pray with much greater meaning and respect that most common of all prayers, so common we hardly think of it as a prayer - the Sign of the Cross - “IN THE NAME OF THE FATHER, AND OF THE SON AND OF THE HOLY SPIRIT. AMEN.” It combines both the mystery of the Trinity and mystery of our salvation through Jesus’ suffering, death and rising to life. It encapsulates in so few words and a simple movement of the arm all that we believe in and all that we live for. Let us, then resolve to make this sign with greater dignity and reverence and in a spirit of real prayer. And this is the Good News of today.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Homily - Pentecost Sunday (Year C)

Pentecost Sunday (Year C)

First Reading: Acts 2:1-11        Second Reading: 1 Corinthians 12:3b-7, 12-13       Gospel Reading: John 20:19-23


There was a young little boy riding on his new bike outside a Church. The priest saw him and told him to come into the Church and the boy said, "... But they'll steal my bike. It's new, and expensive too."
The priest explained how the Holy Spirit would take care of it, and he shouldn't bother about it at all. So they went inside. The priest showed the boy how to make the sign of the cross and told the boy to repeat it.
"In the name of the Father, and of the Son. Amen," said the boy.
The priest said, "Hey! What about the Holy Spirit?"
The boy replied, "Oh! It's outside taking care of my bike!"

Today is “Pentecost Sunday,” the fiftieth day after the Resurrection. On this day, we solemnly commemorate that great event when Jesus fulfills his promise of sending the Holy Spirit upon his timid disciples, who gathered behind the closed doors of the Cenacle in Jerusalem.
The feast of Pentecost is the culmination of the Paschal mystery and it marks the end of the Easter season. The Easter candle, which has been burning since Easter to remind us of the light that has come into the world, will be set aside and used only if there is a baptism. Next week we continue what is called 'Ordinary Time' which simply means that the joyous feasts have ended, and we go back to the Gospel of St. Luke and continue to read the story of Jesus, focusing primarily on his teachings and parables.
Although today we end the Easter Season, it is also a reminder of starting something new, for Pentecost is considered to be the birthday of the Church. Have we ever asked, why do we celebrate Eucharist on Sundays? Sunday is actually deemed to be the first day of the week; Sunday is the day that God began creation we are told in the Genesis story. The Spirit of God moved on the waters on the first day! For the Jews, Spirit is a feminine gender word which also means breath or wind. Like God, Jews rested on the seventh day, Saturday, and early Christians, too, used to go to synagogues on Saturdays. With the advent of Pentecost, however, which is 50 days after Easter, itself a Sunday, the Church has traditionally also celebrated its birthday and the weekly 'Lord’s Day' on a Sunday. We celebrate Eucharist on Sunday, then, as a reminder of the first creation and of the second creation. The Holy Spirit that stirred the waters of creation returned to us on Pentecost making a new creation, her Church, and making us new creatures because of the Resurrection. This is really what we are all about today. And every Sunday!

The Jewish Pentecost:
Pentecost was the second of three great Jewish Feasts; viz. the Passover, the Pentecost & the Trumpets. The word 'Pentecost' comes from a Greek word which means 'fiftieth' – the fiftieth day after the Jewish Passover. The feast originated from a very ancient thanksgiving celebration, in gratitude to God for the yearly harvest about to be reaped. Later on, another motive was added to this day’s celebration with the remembrance of the covenant God made with their forebears on Mount Sinai - a covenant summed up very simply and yet very magnificently in that simple phrase: 'I am your God and you are my people.'
When the Jerusalem temple was built, this festival was transformed into a pilgrimage and the Jews of the first century, including Christian Jews, celebrated the great pilgrimage feast of Pentecost. Several decades after the death of Jesus, the early Christians reflected on their origins and chose this feast to mark the birth of God’s new covenant with God’s people. That is the reason for which the Acts of the Apostles in today’s reading says that there were many people in Jerusalem. They came from as far away as Persia and Egypt and Rome and spoke the languages of those nations. But that day, something special happened. The mysteries prefigured in that feast are fulfilled in the pouring out of the Spirit on Mary and the Apostles. The giving of the Spirit to the new people of God crowns the mighty acts of God the Father in salvation history.

The Christian Pentecost:
In the First Reading of today from the Acts of the Apostles, St. Luke gives us in detail one account, perhaps the most familiar one, of the new Pentecost story in symbolic language that evokes the story of Moses and the people of Israel receiving God’s Law on Mt. Sinai. The scene is full of biblical imagery. The disciples were then gathered in fear in the Cenacle in Jerusalem. Suddenly, there was a sound “like the rush of a violent wind.” In Greek the words used here for 'wind' and 'Spirit' are very similar. The whole house was filled with the very Spirit of God. Then “divided tongues, as of fire” were seen resting on each person present. Luke’s account also evokes early rabbinic teaching that the voice of God on Sinai divided into seventy tongues and all the nations received the Law in their own tongues. Fire, again, speaks of the presence of God himself. God spoke to Moses from out of a burning bush. As the Israelites wandered through the desert on their way to the Promised Land, a pillar of cloud accompanied them by day, and a pillar of fire by night. The fire here is in the form of tongues, as if to say that each one present is being given the gift and power to speak in the name of God. The pilgrim Jews from all over the Mediterranean area. They were amazed to hear the disciples speaking to them in their own languages. The Spirit was already at work in bringing about the spread of the the Gospel fearlessly not only to the people of Jerusalem but to the people from all over the Mediterranean.
In the Book of Genesis, men tried to build a tower to reach right up to heaven. For such arrogance, they were punished by being made to speak in different languages. No longer able to communicate, they could not finish their project. Now the time of the Tower of Babel is reversed. The disciples have a message which is offered to and can be understood by people everywhere. People are being called to be united again as brothers and sisters under one common Father, revealed to them by his Son Jesus Christ.

