Homily for the feast of Pentecost - Year C - Jn. 20:19-23
Father Daniel Meynen
" On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, «Peace be with you.» When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, «Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I send you.» And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and said to them, «Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.» "
" Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, «Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I send you.» And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and said to them, «Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.» "
After ten long days of waiting, the Apostles, along with Mary, finally received the one whom Christ had promised to them many times: the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete, the Comforter! Just after his Resurrection, on Easter evening, Jesus had given the Apostles the power of forgiving sins: "He breathed on them, and said to them, «Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.» " But this was not sufficient to make them holy as he and the Spirit are holy: it was still necessary for Jesus to leave them and go to Heaven in order to open the door to them, in a manner of speaking, and in order to send them the Spirit who sanctifies.
While the Apostles, their successors the bishops, and, with them, all the ministers of the Church have received the power of forgiveness of sins, they must nonetheless receive the gift of the Holy Spirit for themselves if they want to become holy, like the Spirit who comes fortify them. The ministers of the Lord don't lose the quality of being believers: they remain so always, having as their model Mary, the Mother of Jesus, the perfected image of the Church and model of all believers. For on the day of Pentecost, the Apostles were there in the Cenacle with Mary, all of them praying together, awaiting the coming of almighty Lord: "All these with one accord devoted themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers (...) When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place..." (Acts 1:14 - 2:1)
What a mystery is this presence of Mary in the midst of the Apostles! Isn't this the very mystery of the Church? How indeed could the believers welcome the Holy Spirit within themselves if Mary were not there, mysteriously, to help them in recognizing the Lord, he who is so great and so sublime in his depth and magnificence? Truly, the Holy Spirit is great, he is immeasurable, for as Saint Paul says: "The Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God." (1 Co. 2:10) How then could we grasp or understand, to any extent, this Spirit who is so great? How could we keep him in us, when Jesus himself could not give him to the Apostles except in the form of a breath: " He breathed on them, and said to them, «Receive the Holy Spirit.» "
Mary is there on the day of Pentecost! With her, all is possible! For she is "full of grace" (Lk. 1:28). In other words, Mary has in her something of the holiness of God. She is not holy in the way that Christ is Holy, but she possesses in her this fullness that characterizes her and that gives her a rank so near the divinity that, through this grace which God gave her, she became the Spouse of the Holy Spirit on the day of the Incarnation of Word. But, if Mary was elevated so high, it was in order that the Holy Spirit might become, through her, completely accessible to the poor believers we are, sinners among sinners. If Mary is there on the day of the Pentecost, it is in order that the Holy Spirit be given to us!
" «As the Father has sent me, even so I send you.» "
Jesus was sent to us by the Father in order to give us his Spirit of Love, at the cost of his sacrifice on the Cross of Calvary. We too are sent by Jesus to bring the Holy Spirit to the world, at the cost of our participation in the unique sacrifice of Christ. This is what we are going to do sacramentally today. Through the Eucharist, gift of the Holy Spirit, we shall be able to unite ourselves to the sacrifice of the Cross: we shall be able to receive the Body of Christ, who died and was resurrected! Through the Eucharist, insofar as we shall be united to Jesus Host, we will receive the gifts of the Holy Spirit so that the Body of Christ, the Church, grows in unity and love! Let us pray to Mary, let us ask her to help us on this day: may eternal Life, through her, be given to us forever!