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Fifth Sunday of the Apostles

The Fifth Sunday of the Apostles

Basilica Hymn
I will exalt you, O King my Lord
The Lord is faithful in his words
His word is fulfilled unto the ages
We have received the promise from the Father, who has promised us life everlasting
O Lord Jesus, you fulfilled and verified the Promise of the Father by means of your holy disciples. They accepted the gift of the Holy Spirit; they went out, made disciples of and baptized the peoples and nations by means of varying tongues, and turned them to the knowledge of God.

The Promise

As an author, St. Luke is highly interested in the fulfillment of promises. He begins his Gospel with the promise of the angel to Zechariah. Zechariah’s initially negative response to the angel’s assurance of what is going to happen becomes an occasion for a strict punishment. Going against God’s promise, refusing to take part in it, requires a harsh penance.

The common element, the link, between Luke’s Gospel and his second book, the Acts of the Apostles, is also a promise. After the resurrection, the last thing Christ says to the disciples before ascending to heaven is “behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you; but stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.” (Luke 24:49) This word is fulfilled at the beginning of Acts, when the Holy Spirit comes upon the disciples in chapter 2.

If Luke is so concerned, then, with the promise of the Father, his concern is really with explaining the Holy Spirit. The concept of “covenant,” meaning (in Scripture) an agreement or a promise between God and man with the purpose of uniting the two, is fulfilled to its fullest earthly extent in the giving of the Holy Spirit. It is in him that we believe in Christ. It is he who makes this group of people into the Church. It is through his power that the Body of Christ comes to earth upon the altar. It is he who allows the Bride to be united to her Bridegroom.

The Commission

Though the grace given through the Spirit is totally free, that is, is both unearned and unrepayable on our part, it is not given to be hidden or greedily tucked away. God wishes his grace to be brought to the ends of the earth. In other words, the union of the heavenly Bridegroom and his Bride is not meant to be fruitless or childless – the Church is to give birth to many spiritual children.

This ultimate gift of God, then, the Holy Spirit, is one that God expects us to use for the good of the whole human race, and the Spirit’s dwelling within us is an empowerment and a strengthening meant to drive us to become instruments in God’s own work. We are given a gift which gives us a mission, and this mission is the sanctification of the world which comes about by the conversion of the nations; those who do not know God are brought to him.

Hands

God’s presence in the world is therefore extended and increased the more he dwells within the hearts of men, for it is only there that there is true spiritual darkness, and only there that there is true moral evil. We disciples of Christ, whose mission it is to spread the Light of the Gospel, become the very hands of God, therefore, when we take part in God’s work. It is no longer our old selves working for our own agenda, with our own motivation and our own strength. This is a miserable state of life, for it leaves us totally alone in the end. No, now it is not so much we who work but Christ in us, through the Spirit:

O Lord Jesus, you fulfilled and verified the Promise of the Father by means of your holy disciples. They accepted the gift of the Holy Spirit; they went out, made disciples of and baptized the peoples and nations by means of varying tongues, and turned them to the knowledge of God.