May 28, Pentecost Sunday, Birthday of the Church: a Sunday Scriptures blog

Happy Birthday, Church! Today we celebrate the gift of the Holy Spirit which birthed a church. We can catch the spirit of this solemn feast day from the opening prayer of Mass: … sanctify your whole Church in every people and nation … and with the grace that was at work when the Gospel was first proclaimed, fill now once more the hearts of believers… . In other words, we are praying that the same grace that was in Jesus and his disciples be continued in us. Sociology describes the difficulty of historical continuity. Many groups or organizations die when their charismatic founders die. Others persist for a time until historical factors make them irrelevant. And so, it seems, we members of this 2,000-year-old church have been given special “continuity help,” the Spirit. The Spirit is God acting as an accompanying divine energy embedded in us, “the faithful,” the body of Christ, as it travels throughout time. The “Spirit,” Jesus told his disciples before his death, would help keep his words alive in every era — keeps Jesus’ memory present. This Spirit is the Spirit of Truth, preventing us from distorting Jesus’ teachings. And also, Jesus told his disciples, the Spirit is a comforter. In Greek the word for spirit (paraklesis) is properly translated as comfort; remember that line in the traditional hymn, “Come, Holy Ghost”: O Comforter, to thee we cry. Comfort was a rich word in Hebrew Scripture for God’s accompaniment of his chosen people through captivity and exile and all their other historical trials. Jesus assures his disciples that he will not abandon them (through death, through ascension). The Spirit will ensure that his closeness will remain, not only in our minds but also in our “hearts,” our feelings, remaining as comfort. Our pathway as believing Catholics is often bumpy. Today we hold the Spirit close and rest in the blessed assurance of the gift of that Spirit.

— Blog entry by Sister Mary Garascia

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