Sunday Scriptures

The Birthday of the Church

By Father Anthony F. Raso

OTHER THAN EASTER Sunday, this day, Pentecost, is the most important and meaningful day of the year for all of us who are Christians.

When we were children, we were taught that today was “the birthday of the Church” and so it is. The Apostles really cannot be said to have “sinned” on the night of the Last Supper, except, sadly, for Judas. The rest of them were just frightened and ran for their lives. But when Jesus rose and came to them, He gave them the gift of His peace, and that gift changed their lives.

When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were ready to receive the Holy Spirit and when they did, they burst forth from that Upper Room and proceeded to change the world. As we sang on Easter Sunday, we can sing again today: “This is the Day the Lord has made. Let us be glad and rejoice.” The Apostles felt that way on that holy day. On this holy day, we should feel exactly the same way. That’s what all of the readings are about today: Remembering the Apostles and remembering that we are the Apostles now.

As St. Paul told the Corinthians years ago, and tells us today, we are the Body of Christ. We are consecrated in the Holy Spirit and called by the Father not to allow ourselves to be divided by our differences, but to rejoice in those differences because together we are the Body of Christ, ready to serve the Lord wherever we go, and in fact, to thank Him every day for making us His Body – different parts, all serving their purpose and bringing the world together in Him: “For we were all baptized into one Body, whether Jew or Greek, slave or free, … and we are all given to drink of one Spirit.”

Just as the crowds on Pentecost Sunday were amazed that the message of Christ was given to all people, we are called now to proclaim that message to all of our sisters and brothers.

While there would be moments of hesitation and doubt for the Apostles, no longer was their doubt in Christ, but rather in themselves. Once they remembered that they had been consecrated in the Spirit, even those doubts would disappear.

As St. Paul tells the Church in Rome in our other second reading: “For those who are led by the Spirit of God are (children) of God. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear but you received a Spirit of adoption through Whom we cry ‘Abba, Father!’”

We, the Apostles of today, have nothing to fear because the Spirit of God is shining forth from within us and we should use every day to let that Light shine and let all the world see it shining from within us.

After all, the Risen Lord appeared to His Apostles on that first Day of Glory and He appears to us now and says to us in our First Gospel reading today: “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent Me, so I send you.”

It is indeed a challenge of faith to accept that call. Jesus wants me to be Peter and Andrew and James and John?

Wait. Me?!

Yes, you and I, and all of us who bear the name of Christian.

As we hear in that second Gospel reading today, He is speaking to us when He says: “The … Holy Spirit Whom the Father will send in My name will teach you everything and remind you of all that I have told you.”

The question today is not whether He said it, but whether we will believe it and act upon it with courage and trust in the Holy Spirit that we received in Baptism and Conformation and at every Mass we have ever attended.

We are celebrating today, as we were rightly taught as children, that this is the “birthday of the Church,” and that birthday is ours too, for we are the Church.

It took awhile before the Apostles came to truly believe this: It was after they were chosen and after they sat down with Christ at the table for the Last Supper. They were amazed on the night of Easter to see their risen Brother Jesus again, but then the light at last began to shine and it really began to shine brightly and fully on Pentecost Sunday.

Their first reaction on that day was to run outside and begin to change the world. That was Pentecost for them. For us, Pentecost must be a time to rejoice in what we have received and to walk forth from the sacred place where we celebrate the Mass and to tell everyone what the Spirit has told us.

Remember, there are a lot of people who are not hearing the Voice of the Spirit and will never hear it unless they hear it from us. The task will require as much faith and courage from us as it did from the Apostles 2,000 years ago. However, we can do it! And how do we know we can? The Spirit says so today in our Responsorial Psalm: “Pleasing to Him be my theme. I will be glad in the Lord!”

He believes in us. All we have to do now is to believe in ourselves.

Readings for Pentecost Sunday (During the day)

Acts 2: 1-11

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

Corinthians 12:3B-7, 12-13 or

Romans 8:8-17

John 20: 19-23 or

John 14: 15-16, 23B-26

Father Raso is a parochial vicar at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church, Dyker Heights.

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