At Pentecost we remember the descent of the Holy Spirit. I don't know about you, but often times I think of that in a personal way: What gifts has the Holy Spirit given me? What can I do with them? However, the Holy Spirit is not just a gift for each of us individually, but rather, is a gift to the whole Church, the whole People of God.
One of the scandals in Christianity is that there is division and separation. That, contrary to the will of God, those who profess faith in Christ are not all united. We are fractured not just along denominational lines, but even within the Catholic Church. We gossip about each other, we question the faith and devotion of our brothers and sisters based on how they choose to pray, we are quick to judge and slow to forgive. We forget that, in the words of Saint Paul in one option for the Second Reading on Pentecost, "For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body…and we were all made to drink of one Spirit." That does not mean that we should just forget about the important theological differences that separate us from other Christians nor does it mean that there are not genuine reasons for our differences. However, it does mean that we need to approach all of our conversations and possible corrections in a spirit of charity that is grounded in our common baptism and common head, Jesus Christ.
Saint Paul reminds us that "To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good." The gifts we receive from the outpouring of the Holy Spirit are not meant to be ours privately, but are meant to build up the Kingdom of God.
The Preface to the Eucharistic Prayer (the part before the Holy, Holy, Holy) contains a section that brings this home: Addressing God the Father it says "For, bring your Paschal Mystery to completion, you bestowed the Holy Spirit today on those you made your adopted children by uniting them to your Only Begotten Son. This same Spirit, as the Church came to birth, opened to all peoples the knowledge of God and brought together the many languages of the earth in profession of the one faith."
My mother always says that it is often easier to be critical of family than of strangers. I think the same things holds true for the Church. It is often easier for us to be critical of those who are "in the family", who are our fellow Catholics and Christians. However, the message of Pentecost is that we are all members of the Body of Christ and we are all called to work for the unity of the Church by using the gifts the that Holy Spirit gives each of us.
Pentecost marks the end of the Easter Season. We start Easter by recalling Christ's Resurrection and we end it by recalling the sending of the Holy Spirit. We start Easter by recalling how Christ died for us all and how it is our calling as followers of Christ to bring that love to all corners of the world. We end Easter by recalling how we have now been given the gifts to do just that. We are called to be witnesses to and agents of Christ's love in the world, and in our own Church. We are called to not sow division, but to build up, to remember that we are all baptized into the one body of Christ.
The Response for the Responsorial Psalm is a plea to God: "Lord, send forth your Spirit and renew the face of the earth". The Spirit has been sent and is being poured out on the Church. It is up to us now to be agents of that renewal. It is our task now to be witness to Christ in the world. Renewal starts with charity and sometimes charity is hardest with those closest to us: our families, work, and parish.
Lord, send forth your Spirit and renew the face of the earth!
Rebecca Spellacy is the Associate Director of Liturgy for the Office of Formation for Discipleship in the Archdiocese of Toronto.