Quick Lessons from the Catechism: Pentecost and ‘I Believe in the Holy Spirit’

Today is Pentecost Sunday, the great day known as the birth of the Catholic Church and the day the Holy Spirit, which was promised by Jesus Christ numerous times in the Gospels, descended upon the Apostles (and more than likely the Blessed Virgin Mary as well) just days after Jesus’ Ascension into Heaven. Pentecost is known as the founding of the Catholic Church as the bearer of God’s spirit to the world. It is one of the great Solemnities in the liturgical calendar and one of the great days culminating the Easter Season.

So before we get to the heart of today’s QLC, ‘I Believe in the Holy Spirit’, lets briefly focus on Pentecost.

Originally, the feast was known as the Feast of Weeks (Dt 16:10) or the Feast of Harvest (Ex 23:16). Later on, among the Jews that spoke Greek, the feast became known as penetkoste, which in Greek means “fiftieth.” The fifty days refers to the timing of the festival – fifty days after the spring celebration of Passover (Lev 23:15-16).

In the Old Testament, the Feast of Weeks, is one of the three major feasts listed in Exodus 23:14-17. The other two feasts are Unleavened Bread and Ingathering. The feast was gauged to happen seven weeks from the day of when the first sheaf was presented from the barley harvest during the Passover celebration (Lev 23:15-21). In the ancient days of Israel, the Feast of Weeks was a harvest festival where baked loaves of bread made with wheat, from the spring harvest, were offered to the Lord as a gift from the first fruits. The day was meant for sacred rest and there was worship with certain prescribed sacrifices (Num 28:26-31).

It became a pilgrim feast in the Deuteromonic Covenant, which required all participants to travel to “the place which the Lord your God will choose” (Dt 16:9-12). This would eventually become Jerusalem. There they would celebrate the sacred rites. To this day, Jerusalem is still a city of pilgrimage (just like Rome).

Now that we have a better understanding of the biblical history of Pentecost, let’s focus on the third person of the Holy Trinity – The Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit, as I said above, was promised in numerous places, with numerous names, in the Gospels (Lk 12:12; Jn 14:16, Jn 14:26, Jn 15:26, and Jn 20:22). Jesus promised that he would send the Counselor and the Advocate to give them all that he taught and shared with them.

The Second Vatican Council document, Ad Gentes (Decree on the Church’s Missionary Activity) says this about the Holy Spirit and Pentecost –

“On the day of Pentecost, however, he came down on the disciples that he might remain with them forever; on that day the Church was openly displayed to the crowds and the spread of the Gospel among the nations, through preaching, was begun. Finally, on that day was foreshadowed the union of all people in the catholicity of the faith by means of the Church of the New Alliance, a Church which speaks every language, understands and embraces all tongues in charity, and thus overcomes the dispersion of Babel.”

The Holy Spirit is a gift to the Church who continues to guide and direct the Church even today. The mission of Jesus and God the Father is in union with the Holy Spirit. The Holy Trinity is united as three persons and one God. A simple way to understand the Holy Trinity is through water and it’s three forms – liquid, ice, and steam – they are all water (one nature), but three separate entities (persons).

Mary is the Mother of the Church on Pentecost

Now that we have an understanding of the Holy Spirit, let’s turn to what Catechism of the Catholic Church states on the topic –

“Because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!”‘ (Gal 4:6). [#724]

From the beginning to the end of time, whenever God sends his Son, he always sends his Spirit: their mission is conjoined and inseparable. [#743]

In the fullness of time the Holy Spirit completes in Mary all the preparations for Christ’s coming among the People of God. By the action of the Holy Spirit in her, the Father gives the world Emmanuel “God-with-us” (Mt 1:23). [#744]

The Son of God was consecrated as Christ (Messiah) by the anointing of the Holy Spirit at his Incarnation (cf. Ps 2:6-7). [#745]

By his Death and his Resurrection, Jesus is constituted in glory as Lord and Christ (cf. Acts 2:36). From his fullness, he poured out the Holy Spirit on the apostles and the Church. [#746]

The Holy Spirit, whom Christ the head pours out on his members, builds, animates, and sanctifies the Church. She is the sacrament of the Holy Trinity’s communion with men. [#747]

I would suggest reading paragraphs 683-741 in the Catechism as well. Pope St. John Paul II was one of the pope’s that wrote an entire encyclical on Holy Spirit. It’s titled Dominum et Vivificantem (On the Holy Spirit in the Life of the Church and the World). He also left us a series of Catechesis on the Holy Spirit.

