Spirit and Flesh

Pentecost 2013

To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit.

 … For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body (I Cor. 12: 7, 13)

    From beginning to end, the work of the Church, the very existence of the Church in this world, is the fruit of the Holy Spirit, breathed upon her by the Risen Christ. Salvation comes from God; it is a work of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Salvation is also the Church’s work, but only in so far as her work proceeds from the Spirit sent by Christ Jesus, who is at once true God and true man.

    This is our faith as Christians, that all salvation comes to this world through the humanity of the God-man; that is the truth the Church proclaims, and that is the truth the world denies. Man’s salvation is a divine gift, a divine undertaking from beginning to end. It began when the Spirit brought Christ into the world, by overshadowing Mary; it will culminate when the God-man returns to the world to judge all flesh, the living and the dead, and establish definitively who will belong to His Kingdom forever and who will be eternally lost.

    Today’s feast of Pentecost is yet another reminder of the divine origin of our salvation, the fact that it comes from Christ, as God and man, and the fact that the Holy Spirit accomplishes this work of Christ through the Church. Christ had instructed his disciples emphatically, “without me you can do nothing.” Jn. 15:5 He had prepared his Apostles, the founding Fathers of His Church, to be His instruments of truth and grace in the world, His instruments of salvation. But he immediately told them that they could do nothing without Him, and thus they were to await His gift of the Spirit before commencing the work of the Church to bring salvation to the rest of mankind. He assured them that He would remain with them always and work through them, because the work of salvation would always be His work, and they would always be merely his instruments.

    Thus the Church would first of all be the Kingdom itself under construction, the growing mystical body which is composed of those who have begun to live the life of God, already here on earth, and those who have gone beyond this world, either to be purified completely, or to enter the Kingdom of God because they have been purified in this world.

    The Church, in other words, is always a work under construction, and the Master Builder is God, more specifically God the Son, Jesus Christ, working through God the Holy Spirit. It is the Spirit sent by the Father and the Son whose powers create the body, and shapes it, and gives it life and joy. Just as the soul gives life to our mortal fleshly bodies, so the Spirit gives Life Eternal to the Body of the Church and to each of its members, who are saved precisely by being parts of her body. The Church is created by Jesus acting through His Spirit and through His members, and for that reason it is truly Christ’s own body. Just as the Spirit gave Jesus His first mortal body, by overshadowing Mary, so the Spirit gives Christ His second (Mystical) body, by overshadowing Jesus on the Cross and Mary beneath the Cross. There, the new Eve came forth from the side of the new Adam, the New Eve prefigured by Mary, whose is her archetype and first member, and this compounded New Eve became the mother of all the living, only when the Spirit overshadowed her at Pentecost.

    So the Church is at once the final Kingdom of God under construction by the Spirit and simultaneously the instrument used by the Spirit to accomplish his work of salvation and constructing the body of Christ. She is the Kingdom; she is the instrument which builds the Kingdom. But the Father, Son and Spirit is the Master Builder, and the Spirit now accomplishes everything according to the Divine Archetype, who is Christ the Lord.

    And so on this Day of Pentecost the small, new-born Church was gathered in the upper room, the apostles together with Mary the Mother of Christ, and the Mother of the Church as well, and the Spirit descended upon that little body and filled it with His presence and power, and the new-born Church spoke its first words in testimony to Jesus Christ and the salvation He has brought to this world. The Spirit was given by Christ so that the Apostles could proclaim His Gospel in His Name and with His absolute truthfulness. Truth is God’s work first and man’s only derivatively, and thus only with the Spirit could they hope to proclaim the truth of Christ without error, until the end of time.

    Forgiveness of sins is likewise God’s work, and that is why Christ gave them the Spirit, who alone resurrects the sinner, just as The Spirit resurrected Christ. The Life given in the Kingdom is God’s Life, and so only the Spirit can produce that life when the Church baptizes. Christ is God’s work, and thus only the Spirit can transubstantiatiate bread and wine into the true body and blood of Christ, when the priest repeats the words of Jesus at the Last Supper.

    All of this is made possible by the work of the Holy Spirit, and we are all the blessed beneficiaries of His work, and we all must become His instruments in extending His work to others in the world and to those already in the Church. That is what Pentecost is all about, the sending of the Church into the world by the Lord, empowered by the Spirit. Pentecost is the day the mission of the Church began, and that work must continue until the Lord return in glory. Christ and His Spirit are with us always, bringing the work of Christ and His Spirit to perfection in us and then, through us, in others.

    If we do not become cooperating instruments by which He builds up the Church, then we will not forever retain His presence. He is ever the Master Builder, and the Spirit does not remain where there are no workers to assist Him. If we would be part of the work He is building, we must be part of the workforce that is building it. It is not an option, and our salvation depends upon our willingness to serve. So we must always pray: “Come, then Holy Spirit divine, and within our bosoms shine … Where you are not, man has naught, nothing good in deed or thought .. come O Spirit divine … descend … and make us your instruments of light and love, and give us then your sure reward .. Give us your salvation Lord.” Amen, Alleluia.



Categories: Homilies

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