The Sunday Project
Pentecost: The Birthday of the Church
Pentecost Sunday |
By Max Franco
When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled, they were all in one place together. And suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house in which they were. Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim.
Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven staying in Jerusalem. At this sound, they gathered in a large crowd, but they were confused because each one heard them speaking in his own language. They were astounded, and in amazement they asked, “Are not all these people who are speaking Galileans? Then how does each of us hear them in his native language? We are Parthians, Medes, and Elamites, inhabitants of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the districts of Libya near Cyrene, as well as travelers from Rome, both Jews and converts to Judaism, Cretans and Arabs, yet we hear them speaking in our own tongues of the mighty acts of God.”
Brothers and sisters: No one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit.
There are different kinds of spiritual gifts but the same Spirit; there are different forms of service but the same Lord; there are different workings but the same God who produces all of them in everyone. To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit.
As a body is one though it has many parts, and all the parts of the body, though many, are one body, so also Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, slaves or free persons, and we were all given to drink of one Spirit.
On the evening of that first day of the week, when the doors were locked, where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.” When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.”
On this great feast day, many priests will say “happy birthday” in their parish this weekend. It is a day in which we reflect on the nature of the church. For me, it brings feelings of anger because of how the church has treated the LGBTQ community. How do we celebrate a birthday of an institution that has caused so much hurt to the LGBTQ community? The church has committed so much sin, crime, and injustices in its 2,000 year history. Why should we even celebrate the birthday of the church?
To answer this question, we have to understand what happened on this day and what the Holy Spirit tends to accomplish. When the Apostles receive the Holy Spirit, a lot happens before they even leave the upper room. They don’t just sit there. They begin to understand, and the Spirt orders all that they have heard from the teachings of Christ. He gives them wisdom, courage, and strengthens them in unity as his own body. This Holy Spirit creates and renews. As the Spirit was there at the moment of creation, so it was on this day of Pentecost when it creates the church and recreates the apostles and the Virgin Mary. It recreates us in our Baptism and Confirmation. It’s a constant process of us opening to the Spirit. The gift of the Spirit cannot remain at home: it is for the world, to reveal the great love and healing of the world. This is precisely the mission work of witnessing to Christ, to the Spirit, and to the Father. We are meant to bring forth that Spirit into the world. This is the first proclamation of our faith as believers. When we attend mass, we are enriched by the eucharist, to grow in the gift of the spirit and to be strength before we go out into the world where it is difficult. The Holy Spirit was not meant just for the Apostles and the Virgin Mary, but like them all of us are sent out as witnesses to Christ’s love. Pope Saint John Paul II had spoken about a call for a new Pentecost. This is not calling for the Holy Spirit to come down again, for he has already done this; we must pray that it might come into us to recreate us in his image. We must create in ourselves, friends and family to bring that spark to light the world on fire with His peace and love.
As members of the LGBTQ community, this is our church too! It’s not the Pope’s, bishops’, clergy, or even to that typical “church lady.” We all have a story to share why we stay in the church. Some of us have stayed or left and never returned, whereas some of us have returned. If we listen to the Holy Spirt and not to those who call us “intrinsically disordered,” we can feel that love of God in which he created us in his image. We do not seek God; He seeks after us. It brings great joy to my heart when I discover other gay Catholics, because I know if we stick together; we can bring change and to rectify its past and current sins in the church. Let us be moved to go forward into the world, just as the Apostles, to bring Christ’s love to LGBTQ community. It is time now after being filled with the Holy Spirit in that upper room, to go into the world to bring the message of God’s Love to those who have been left out.
The gay Mexican-American Catholic essayist Richard Rodriguez sums up my remaining thoughts: “Why do I stay in the Catholic Church? I stay in the Church because the Church is more than its ignorance; the Church gives me more than it denies me. I stay in the Church because it is mine.”