The Fifth Sunday of Easter, 2021

“I will praise You, Lord, in the assembly of Your people!”

Jesus Christ is Risen! He is Risen indeed!
Jesus Christ is Risen! He is Risen indeed!
Jesus Christ is Risen! He is Risen indeed!

As we continue toward the great solemnity of Pentecost, we are reminded of a crucial truth that should inspire us to more fervently seek the presence and power of the Holy Spirit. That’s the Lord Jesus’ reminder to us in the Gospel that “Without Me, you can do nothing!” God the Holy Spirit is the One Who continues to lead us into all truth and to guide us into that deeper and deeper union with the King of Kings that we need, especially if we are to heed the Gospel today and actually bear fruit in our lives–the fruit of building the Kingdom as we draw closer and closer to the King!

Our relationship with Him should continue to transform our lives. We hear in the first reading how difficult it was for the disciples to believe that even the wicked Saul, the persecutor and murderer, could experience conversion and repentance. To go from ardent killer of Christians to bold proclaimer of the Gospel in virtually one climactic event was more of a transition than many of them could accept. But this was precisely the kind of life-changing event that was to more and more mark the life of the early Church: skeptical tax collector to evangelist, possessed prostitute to the first witness of the Resurrection, backwater fisherman to leader of the Church, etc.

As they continued to experience what the King of Kings could and would do in the lives of people, they became more and more open to letting Him do it. This was particularly demonstrated by Peter, during that pivotal event when the saving Gospel of the King of Kings becomes available even to the gentiles, an event without precedent for these Jewish believers. The rest of the leaders of the early Church, initially very opposed to the whole concept, when they hear how the Lord Jesus orchestrated the whole event, finally come to the crucial conclusion that the Gospel is for everyone. The Lord Jesus prepares Peter by giving him a vision in which he is told that he must not consider unclean what the Lord Himself has cleansed. The Lord Jesus prepares Cornelius by giving him a direct vision of an angel, who instructs him with a word of knowledge about what he is supposed to do:  send for Peter (even giving him the address!). With all that amazing groundwork laid, is it surprising that when Peter arrives at Cornelius’ house, he doesn’t get a chance to say much more than, “Hi, I’m Peter,” and God the Holy Spirit lands and this pagan Roman family experiences their own personal Pentecost? That personal Pentecost for Cornelius and his family enabled them to do what the apostles and those with them in the Upper Room had also done when they experienced Pentecost–to pour out their hearts in praise and worship to the King of Kings, wonderfully providing the ultimate example of that phrase cited earlier: “I will praise You, Lord, in the assembly of Your people!”

One of the most fundamental actions of the Spirit, demonstrated in that first Pentecost, is that the power of the Holy Spirit leads us to praise and worship the Triune God Who has called us into His Kingdom! He takes our sinful, unworthy, damaged hearts and makes them a throne–a throne for Himself! As Paul describes it, the function of the gift of tongues is that it edifies us–literally, it builds a Temple in our hearts for the Triune God. Pentecost did that for those early believers. The Lord Jesus intends Pentecost to do the same thing for us as well, so that we, too, can pour out our praise and worship to the One Who loved us first!

As we continue to seek from the hands of the King more of the power of the Holy Spirit as we approach Pentecost, let this be a goal for each of us: that we might open ourselves more and more to the power of His Spirit that with all our hearts we can truly give our Lord the praise and worship that He deserves! Even so, come, Lord Jesus, send Your Spirit!–Fr. Ed Fride