Scripture Readings, Sunday, May 19, 2024

Sunday, May 19, 2024

Pentecost Sunday

Acts 2: 1-11

1 Corinthians 12:3b-7, 12-13

John 20: 19-23

This weekend, we celebrate Pentecost Sunday, and in the Gospel, the Lord tells the disciples about this wonderful mission. “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”

That’s an amazing mission.

It almost seems impossible because of some of the things that the Father sent Jesus to do, such as heal the sick, bound up the wounded, bring liberty to captives, bring freedom to prisoners, joy to the sorrowful; in other words, he was sent to bring mercy to the world. The apostles couldn’t do that by themselves, and we cannot do it by ourselves. But after Jesus said, “As the Father has sent me, so I send you,” he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven, and whose sins you retain are retained.” Jesus not only gave them the call, he gave them the power to actually live out the call as well. Jesus not only gave them the mission, he gave them whatever they needed to live the mission: the Holy Spirit himself.

We receive the same mission. We receive the same Holy Spirit, and now what Jesus asks of us is that we use the gifts given to us. If you have been baptized, you received the Holy Spirit. If you have been confirmed, you received the Holy Spirit, the fullness of the Holy Spirit. As we read in the first reading from the Acts of the Apostles, many saints and people throughout the history of the Church didn’t want the gifts of the Holy Spirit to be dormant within them — they didn’t want that the Good News of what Jesus had done for us to not be announced to all human beings for their salvation.

A couple of weekends ago, we celebrated Confirmation for our teens in the Confirmation program in our parishes. As I looked at them, I was very proud; I look forward to seeing what the Lord will do in their life. In my weekend Masses before Confirmation, I preached about our necessity to let the Holy Spirit surprise us. Sometimes, we don’t expect much or nothing at all after Confirmation. We don’t allow or we don’t believe that the Holy Spirit can do wonders in our life. We don’t utilize his presence and the gifts within us.

In the Catechism of the Catholic Church, it reads, “It is evident from its celebration that the effect of the sacrament of Confirmation is the special outpouring of the Holy Spirit as once granted to the apostles on the day of Pentecost.” (CCC #1302) The Catechism continues to list the five effects of the Sacrament of Confirmation and how it brings an increase and deepening of baptismal grace:

  1. It roots us more deeply in the divine filiation that makes us cry, “Abba! Father!”
  2. It unites us more firmly to Christ.
  3. It increases the gifts of the Holy Spirit within us.
  4. It renders our bond with the Church more perfect.
  5. It gives us a special strength of the Holy Spirit to spread and defend the faith by word and action as true witnesses of Christ, to confess the name of Christ boldly, and never to be ashamed of the cross. (CCC #1303)

I really love the fifth effect of Confirmation, and I think it is the one that we underutilize.
So, the challenge is not whether or not we have received this special strength, because we have received it for sure, or whether you and I have received a mission, because indeed we have the mission to go out to proclaim the Good News. So, what’s the challenge? Ask yourself, am I able to use the gift? Am I willing to go out trusting in the strength of the Holy Spirit within me?

I like to complain about the Wisconsin weather, and people sometimes ask me, what am I doing here instead of being a priest back home in Colombia. I don’t answer this, but my conviction is that the people I encounter daily in my parish, in the streets here in Wisconsin, are worth saving. I know I am not the savior, but I want to offer my life with the help of the Holy Spirit to bring salvation to my neighbor. Ask yourself, are the people in your life worth saving?

In my priesthood, I have had the privilege to work in campus ministry as the chaplain of the Newman Center at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, and I worked closely with the Brew City Catholic Missionaries. I have always been impressed with these missionaries who want to spend a year or more on different college campuses helping students to encounter God, because they believe that the students are worth saving. Let us pray that the flame of the Holy Spirit may burn brightly within our hearts — that like the apostles, the Lord sends us to bring good tidings to the poor.