This is one of those Sundays where a person tends to hear the readings and look “out there,” not realising that the message is also meant “in here” for us today. We don’t seem to get our bearings around such remarkable happenings, things like “tongues of fire” on everyone present, Jesus’ surprise appearance through locked doors, and then a “now it’s your turn” mandate to carry on his mission.
Anytime we’re reading about or experiencing supernatural events, we find ourselves in the presence of “mystery.” It is not for us to understand the “how”; rather, for us to believe that all of this fits into God’s plan of salvation. That means that we simply trust him, listen to him, and follow his commands.
John’s gospel (Jn 20:19-23) packs a powerful punch in only a few words. We could paraphrase them like this: “I give you Peace; I give you the Holy Spirit; I send you to do my work; you will be forgiving and compassionate like me.” All of that sounds like a “graduation” speech for a small bunch of people who were hiding behind locked doors, probably petrified that they might receive the same treatment as Jesus, and not knowing what to do next.
The beauty of Pentecost is the reminder that we have the Holy Spirit within us, as a very precious gift from God. Baptism and Confirmation empowers us with a fullness of the Spirit that is sufficient to carry out our part in God’s plan of salvation. That is all we need to know is trusting in that fact, we can avoid the paralysis of fear when confronting our ill culture. Jesus confronted his ill culture also, in a teachable, non-threatening way. He dwells within us by the power of the Holy Spirit; all we need do is to try to imitate his gentleness and courage, challenging and encouraging those we meet to reach for better values.
Apostolic succession started when the Risen Jesus imparted his power of sanctifying to the Apostles, who in turn entrusted that power to their successors, the bishops. In a certain way the Sacrament of Confirmation, spreads the grace of Pentecost throughout the Church.