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The birthday of the Church

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ Jesus,

This weekend we celebrate the great moment of the founding of the Catholic Church. That moment we call Pentecost. This awesome mystery of the descending of the Holy Spirit upon the Virgin Mary and the Apostles is the moment in time when our Catholic Church began. In years past the Church gave this Solemnity greater emphasis by celebrating an octave (or eight days) afterward. For us, we are called to honor, reverence and be filled with gratitude for the work and mission of the Third Person of the Holy Trinity. The Holy Spirit animates the Church and gives her the life to proclaim the Gospel to all peoples.

Here is what our Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches us about Pentecost:

“On the day of Pentecost when the seven weeks of Easter had come to an end, Christ's Passover is fulfilled in the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, manifested, given, and communicated as a divine person: of His fullness, Christ, the Lord, pours out the Spirit in abundance. (Cf. Acts 2:33-36)

On that day, the Holy Trinity is fully revealed. Since that day, the Kingdom announced by Christ has been open to those who believe in Him: in the humility of the flesh and in Faith, they already share in the communion of the Holy Trinity. By His coming, which never ceases, the Holy Spirit causes the world to enter into the ‘last days,’ the time of the Church, the Kingdom already inherited though not yet consummated.

‘We have seen the true Light, we have received the heavenly Spirit, we have found the true Faith: we adore the indivisible Trinity, who has saved us. (Byzantine liturgy, Pentecost Vespers)’

‘God is Love’ (1 John 4:8, 1) and love is His first gift, containing all others. ‘God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.’(Romans 5:5)

Because we are dead or at least wounded through sin, the first effect of the gift of love is the forgiveness of our sins. The communion of the Holy Spirit (2 Corinthians 13:14) in the Church restores to the baptized the divine likeness lost through sin.

He, then, gives us the ‘pledge’ or ‘first fruits’ of our inheritance: the very life of the Holy Trinity, which is to love as ‘God [has] loved us.’ (1 John 4: 12; cf. Romans 8:23; 2 Corinthians 1:21) This love (the ‘charity’ of 1 Corinthians 13) is the source of the new life in Christ, made possible because we have received ‘power’ from the Holy Spirit. (Acts 1:8; cf. I Corinthians 13)

By this power of the Spirit, God's children can bear much fruit. He who has grafted us onto the true vine will make us bear ‘the fruit of the Spirit: …love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithful-ness, gentleness, self-control.’ (Galatians 5:22-23) ‘We live by the Spirit’; the more we renounce ourselves, the more we ‘walk by the Spirit.’ (Galatians 5:25; cf. Matthew 16:24-26)

Through the Holy Spirit we are restored to Paradise, led back to the Kingdom of Heaven, and adopted as children, given confidence to call God ‘Father’ and to share in Christ's Grace, called Children of Light and given a share in Eternal Glory. (St. Basil)

The mission of Christ and the Holy Spirit is brought to completion in the Church, which is the Body of Christ and the Temple of the Holy Spirit. This joint mission henceforth brings Christ's faithful to share in His communion with the Father in the Holy Spirit. The Spirit pre-pares men and goes out to them with His Grace, in order to draw them to Christ. The Spirit manifests the risen Lord to them, recalls His word to them and opens their minds to the understanding of His Death and Resurrection. He makes present the mystery of Christ, supremely in the Eucharist, in order to reconcile them, to bring them into communion with God, that they may ‘bear much fruit.’ (John 15:8,16)

Thus the Church's mission is not an addition to that of Christ and the Holy Spirit, but is its sacrament: in her whole being and in all her members, the Church is sent to announce, bear witness, make pre-sent, and spread the mystery of the communion of the Holy Trinity:

‘All of us who have received one and the same Spirit, that is, the Holy Spirit, are in a sense blended

together with one another and with God. For if Christ, together with the Father's and His own Spirit, comes to dwell in each of us, though we are many, still the Spirit is one and undivided. He binds together the spirits of each and every one of us, … and makes all appear as one in Him. For just as the power of Christ's sacred flesh unites those in whom it dwells into one body, I think that in the same way the one and undivided Spirit of God, who dwells in all, leads all into spiritual unity.’ (St. Cyril of Alexandria)

Because the Holy Spirit is the anointing of Christ, it is Christ who, as the Head of the Body, pours out the Spirit among His members to nourish, heal, and organize them in their mutual functions, to give them life, send them to bear witness, and associate them to His selfoffering to the Father and to His intercession for the whole world.

Through the Church's Sacraments, Christ communicates His Holy and sanctifying Spirit to the members of His Body. These ‘mighty works of God,’ offered to believers in the sacraments of the Church, bear their fruit in the new Life in Christ, according to the Spirit. ‘The Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit Himself intercedes with sighs too deep for words.’ (Romans 8:26) The Holy Spirit, the artisan of God's works, is the master of prayer.” (CCC 731-741) Let us learn to grow in devotion to this interior friend and desire that the Holy Spirit lead us in everything! Let us learn to grow in devotion to this interior friend and desire that the Holy Spirit lead us in everything!

Through the intercession of Mary, the Immaculate Conception, St. Joseph, and our patrons, St. Michael, and St. Paul, may God bless you, your families and our parishes!

In Christ through Mary,

Fr. Kasel


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