By Fr. Glenn Jones:
Today (Sunday, June 9) we come to one of most important Christian days of the year and that which closes out the Easter season: Pentecost—commemorating an event described in the Acts of the Apostles chapter 2—an annual commemoration of what Christians hold to be the coming of the Holy Spirit of God upon Jesus’ apostles. At this event the apostles were imbued with wisdom, fortitude and courage with which they went out and taught of Jesus and His Word.
Pentecost is often called the “birthday” of the Christian Church, for the apostles quit hiding in fear and went forth to fulfill the mission that Jesus had laid upon them: “Go…and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you…” (Matthew 28:19-20)—a mission that Christians have been continuing to this day.
It’s always interesting to remember that fact: that the apostles were scurrying about and hiding like rabbits in a kennel even after Jesus’ Resurrection and Ascension, and yet at Pentecost and thereafter went forth to fulfill their mission—not to honor and wealth or fame, but rather to be ridiculed, despised and eventually martyred by torturous deaths—not very likely if they had even suspected that Jesus or His Resurrection had been a fraud. Think about Levi/Matthew. As a tax collector he was likely lied to several times daily, and yet he and the other apostles traveled with Jesus and witnessed His often miraculous works for 2-3 years.
Consider also St. Paul as an example. He was not one of the original twelve apostles and certainly not with them at Pentecost; on the contrary, he was young and elite—a learned Pharisee, by birth a Roman citizen, a rising star. And yet, by his own words he acknowledges that he had first been a most earnest persecutor of Christians; but he converted immediately via a revelation and soon becomes one of Christianity’s most ardent missionaries. (1 Corinthians 15:8-9: Acts 9) only to endure great hardships and eventual martyrdom himself. Just imagine how Paul would have been celebrated and showered with wealth and honors had he abjured the Christian faith, and yet he stood faithful in his knowledge of the truth of it.
Now after Pentecost we enter the long liturgical season we Catholics call “Ordinary Time”—a poor descriptor if ever there was one. Ordinary Time is anything but ordinary, beginning on the Monday after Pentecost and continuing until the end of the liturgical year at the end of November/beginning of December time frame when we celebrate the solemn day of Christ the King. That end-of-year celebration anticipates of the Second Coming of Christ, and thus the liturgical year reflects salvation and Church history between the original Pentecost and that Second Coming at some unpredictable future date.
No, Ordinary Time is anything but ordinary, for we are blessed to live in that time of the growth of our faith which was entrusted to the apostles … blessed to continue their mission even today, the message of Jesus at the end of the Gospel of Matthew resounding in the ears of every ardent Christian. The Christian knows that he is simply journeying through a foreign land as the Israelites journeyed through the desert of Sinai during the Exodus—always seeking, ever anticipating, the land of final promise … and trying to convince as many others of the truth of it as we can.
Yes, it CAN sound fantastical to the modern rationalist ear … but there’s that darn history again—those apostles/witnesses and others giving their lives attesting to the truth of Jesus and His miraculous works—evangelizing, writing about Him, etc. That’s some pretty significant data points in deciphering the universe of truth … of what truly IS. As mentioned before, such self-sacrifice seems unlikely had the apostles and other disciples known, or even suspected, that Jesus was a fraud, or had they themselves conducted a fraud. Why die for a lie? After all, a naked dead guy condemned and nailed to a cross wouldn’t normally be expected to inspire a worldwide religion and faithful-to-death followers … unless…
So we remember the rabbi Gamaliel in the Acts of the Apostles and his wisdom to those who would have condemned the apostles: “…keep away from these men and let them alone; for if this plan or this undertaking is of men, it will fail; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them. You might even be found opposing God!” (Acts 5:38-39) Huh. That was written in the First Century, and yet … here we Christians remain … a couple of billion strong.
Rev. Glenn Jones is the Vicar General of the Archdiocese of Santa Fe and former pastor of Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Church in Los Alamos.