Sunday, June 8, 2014

An Apostolic Church

Today we wear red in Church as we celebrate the outpouring of the Holy Spirit and the birth of the Church. Some might ask, but didn't the Church begin when Jesus called those first disciples? And the answer would be no. We say that the Church is one, holy, catholic, and apostolic. The word apostle means messenger or envoy.

While those first disciples had gone out and done some preaching, with the crucifixion, they had allowed themselves to be overcome with fear. They had become paralyzed. Today's gospel, John, they were locked inside out of fear.

Jesus appears and does four things:

1) brings peace to their frightened hearts "Peace be with you"
2) he then commissions them as apostles "as the father as sent me so I send you"
3) breathes on the them filling them with the Holy Spirit
4) gives them the ability to forgive sins " Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.” And here he establishes the sacrament of Penance. If someone asks how can a priest say, "I absolve you..." It is because on Pentecost Jesus passed on the ability to forgive sins to the apostles who passed it on to the leaders in the following generations.

On Pentecost we ceased to be merely followers of Jesus we became the Church, followers with a mission, followers with a purpose, followers empowered by the Holy Spirit to proclaim the Good News to the ends of the earth, fearless followers, fearless messengers.

When we say the Church is apostolic we don't simply mean it was founded on the apostles; we mean that we are called to carry our the apostolic mission, to be messengers, envoys of Jesus. The Good News that was handed down by the apostles, to the next generation, is the same Good News that we are called to hand on.

Today as we celebrate the outpouring of the Spirit, let us pray for a rebirth of the apostolic spirit in each of us. It's not difficult. If someone asks why they should go to Church, just quote Philip's response to Nathaniel, three words, "Come and See." Invite someone to come to church, invite someone to come back to church. Be fearless messengers.