Our first reading said: “When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled, they were all in one place together.”
I’d like to first reflect on that phrase: “All in one place together.”
Being in the same place as someone else, or with a group, is not enough is it? Everybody knows that being with someone physically doesn’t necessarily mean you’re with them in that deeper, more meaningful way. You can be working side-by-side with someone — and be trying to accomplish vastly different goals. You can be talking with someone — a good friend, even! — and be using words in totally different ways. You can be sleeping in the same bed as someone — and be impossibly distant from them in your heart and in your soul.
Division is painful. Disunity is painful. That feeling of being scattered. Of not being on the same page. It is disorienting and confusing! “Why can’t you see the same truth as me?” we might ask. “How can you believe that? On what planet is that even ok?”
Today — all our divisions seem to be deepening in many ways, don’t they? Here we are — in the same country, the same state, the same city, the same moment in history, the same church… we can all be in one place together. But maybe we’re still really far apart. Maybe we’re still separate.
But we still thirst for unity, don’t we?
Unity of purpose.
Unity of conviction.
Unity of belief.
Unity of action.
Ultimately, the sort of unity we so deeply desire — the unity that our human hearts were designed to find rest in — can only be accomplished through the coming of the Holy Spirit.
It is a mystery rooted in the Holy Trinity itself.
From all eternity, the Father is breathing out His love for the Son.
And in return, the Son is breathing out His love for the Father.
And that breath — that spiration shared between the First and Second Person of the Blessed Trinity is itself a Third Person — The Holy Spirit is that union of love… that perfect unity… shared between Father and Son from eternity to eternity.
It is THAT SAME Holy Spirit Who rushed upon the disciples in the Upper Room at Pentecost. They were all in the same physical place, yes — BUT with the coming of the Holy Spirit, they were now united.
Divine Life was now living and breathing in them.
The Unity of the Triune God was now pulsating within each of their hearts, both individually, AND as one community.
The Church was born.
The Second Vatican Council, in its dogmatic constitution on the Church, which is titled Lumen Gentium, says this:
“God gathered together as one all those who in faith look upon Jesus as the author of salvation and the source of unity and peace, and established them as the Church that for each and all it may be the visible sacrament of this saving unity.”
That is amazing! The Church is called to be a visible sacrament of unity! That is our deepest identity as the baptized community of believers. We are baptized into the One, Risen Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit to the glory of God the Father.
Visible unity means that no priest ever has the authority to change or adapt the liturgy according to his own whims or ideas.
Visible unity is why deacons and priests promise respect and obedience to their bishop and ALL his successors.
Visible unity is why, despite our incredibly diverse backgrounds and experiences, we can come together to work for the True Common Good — especially in order to serve the poor and the suffering.
Visible unity is why we learn the Catechism, why we strive to absorb Church teachings — not only in our brains intellectually, but also in our daily actions!
And at the summit of this visible unity — the climatic expression of our unity of faith in the Holy Spirit — is of course, the Most Holy Eucharist.
What in the world would we doing here at Mass if we didn’t have the power of the Holy Spirit actively working right here and now?
I’ll tell you! If it was not for the Holy Spirit — the Spirit who comes down on this altar at every single Mass — then we would be worshipping bread! Without the Spirit arriving at the sound of those bells and the gesture of the priest’s hands, what business would I have saying those words: “This is my Body, this is my Blood?”
And if we ARE convinced that this is not just bread and wine anymore — then how can we approach the Body and Blood of our Lord and say AMEN to that reality without also saying AMEN — YES — to everything the Church believes and professes?
That would be to introduce disunity — division — into the most intimate, most important fact of our life: Our relationship with God.
Therefore — We Christians come and reverently receive the Eucharist at every liturgy with the Unity of the Holy Spirit living and breathing within us. Just as the scattered grain and the crushed grapes are united to make bread and wine — so we are united in the Eucharist by the Holy Spirit. A visible sacrament of unity!
One of our Eucharistic Prayers beautifully reveals this belief:
Grant that we, who are nourished by the Body and Blood of your Son and filled with his Holy Spirit, may become one body, one spirit in Christ.
In other words we are praying: Father! We’re receiving your Only Begotten Son. He is One. He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.
There is no other! Make us One in Him. Send down Your Holy Spirit and make us perfectly united in Him.
Because we want true unity! We know it’s not enough to just be physically in the same place… sitting in the same pews. That’s too superficial!
No….We want the unity and harmony — the COMMUNION — that only God makes possible.
Thankfully, that’s precisely what Jesus came to accomplish. By His Death, Resurrection, Ascension, and now — the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, He is offering us the True Unity we are thirsting for.
We follow a Savior who is always busy gathering up and uniting people together. He draws all things to Himself in love through the working of the Holy Spirit. Christ desires all to be united, all to be One — even as He and the Father are One. He came to call sinners… all of them! He came to bring them together, not just in the same room, but the same Heart.
As Scripture says: God desires that all people be saved.
If that is true — if that’s what Jesus is doing in the Spirit — gathering together and uniting — then we might need to honestly ask ourselves:
Why are we so prone to stir up division?
Far too often, we like acting like little popes — We have our social media platforms, our own circles of friends — and we issue our magisterium for all our followers to agree with and follow us! We think we know better than the Church, better than the bishops, better than the pope… and we become bitter, angry, and divided.
Be careful who you choose to follow out there! Make sure it is in union with the Whole and Entire Truth of the Gospel. Make sure it’s in communion with the pope, with the Magisterium, with the one true faith.
A spirit of protest and disobedience has no place in the One Body of Christ — which is rooted and built up in the eternal unity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit!
So what’s the solution? Where can we find real unity?
By calling down the Holy Spirit once again. By asking for a brand new Pentecost in our Church, in our parish, in our families, and in our souls.
It doesn’t matter where you’re from. It doesn’t matter what the sins of your past life are. It doesn’t matter if you’re man or woman. It doesn’t matter what the color of your skin is. It doesn’t matter if your vaccinated or unvaccinated, masked or unmasked.
All that matters in the end is that we are united in Christ. And that comes from this Supreme Gift, this absolutely precious and glorious reality of the Holy Spirit dwelling in us, and uniting us as the One Body of Christ, the Church.
If that is not the defining fact of your life — if you are still feverishly and selfishly focused on your own solitary life, your own isolated projects, your own idealized politics — then I boldly invite you to let go of all that.
Be converted to the Holy Spirit of Fire and Life. All those real hopes and real desires you have for perfect peace and harmony are not found in the secular, social projects or the individualistic rat race that the world force-feeds us.
It’s found here in the Church, the Living Body of Christ — a Body animated and empowered and sustained by God Himself, the Holy Spirit.
If we really believe this, then we need renew our prayer and trust that it can and will be answered.
And so we pray: “Come Holy Spirit. Renew our lives. Refresh our faith. Heal all our divisions. Unite the Church once again. Make us of one Mind — the Mind of Jesus. Make us a visible sacrament of unity.”