Pentecost (A) – May 31, 2020
St. Margaret Mary – Wichita, KS
Acts 2:1-11; Psalm 104:1, 24, 29-31, 34; 1 Corinthians 12:3b-7, 12-13; John 20:19-23
What is the Church’s job? Why do we exist? Seriously. Why are we here? “We’re trying to go to heaven.” “We come to mass to receive the Eucharist.” “We need to be good people.” “I feel better after I go to Mass.” Those answers may be true, but they aren’t helpful.
Do we know what a mission statement is? A mission statement is something a company or a business or a group has that tells everyone else their purpose, why they exist, what they do. McDonald’s mission is “to be our customers’ favorite place and way to eat and drink.” Starbucks, their mission is “to inspire and nurture the human spirit – one person, one cup and one neighborhood at a time.” Nike’s mission is “to bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world.” That is why they exist.
Why do we exist? Why does the Catholic Church exist? Why did Jesus found the Church? Jesus came “to seek and to save what was lost” (Luke 19:10). And in our Gospel today, Jesus says that we carry on that mission: “As the Father has sent me, so I send you” (John 20:21). Right before he ascends into heaven, Jesus says, “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them…teaching them…” (Matthew 28:19). We do not exist, our job, why we are here—it isn’t to pray, or to receive the Eucharist, or to go to heaven, or to feel better (as good and important as those are!), no. We exist to carry on the mission of Jesus Christ. We exist to carry on this mission. The Church doesn’t exist and then Jesus tells it to do something, no. There is a mission, Jesus’ mission, and the Church exists to carry out this mission. The mission comes first!
And Jesus’ mission? What was Jesus’ mission? “To seek and to save what was lost.” From the beginning, Jesus’ mission is to gather. Throughout the Old Testament, God was constantly trying to fulfill the mission of gathering his people once again. And in Jesus Christ, this mission of gathering reaches its culmination. And that’s why we exist! To carry on the mission of gathering, of evangelizing. Pentecost isn’t only the day when fire came down and the Apostles spoke a bunch of languages, no. Pentecost is the day when we were empowered by the Spirit to carry on this mission.
When was the last time you thought about this? Have you ever thought about this? When you baptize your children, when they receive confirmation, this is what you are signing them up for: to carry out this mission. When they receive their first communion and when they continue to receive communion every Sunday after: it is meant to be strength to carry out this mission. When you got married, you entered into a vocation to…to establish a domestic Church, to carry on this mission with your children. Think about that! Marriage is not to cure your loneliness, to feel comforted because you were alone and now you are not, no. Marriage is another part of the mission of Evangelization, of gathering.
And this is intimidating! We think, “I don’t know how to evangelize,” or, “I don’t even know what to say.” And that’s ok, because the first step is just that: taking the first step. You have to remember, Jesus already took the initiative, he started the whole process, “he has loved us first (cf. 1 Jn 4:19), and therefore we can move forward, boldly take the initiative, go out to others, seek those who have fallen away” (Evangelii Gaudium 24). What does that look like? Showing mercy to one another, because we have been shown mercy by God. It doesn’t mean you have to go stand on the corners and preach, or anything like that. But it could mean reaching out to someone you know, asking for forgiveness. You don’t have to change the world, but maybe you could begin with your family, your children, or your sister that you haven’t talked to in three years, a friend that has hurt you. But it begins with taking the first step.
You have to take the first step and get involved in the daily lives of people around you. Support these people, which can be a difficult and lengthy process; people don’t change overnight. To be honest, “Evangelization consists mostly of patience and disregard for constraints of time” (EG 24).
[As we baptize and confirm these young men and women today, we are initiating them into this mission. But they will still need constant support and care. The process does not end here. Parents and godparents have a long journey ahead of them with these people. Parents and godparents, you have taken the first step in bringing these people here…but your job is not over. You must continue to be involved in their daily lives, supporting them, supporting their faith. This is a difficult and lengthy process, but as I mentioned, evangelization consists mostly of patience and disregard for constraints of time. Never give up!]
Again, what is the mission? What is our job? To carry on Jesus’ mission of gathering. And it is here at the Mass that this is expressed most beautifully. What is the very first thing we do at Mass? The very first thing. Sign of the cross? No. The entrance song? No. We gather. The very first part of mass is that we gather. I remember when I first came to Margaret Mary, one thing that scandalized me is how many people miss Mass on Sunday, they don’t gather. I can remember missing Sunday Mass only once in my entire life—I was eight, and I was barfing, so I didn’t go. But people miss Mass because they plan quinceañera parties during Mass, because they want to sleep, for many pretexts. Perhaps an easy first step is to encourage one another to gather for the mass, and to make that a priority above all others, to teach your children that there is nothing that is more important on Sunday than attending Mass. Perhaps that can be our first step.
Because that is why we exist: to gather, to go out and gather all peoples, and bring them to the source of life, the source of peace, the source of all joy.