A different account:
The Gospel Reading of today from St. John presents us with a different account of the outpouring of the Spirit. It is evening of Easter Sunday. The disciples are huddled behind locked doors in the 'Upper Room,' terrified that the authorities might come to take them away as collaborators with the recently executed Jesus. Suddenly the Risen Jesus is there among them. "Peace be with you," is his greeting. It is both a wish and a statement. Where Jesus is there is peace. The presence of Jesus in our lives always brings peace and removes our anxieties and fears.
He shows them his hands and side to prove it is himself: the one who died on the cross and the one who is now alive. Then he gives them their mission, "As the Father has sent me, so I send you." Their mission and his are exactly the same. Our mission and his are exactly the same.
Then “He breathed on them and said: Receive the Holy Spirit.” These two sentences are a mouthful, but, they really describe the beginning of the Church. As God breathed on the earth and created the first human being, in Christ, we become a new creation.
With the giving of the Spirit comes also the authority to speak and act in the name of Jesus. "If you forgive sins, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained." This is not just a reference to the Sacrament of Reconciliation and the power to forgive sin. Forgiving sin, reconciling people with God, is the very core of the work of Christ and the Christian mission.
The disciples are now the Body of Christ, the ongoing visible presence of Christ in the world. This Body will experience injuries and wounds and disease... It will wander at times far from God. It will need healing and forgiveness and reconciliation. It will also try to bring the same healing and reconciliation to a broken world.
It is interesting to note that the Evangelist John does not separate Resurrection of the Lord from giving of the Holy Spirit - we receive the joy and peace of the Holy Spirit when we experience the Risen Lord.
The event of the descent of the Holy Spirit - 'Pentecost' as it is called by St. Luke in the Acts of the Apostles, viz. the 50th day after Easter, which we celebrate in the liturgy after the feast of the Ascension. Here, we have to understand that for theological reasons, St. Luke separates the Christological moments of redemption and describes them in a different setting. In his account, there is a day for the resurrection of Jesus, another for his ascension, and still another for Pentecost. St. John, however, has a different way of looking at these moments. A harmonization between the Johannine and Lukan accounts of the giving of the Spirit is not only possible but preferable. The Johannine Spirit is realized in the themes of revelation, witness, mission, dwelling, and life. An expectation of empowerment is created but not fulfilled. The Johannine and Lukan accounts of the giving of the Spirit are not opposed, but are complementary.

The Gifts of the Spirit:
In the Second Reading of today from the First Letter to the Corinthians, St. Paul speaks of the effect of the Spirit on the Christian community. The Church and each community within it reflects unity and diversity. We are not called to uniformity. We are not clones of Christ or each other. Unity presumes diversity and a variety of gifts and talents and responsibilities. We are like a body. Each body has many members, each with its own particular function, yet they all are ordered to one purpose – the good functioning of the body as a whole. So it is with the Christian community, which is the Body of Christ. Each member is to be aware of his or her particular gift. This gift indicates the role the member has to play in building up the whole Body, the whole community.
So, on the one hand, we are called to be deeply united in our faith in Christ and in our love for each other. At the same time, each one of us has a unique gift. It is through this gift or gifts that we serve and build up the community. They are not just for ourselves, or for our families and friends. "To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good."
Traditionally, we also speak of the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, gifts that presumably were given to the apostles in the upper room at Pentecost and are also given to each of us during Confirmation – gifts of wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety and fear of the Lord. As a matter of fact, we see many of these gifts acted out in the Pentecost story.

So what is Pentecost all about? One of the major things it about is, of course, the Holy Spirit. We often pray - “COME HOLY SPIRIT COME! FILL THE HEARTS OF THY FAITHFUL...” As Christians, we are called to be prophets. This, by virtue of our baptism when we received the gift of faith and by our confirmation when, like the disciples at Pentecost, we too received the Holy Spirit.
Now is the time of the Holy Spirit. He is at work in the world in and through us. Let us cooperate with Him by opening our minds and hearts to Him. Then we can speak out to others about the wonderful and mighty works God has done in and for us so that they, too, will accept Jesus as Lord of their hearts.
Today let us ask God to send His Spirit into our hearts. Filled with that Spirit, may we each individually make our contribution to the community to which we belong. And, as a community, may we give clear and unmistakable witness to the Truth and Love of God, revealed to us in Jesus our Lord. And this the Good News of today.