Sunday Sermon for May 15, 2016, the Solemnity of Pentecost, Year C

Readings: Acts 2:1-11; 1 Cor 12:3b-7, 12-13; Jn 20:19-23
In the Gospel reading today we hear about our Lord breathing on His disciples so that they would receive the Holy Spirit. This, of course, is a reference back to the creation when God breathed the breath of life into the nostrils of Adam. At the time God had created a body for Adam, but there was as yet no life in him. On the contrary, the Apostles of our Lord were all in possession of natural life, but they lacked supernatural life. This is what Jesus breathed into them.

In the first reading we hear what happened on the day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit descended on the Apostles and they began to speak in tongues. Unlike what people today try to suggest as tongues inspired by the Holy Spirit, the gift the Apostles received allowed them to speak in their own language while everyone who heard them received the word in their own mother tongue.

While this is quite amazing, I think it is of far greater importance that they were given faith and courage to preach what they had been given the grace to understand. Since the Holy Spirit was promised by our Lord to lead the Church into all truth, then we know that the Apostles were not contradicting one another in their exhortations. Rather, they all spoke the same truth; they may have used different methods, but the truth they spoke was the same.

This can only be the case because the truth is the very person of Jesus Christ. So the Holy Spirit was given not merely for us to have the intellectual knowledge and understanding of the various truths of the Faith, but of far greater importance, to lead us into the very heart of Jesus Himself.

It is one thing to be able to correctly answer the questions posed by the catechism, it is entirely another matter to believe and proclaim that Jesus is Lord. For instance, a Catholic priest who has studied the occult could correctly answer many questions about the fallen angels or even what those who worship the vile creature believe. Even though he has the knowledge and ability, he does not give credence to any of it. So, a person can know about the Faith, but that does not mean he believes it.

At the heart of the Faith is Jesus. Jesus is the only word spoken by the Father in the silence of eternity according to St. John of the Cross. Scripture says He spoke and it came to be, so St. Paul says that everything came to be through Him. This means that anything and everything has meaning only in and through Jesus. More than that He took on our nature and our life so that He could save us and give us a share in His nature and His life. Hence, as St. Paul says in the second reading, no one can say Jesus is Lord except in the Holy Spirit.

This is no small matter. In fact, it is a matter that I think is going to be of greater importance than ever in the near future. When our Lord breathed the Holy Spirit upon His Apostles He also gave them peace. This peace, as He told us, is a peace the world cannot give. There can be peace only when there is unity. The unity must be in both truth and love. Jesus is both truth and love, so that unity must be, first of all, with our Lord. Secondly, it must be in love for neighbor.

Our Lord told us that the day would come when there would be only one flock and one Shepherd. As many abandon our Lord and His Church, we are going to find ourselves in a situation where those who profess Jesus to be Lord but lack the full understanding of the truth, will be drawn to the Church and to the full unity with Jesus in both truth and love.

This means that as Catholics we have to have the charity to receive these people. It will be a new Pentecost where people from diverse backgrounds will be united to speak the same language of truth and charity. Many of those who will come to the Church will be challenged with the need to let go of the errors they have been taught and to conform themselves to the truth. Many Catholics, on the other hand, who have the fullness of truth, are going to be challenged to a greater and more perfect love.

Does this sound impossible? The Lord chose the Apostles from diverse and even conflicting backgrounds and united them in truth and charity. There is a new Pentecost coming where God will work a similar miracle, but on a much grander scale. Come Holy Spirit!

Fr. Altier’s column appears regularly in The Wanderer, a national Catholic weekly published in St. Paul, Minn. For information about subscribing to The Wanderer, please visit