I would also suggest reading some of my other blog posts from the past on Pentecost – ‘Mary and Pentecost’, 5 Quotes from Pope St. John Paul II on Pentecost, Mary is the Church on Pentecost, Pentecost, Playing with Fire, and the New Evangelization, and Reflections on the Pentecost Readings.

As we celebrate the great Solemnity of Pentecost, let us joyfully proclaim with fire in our souls…Come Holy Spirit! 


We Are Living in Epic Times

There is no doubt…We are living in Epic Times!

I awoke this morning after twisting and turning for some of the night to the sad news that Pope Benedict XVI has resigned as Supreme Pontiff of the Catholic Church. Honestly, I am in shock, but very hopeful that this is part of God’s Divine Plan. One thing I know for sure, the Catholic Church does not deal in decades, but in centuries and millennia. Just as the Church is being persecuted here in America more so than ever before, so we have seen a Pope resign 600 years ago. We will endure this sad news with the help of the Holy Spirit.

It is now a time for devoted prayer, fasting, and trust. We as the Church must come together and pray for the obvious health of our current Vicar of Christ, but also pray that the Holy Spirit guides and directs the Cardinals of the Church (in a conclave) to choose a worthy successor to the Pope, who has shown the humility that Christ professes we must hold in the Gospels. What humility by such an amazing man, priest, Bishop, and Pope.

Beware of the haters of the Church for they will be out in full force. Satan will gather his army and so we must be prepared to defend, with our very soul, the hate mongers that he entrusts to attack the Church in this world. It’s already occurring on Twitter and Facebook. The left-wing state-run media here in the USA is trying to figure out by “electronic” numbering whom the next Pope will be. This is all garbage and completely bunk by individuals who don’t have the slightest idea what they are dealing with when it comes to the power of the Holy Spirit. They lack knowledge and their pride will have them looking like fools in the end.

And yes, even from within the Church we will see hate, anger, and despair coming forth too. Organizations who claim to be catholic but are the furthest thing from true Catholicism will also attack the Church they claim to love. We must stay on guard and pray! Don’t be fooled by the deception and lies that will come from such sources. They are a danger to our world everyday, but when news like this happens; they will come out even more so seeking to destroy the Church.

Again…Pray, Fast, and ask for the Holy Spirit to intercede for the Church. Stay on Guard and be ready to defend Holy Mother Church. There is no doubt that we are living in epic times. We must now rise up and live as epic heroes and follow the example of the holy Saints who are the heroes of the Church. We must be yearn to be St. Joan of Arc, St. Cyril of Alexandria, St. Ignatius of Antioch, St. Catherine of Siena, St. Thomas More, the Martyrs of Mexico, St. Edith Stein, and so many more.

I would like to thank Papa Benedict for his years of humble service as our Pontiff. What he has given to the Catholic Church in these short 8 years on the Scriptures and Liturgy will be cherished for many years to come. He is a great and humble man and a true example of discipleship. My prayers are with him today and in the days ahead. May Our Lord and his Blessed Mother guide him at this time.


The Readings for Pentecost Sunday

This past Monday night I led the Bible Study Night at Spirit and Truth here in Austin, Texas. It was not on my calendar until three days before when a friend who helps out with Spirit and Truth contacted me and asked if I could lead the night. Being that it was the last week of school and I already had a short talk planned for Tuesday night on the Blessed Mother, I was reluctant at first, but after thinking about it and realizing that it was Pentecost, I gave my an affirmative answer. Below is an explanation of the readings.

First Reading: Acts of the Apostles 2:1-11

The wind is in reference to the Holy Spirit, just like in the beginning of Genesis. In the RSV, the term for wind is the Spirit of God. Pentecost was a Jewish Feast where all men gathered in Jerusalem for the Harvest Feast where the first loaves of bread from the spring crop were offered to the Lord. It was also the celebration of when God gave the Law to Moses at Mt. Sinai. There are similarities between Mt. Sinai and Pentecost. In both accounts we see wind, fire, and divine power. At Mt. Sinai, the Old Law was received, and at Pentecost, the New Law that Christ established was received. Pentecost is the reversal of Babel from Genesis 11. In Genesis 10, the Table of Nations (the 70 nations that descend from Noah) is given the task to populate the world. However, they refuse and begin to build the Tower of Babel in order to reach heaven (read Genesis 10 & 11). In the end, God confuses their language and they end up not being able to speak to one another.

