Pentecost calls for serious consideration of what it means to be Church
At a recent church meeting, it was briefly noted that many today have a lack of understanding or a misunderstanding of what it means to be “Church.” For some Church is limited to confines of their particular parish. For others, Church mean waving the red, white and blue, our own national church of sorts. But read today’s second reading from 1 Corinthians 12:3b-7, 12-13 and get St. Paul’s take on what Church is meant to be.
“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.”
Chew on that a while because it speaks volumes on Christ’s vision for his Church. As Christianity grew, we watch as the faith spread, forming communities in places such as Corinth, Ephesus, Antioch, Rome, Asia Minor, Africa and more. Gaining strength, Christianity moved into Europe; jumped an ocean into the Americas. One Church; many communities of faith. Or, as we read in the Gospel earlier this month (John 15:1-8), one vine; many branches.
But, as we celebrated last weekend on the Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord, Jesus’ return to the Father and his heavenly kingdom, don’t you find it remarkable that, in his absence, the foundation Christ laid, the Church he founded, does not crumble? What is the driving force? What is the glue making this amazing revolution in faith possible?
The glue that holds our Church together, that gives us courage, inspires and motivates us, is the Holy Spirit, the gift we celebrate today on Pentecost Sunday, known as the birthday of the Church. The reins have been turned over, not only to the Apostles that day, but to all of us through the centuries. We are entrusted with the responsibility for the spreading of the Gospel for the good of all Christ’s Church.
When we fail to recognize the parish across town, Christians in another state or even those continents away, are one with us in all ways that count, we are being shortsighted. We fail to grasp Jesus’ vision of Church. We lack true understanding what it really means to be a Christian. If we did, we would appreciate the need to show as much concern for the many still being persecuted for their faith or those starving in a third world country, as we do for our neighbor who sits next to us in the pew each week.
And here’s a real mindblower, if St. Paul is to be believed, Christ intended that his Church would encompass all: Protestants, Jews, Muslims, Buddiists, Hindus, etc. Jesus saw no limits to what his Church would look like, why do we? Why do we insist on locking doors, as the disciples first did, to keep others out as we hide in fear of the unknown, instead of throwing those doors open to be welcoming and inclusive?
God has a plan for the salvation of all and it’s slowly unfolding. We can be a part of that plan, you know. The Holy Spirit is there to help.
“As the Father has sent me, so I send you…receive the Holy Spirit.”