Pentecost and the Church's Mission

Fr. Joseph Noonan O.F.M.

"And when the days of the Pentecost were accomplished, they were all together in one place:"

"And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a mighty wind coming, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting."

"And there appeared to them parted tongues as it were of fire, and it sat upon every one of them:"

"And they were filled with the Holy Ghost, and they began to speak with divers tongues, according as the Holy Ghost gave them to speak."

"Now there were dwelling at Jerusalem, Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven."

"And when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded in mind, because that every man heard them speak in his own tongue."

"And they were all amazed, and wondered, saying: Behold, are not these, all that speak, Galileans?"

... "And they were all astonished, and wondered, saying one to another: What meaneth this?"

... "But Peter standing up with the eleven, lifted up his voice, and spoke to them: Ye men of Judea, and all you that dwell in Jerusalem, be this known to you, and with your ears receive my words."

"For these are not drunk, as you suppose, seeing it is but the third hour of the day:"

... "Ye men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you, by miracles, and wonders, and signs which God did by him, in the midst of you, as you also know:"

"This same being delivered up, by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, you by the hands of wicked men have crucified and slain."

... "Therefore let all the house of Israel know most certainly, that God hath made both Lord and Christ, this same Jesus, whom you have crucified."

"Now when they had heard these things, they had compunction in their hearts, and said to Peter, and to the rest of the apostles: What shall we do, men and brethren?"

"But Peter said to them: Do penance, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of your sins: and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost."

These lengthy quotes from Holy Scripture indicate the purpose of the Church, or the Church's mission. This mission, simply stated, is to preach the Gospel to the world with the purpose of converting and baptizing all men. It is God's desire that all men be saved, but the rebellion brought about by Man's Fall results in not all men accepting this divine invitation.

The difference in the apostles before the descent of the Holy Ghost and after is a clear indication of how supernatural grace is able to affect an individual. The fear of their own people and the desire to hide is a sign that their natural fears were predominate. Once having received the Holy Ghost, supernatural virtue expressed itself in such a way that caused them to preach fearlessly and thus brought about three thousand conversions on that first Pentecost.

Anyone who has read early Church history knows the difficult circumstances that existed among the Christians. Men were literally hunted down and murdered because of their belief in Christ, but the end result was the growth of the Church. The Romans thought they could kill the Christians and eliminate this new "sect." These pagans obviously didn't have a clue as to the workings of supernatural grace. The more the Romans persecuted the Christians, the more the Church grew. The irony of this situation is that the Romans themselves (the Western Empire) ceased to be in the latter part of the fifth century.

The battles, whether earthly or spiritual, that the Church continued to fight over the centuries including those of today have generally had but one purpose; The conversion of men and the salvation of souls. If it weren't for its supernatural origin, the Church would never have survived for these past twenty centuries.

Since the division of the Church in the sixteenth century by the Lutherans and Anglicans, society has become increasingly less aware and desirous of understanding the purpose of Christ's last commands to the apostles before His ascension and the descent of the Holy Ghost upon these same apostles.

So-called Christians everywhere speak of wanting to live according to the Scriptures, but how many are willing to accept Our Lord's entire message? Christ did command the Apostles to teach all that He had taught them. This means to preach those things which may, and probably are not, very easy to accept by "Protestant Christians." The Real Presence, Transubstantiation, Papal Infallibility, all of Scripture and Tradition, to name but a few objections.

It certainly has become a world of pick what you want, and reject what you don't. No one seems to think they need to accept anything that is contrary to their "opinions." Worse yet, feelings and emotions commonly get in the way of sound reason. If it doesn't "feel" right, or if it "emotionally" disturbs them, then the teaching is rejected. The end result, although these individuals don't see it this way, is a rejection of Christ's teaching. To put it another way, part of the Gospel has not been accepted. Furthermore, it would seem that, according to most people, if any part of the Gospel is accepted, then salvation is assured.

One may further demonstrate the absurdity of "believe as you wish" by pointing out the numberless "Christian" churches that exist. Even after four hundred years these sects seem to continue to multiply in ever-increasing numbers. It has truly become a deplorable situation. If one doesn't like what he is hearing or reading, then he either goes to another "church of choice" or a new one is started. So much for the unity of truth!

It, of course, would be an interesting thing to go back and ask any of the Catholic martyrs why they desired to die for Christ. Ultimately, they would speak of their love for Our Lord. Do you suppose, though, if St. Agnes were to be questioned why she gave her life at the tender age of thirteen, she would expound on how she "felt", or that she would state her "opinion!" Perhaps the denial of Christ is not so easily understood by those who would argue that she only needed to offer a few grains of incense to a false god (as compared with those who were called upon to verbally deny Our Lord).

If one were to question St. Thomas More, St. John Fisher, or any of the martyrs of England during the sixteenth or seventeenth centuries, what would you expect in reply? The religious indifference of today would certainly turn them over in their respective graves, for the differences then are not as great as they are now. They well understood that to approve of their king wanting to live with a woman that was not his wife would mean their own condemnation. (And how many millions of times is this done today, and without a whisper?) The gravity of the sin does not decrease as the number of times it is carried out increases. God does not change His mind (truth) according to the immoral or heretical whims of the majority.

Although it is NOT politically correct to consider such a thing, any person who takes away from the entire Gospel, and therefore the mission of Christ and His Church, reduces his chances of saving his soul. If the rejection is one of enduring obstinacy, their condemnation by Christ is most assuredly complete.

One could consider the first Pentecost to be a starting point in the New Law in the division of those who will be saved and those who will be condemned. Our Lord has given us the "rules to play by." We need only to comply, for there will be no middle ground in eternity. Apathy, indifference, tolerance, being politically correct, feelings, emotions, dissidents, heretics; none of these will be acceptable, for they are a rejection in some manner of the Holy Gospels of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

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