Today is popularly known as the Birthday of the Church, but this is actually a very weak analogy. The more proper term to encapsulate today’s solemnity is the ‘epiphany of the Church’ as Pope Pius XII hinted in his encyclical Mystici Corporis Christi. This is so because, our tradition tells us that the Church was born with the death of Christ and manifested on the day of Pentecost. However, naming the solemnity today is not the main point here. The essence of today’s celebration is that Jesus and the Father have fulfilled their promise to us, that they don’t leave us orphans, that they would send the Holy Spirit the empower us, to enliven us, to guide us to the truth, and today is the day. When Jesus left his disciples for heaven as we celebrated last Sunday, they felt like orphans, abandoned and confused, reserved and more so, they were afraid of the authorities. So they were hiding behind locked doors. That’s their comfort zone. And in there, they felt safe, secured and supported. What they were doing though was a direct contrast to what Jesus has entrusted them to do, that is to go out to all the world and proclaim the good news. As human as they are, we can understand their worries and anxieties. We might call it cowardice, but for the disciples in the upper room, they felt safe. But Jesus appeared to them there and his first message was ‘peace’ and then he parted to them his gift, the Holy Spirit. And as we have heard from Luke in the first reading today, the disciples were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to speak foreign languages as the Spirit gave them the gift of speech. So here is the moment of epiphany, the manifestation of the Church, and the manifestation of her mission to all people. The gift of the Holy Spirit transforms them right there and then, from being cowards to being courageous. And we know the story, they went out proclaiming the message of the gospel, to all people in their own different languages according to the inklings of the Holy Spirit.
Since the event of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit is continuously working more actively in the world, in each believer, and in the Church. Thus, we have thousands of witnesses of the working of this Holy Spirit such as the Saints, the martyrs, the philantropists, the missionaries, among many others. We have the Holy Spirit working in our world by the move to unite all people in works of social justice, to be advocates of peace, etc. The same Holy Spirit works in the Apostles, down to the Early Fathers, then to the Modern Church. It is also the same message… the message of peace.
The same Holy Spirit, is dwelling within each one of us today, empowering us to get out of our comfort zones and to proclaim the message of peace to all people. It’s hard, but it is only burdensome if we take the whole credit for ourselves. God wants to channel us his grace. God wishes to make us an instrument of his peace. So why not let him be. It’s God’s work, we are just his workers. There are many ways we can do to preach the message of peace. We don’t have to go out to other countries, and go to remote areas and preach the gospel. When we go out today, just give a genuine smile to a stranger you’ll meet. Give a ring to someone whom you were not talking to for a while now. Go out for meal with someone whom you are not comfortable to be with. And so on. This is the message of Pentecost. To embrace the Holy Spirit, to open ourselves to become the temple of the Holy Spirit, where peace, love and joy abide.
So, to continue our celebration today, let us pray, Veni Creator Spiritus (Come Creator Spirit) and renew the face of the Earth, and Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.