Now spring forward a few thousand years to Pentecost. The nations that are mentioned in the reading from Acts are the same nations from Babel but with more defined names from the regions around the known world. The Table of Nations from Genesis 10 are now reunited and restored under the Catholic Church (the term catholic would not be used until St. Ignatius of Antioch coins the term in 125 A.D. which means universal, but the Early Church is the Catholic Church) here at Pentecost. All those nations that were divided are now united and restored under the “language” of the Holy Spirit.

The one question I often receive is how do those nations hear the Apostles in their native tongues. There are two theories on this – first, the Holy Spirit gave the Apostles the ability to speak those languages, or second, which I think is more feasible, the Apostles spoke their native tongue (Aramaic – since they were from Galilee) and the men of the many nations heard it in their native tongue. They would then speak to the Apostles in their language who in turn would hear it in Aramaic.

Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 104: 1, 24, 29-30, 31, 34

Ever since taking a course on the Psalms in graduate school, I have become a great admirer of the Psalms. Psalm 104 is praising the greatness of God in Creation. All of Creation is an act of God’s divine glory. All things on the earth and in the water are God’s creation; even the great sea creatures belong to God. God gives all living things their breath and their food. Breath is important from God for we see it as the Spirit at Pentecost. The Spirit breathed life into the Apostles and Church and we see God’s breath in Genesis 2:7 when God breathed life into man. In verse 31, we read about the “glory of God” and how his creation will endure forever. The psalmist will always praise God and his works by giving his life to the Lord.

Second Reading: 1 Corinthians 12:3b-7, 11-12 (First Option)

As Christians, we say with great conviction and with help from the Spirit, that Jesus is the Lord! This is very distinctive of Christians since Jesus Christ is Our Lord. In this second reading, St. Paul speaks of gifts (Greek – charismata – “grace”). The charismatic gifts are graces that build up the Church. The charisms that we receive are given to us as personal gifts, but should be used for helping with the building up of the Church and her common good. They are not meant to be for our use alone.

When St. Paul says “by one spirit”, he is saying that we are all one body by Baptism. All believers are united to the Body in a metaphysical way. It is through the Sacraments of the Church and the grace that are dispensed from them that help us to be united in Christ and to one another. The Mystical Body of Christ, which all believers are part, finds its soul in the Spirit. The Holy Spirit is that which gives life to the Body of Christ. There is no also distinction among the nations and ethnic groups in the Body of Christ – we are all the same body!

Second Reading: Galatians 5:16-25 (Second Option)

We see that there is an internal battle in the hearts of all Christians between the spirit and the “works of the flesh.” We must try to follow the spirit in all that we do or we will fall and perish to the flesh. To help us fight against the temptations of the flesh, we have been given the gift of God’s grace. Grace, which is given to us in the Sacraments, assists us and gives us the power of God to help us avoid sin. It’s a struggle because we are weak, but it’s possible to overcome these sins.

When we sin mortally, we offend not only Christ, but we are cut off from the Mystical Body. “The fruit of the Spirit” within us helps us to live lives of holiness. By means of the Sacrament of Baptism, we are united in the death of Jesus Christ. It is through his dying on the cross that we are healed (Isaiah 53). Even though sin remains after the Sacrament of Baptism (concupiscence – the inclination to sin), it is through the Sacrament of Reconciliation that we die to our past sins and former way of life. The Spirit gives us new life and strength to overcome our sinful desires.

Gospel Reading: John 20:19-23 (First Option)

This reading takes place on the Sunday evening that Jesus resurrects from the dead. After the Resurrection, Jesus is able to simply pass through doors/walls and defy the laws of physics for his humanity is now tied to his divine nature.  He shows them his hands and his side to show them that the body that was crucified days before is his same body. The marks of the crucifixion would be carried into heaven with him on the day of his Ascension. Twice Jesus greets the Apostles with “Peace be with you” – a traditional Hebrew greeting.  When Jesus breathes on the Apostles, it’s the foreshadowing of the day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit would breath life upon the Apostles. There are a few other times in Scripture when life was breathed into man, such as when God breathed life into Adam in Genesis.

At the conclusion of this reading, we see what the Council of Trent declares as the institution of the Sacrament of Reconciliation. In this episode, Jesus gives the Apostles the power to forgive sin by retaining and loosing sins through the authority of Jesus Christ. There are other scripture verses that speak of this same notion, most notably, Matthew 16, when Jesus declares Peter as the head of the Church.

Gospel Reading: John 15:26-27, 16:12-15 (Second Option)

We need to remember that the Spirit comes from the Father and the Son. In the Nicene Creed we recite that the Holy Spirit “proceeds from the Father and Son.” Jesus says that everything that I have given you (over his three year ministry) will be received when the Holy Spirit comes to you.

Happy Pentecost!