In my homily last Sunday, I mentioned that Ascension is both an end and a beginning. Ascension can be understood as an end because it marks the final moments of Jesus’ public ministry and the end of his physical bond with his disciples. Ascension is also a beginning because the physical absence of Jesus marks the beginning of the disciples’ mission to bring Jesus and his gospel to the people. I also mentioned last Sunday that Jesus “works from home” in heaven while seated at the right hand of the Father. Before he ascended into heaven, he promised the Holy Spirit to his apostles to guide them, to inspire them, to animate them, as they preach the gospel of Jesus. And that promise finds its fulfilment today as we celebrate the feast of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit descended upon the apostles.
The first reading is about the first Pentecost. The disciples were all in one place together and there came from the sky a noise, like a strong driving wind, and it filled the whole place. Then the Holy Spirit descended upon the disciples in tongues of fire. They started to speak in different languages, proclaiming Jesus as Lord. They spoke different languages yet were united and inspired by one and the same spirit. And with that wonderful event, our church was born.
As I always love to say, a church is more than a building. It is a group of people with “different spiritual gifts with the same Spirit,” as St. Paul says; With different forms of service but the same Lord; With different workings but the same God. A church is a group of people who are united to proclaim one and the same God even though we have different personalities and idiosyncrasies. We are called to profess one and the same faith; commissioned to be the gospel of Joy and the gospel of love and mercy to our brothers and sisters. We are the church. The church begins in that beautiful place we call the family.
The church, being composed of human individuals, has elements of imperfection. In today’s gospel after Jesus greeted his disciples with his peace, he showed them the wounds of his glorified body. I see this sending an important message to us because we are Christ’s body. The church is the Body of Christ. We all have wounds, we have pains, we all have doubts! In fact, sometimes these doubts and pains happen in the church. We have this tendency to ignore and hide the ugly feelings we have. That breeds animosity and division. Instead of talking over some misunderstandings or miscommunications in a most amicable way, we tend to take them as personal matters. The Holy Father has an answer to this — Speak! Be noisy! Speak your feelings with mercy, compassion, and forgiveness. The wounds of doubt brought fear to the disciples. That is why they were in a room hiding in fear. Jesus appeared, gave his peace to them, blew his spirit into them. They were animated and fear was turned into fortitude to proclaim Jesus to the ends of the earth.
When wounded or in pain try not to be disappointed right away and loose the spirit of discipleship. Instead let us pray for the peace of Christ and ask the breath of the Holy Spirit to heal us and reanimate us to continue spreading the gospel of joy, compassion, and love.
—Reflection by Fr. Michael Gazzingan