BEFORE THE CROSS | The Church is missionary because of the Holy Spirit

Before the Cross - Archbishop Robert J. Carlson's Column

Lisa Johnston | lisajohnston@archstl.org
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Last week, as I concluded my reflections on the life and ministry of St. Paul, I wrote the following: "The death and resurrection of Jesus led inevitably to the coming of the Holy Spirit. We might say that Easter and Pentecost are two sides of the same coin. They are the most solemn feasts of the liturgical year ... because they acknowledge with great joy the miracle of God's gift-of-self to us for the sake of our redemption and sanctification."

Easter celebrates our redemption. Pentecost focuses our attention on sanctification, the work that the Holy Spirit carries out within each of us and in the Church as a whole. Redemption and sanctification are gifts from God that are necessary for salvation. Without Christ's death and resurrection, we would be stuck in our sins -- prisoners of our sinfulness and the sins of the world. Without sanctifying grace, we would not have the strength to carry on. We know that we need the Holy Spirit's sevenfold gifts (wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety and fear of the Lord) to sanctify us -- make us holy -- and sustain us in life's journey.

In the images contained in the marvelous Sequence of Pentecost, "Veni, Sancte Spiritus," we call on the third person of the Blessed Trinity to come into our hearts bringing light for our darkness, comfort for our distress, healing for our soul's sickness, warmth for our frozen hearts, and joys that will never end. The endless joy for which we long, but could never achieve by ourselves, is given to us as a gift of the Holy Spirit.

We know that even after receiving God's saving grace and being reconciled to Him in the sacrament of penance, we will sin again. We know that those whom we love, and we ourselves, will one day suffer and die. And yet, we believe in the Holy Spirit and in the promise that we will one day be united with Christ, and all of the saints, in our heavenly home. Our Lord promised that He would prepare a place for us there. He sent His Holy Spirit so that we might have the courage and the confidence we need to be faithful to His promise.

In his apostolic exhortation, "Evangelii Gaudium" ("The Joy of the Gospel"), Pope Francis argues passionately for a renewed missionary spirit in the Church. In his final chapter, the pope exclaims: "How I long for the right words to stir up enthusiasm for a new chapter of evangelization full of fervor, joy, generosity, courage, boundless love and attraction! Yet, I realize that no words of encouragement will be enough unless the fire of the Holy Spirit burns in our hearts" ("Evangelii Gaudium" 261). The pope challenges us -- no matter who we are -- to be "spirit-filled evangelizers," missionary disciples of Jesus Christ whose hearts are on fire.

We are called to be "missionary disciples" who are willing to move beyond our comfort zones to proclaim the Good News and serve others, especially the poor and those who are most vulnerable. According to Pope Francis, this is the simple message of Jesus. It should not be obscured by complications or excuses of any kind. The message of Jesus is clear: "Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you" (Matthew 28:19-20). This great commission belongs to each one of us and to the whole Church. We fulfill this responsibility each in our own way according to the gifts and talents given to us by the Holy Spirit as stewards of our baptismal calling.

Because of the Holy Spirit, each baptized Christian, and the entire community of faith, can be missionaries for Christ. We can fulfill the mission given to us by our Lord because of the sanctifying grace poured into our souls by the Holy Spirit at baptism and confirmation. This same sanctifying grace is renewed and strengthened each time we receive the sacrament of penance and the holy Eucharist.

The Church is missionary by her very nature, and so are we. Let's pray that we will be open to the gifts the Spirit brings to each of us so that we can be courageous in carrying out Christ's mission.

Archbishop Robert J. Carlson's calendar

Monday, June 2

11:45 a.m. Memorial Mass for Jimmy Munford, Cardinal Rigali Center

7:10 p.m. Archdiocesan Night at the Ballpark – Cardinals vs. Royals

Tuesday, June 3

10:15 a.m. St. Louis Catholic Communications and New Evangelization Conference, Cardinal Rigali Center

Wednesday, June 4

8:30 p.m. Kenrick-Glennon Days, Kenrick-Glennon Seminary

Friday, June 6

Noon Mentors lunch meeting, Archbishop's residence

Saturday, June 7

10 a.m. Ordination of permanent deacons, Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis

2 p.m. Commencement, Ave Maria Institute for Pastoral Theology, Cardinal Rigali Center

7:30 p.m. Pentecost Vigil Mass, Holy Redeemer Parish, Webster Groves

Sunday, June 8

10 a.m. Mass to consecrate the Archdiocese to the Holy Spirit, Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis

2:30 p.m. Rite of Confirmation, Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis 

Bishop Edward M. Rice's calendar

Monday, June 2

7:10 p.m. Archdiocesan Night at the Ballpark – Cardinals vs. Royals

Tuesday, June 3

Kenrick-Glennon Days, Kenrick-Glennon Seminary

Wednesday, June 4

6 p.m. Nativity Miguel Scholarship Dinner,Four Seasons Hotel

Thursday, June 5

11:15 a.m. Mass, Notre Dame Motherhouse

Friday, June 6

Kenrick-Glennon Days, Kenrick-Glennon Seminary

11 a.m. Mass for residents, Surrey Place skilled nursing facility

Saturday, June 7

9 a.m. Midwest Regional meeting at the Society of St. Vincent de Paul - "Church as Mission"

Sunday, June 8

11:30 a.m. Mass at St. Mary Magdalen Parish in Brentwood

2:30 p.m. Rite of Confirmation of Adults, Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis

9 p.m. Flight to San Antonio, Texas, for Mexican American Catholic College Spanish classes through July 2 

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