Psalm 68:2-3ab, 4-5acd, 6-7ab
Through his word and mighty works, Jesus leads his disciples to faith in him. The disciples confess in the Gospel that Jesus knows all things, that he is omniscient. It is a confession of his divinity because knowledge of all things is proper to God alone. At the same time, the disciples’ faith will be tested.In just a few hours, in the Garden of Gethsemane, they will be overcome by fear, they will be scattered and they will leave Jesus alone. The fear and lack of faith they experience that night is in stark contrast to the morning of Pentecost, when they are empowered and emboldened by the Spirit to preach the good news to all nations. Today’s Entrance Antiphon captures this truth: “You will receive the power of the Holy Spirit coming upon you, and you will be my witnesses, even to the ends of the earth, alleluia”.
A manifestation of the disciples’ mission to witness to Jesus to the ends of the earth is found in the first reading. Paul is now on his third missionary journey. He traveled through Galatia and visited the churches there for a third time. He makes his way to the coast, to Ephesus, where Apollos has been preaching about Jesus. Now, Apollos was an eloquent man, well versed in Scripture, but was familiar only with John’s baptism of repentance. Aquila and Priscilla, a married couple who became co-workers with Paul, instructed Apollos and expounded the Christian Way to him more accurately. After this, Apollos leaves Ephesus and heads to Corinth, to a Church founded by Paul on his second journey. There Apollos will help the believers and confute the Jews publicly, showing by the Scriptures that Jesus is the Christ.
Paul arrives to Ephesus and inquires whether or not the disciples have received the Holy Spirit. It turns out that they only received the baptism of John. John the Baptist was not the Messiah or the Prophet. He was a messenger who prepared the way for the Lord to come; he was the voice in the desert who prepared the way for the Word of God; he was the prophet-like-Elijah who prepared the way for Jesus, the Prophet-like Moses; he was the bridegroom’s best man who rejoiced when the Bridegroom appeared before him, he was the child who leaped for joy in God’s presence. Everything John did was to prepare the people for the coming, the advent, of Jesus the Messiah.
John’s baptism of repentance, then, was only a preparation for the Baptism that Jesus would bring through his death and resurrection. Jesus’ Baptism truly cleanses and sanctifies. Not only does Paul baptize the twelve men of Ephesus in the name of Jesus, he also confirms them in the Spirit by laying his hands upon them. The twelve men receive the Holy Spirit and begin to speak in tongues and prophesy. It is like another Pentecost.
Paul spends three months speaking in the synagogue about the Kingdom of God. This Kingdom was the one promised in the Old Testament and fulfilled in Jesus Christ. Jesus began his preaching with the Kingdom of God and concluded his preaching after the resurrection with the Kingdom of God. Throughout his public ministry, Jesus announced that the Kingdom was near and was present among them. He invites sinners to the table of the kingdom and invites them to that conversion without which one cannot enter the Kingdom (CC, 545). To gain the kingdom one must give everything; to enter the kingdom, one must become a disciple of Christ (CCC, 546). Jesus might works and signs manifest that the kingdom is present in him (CCC, 547).
The culminating moment happened during the Passover, in the Paschal mystery, and the days leading up to Pentecost. And so we can say that the Kingdom was inaugurated at the Last Supper (CCC, 2816) and definitively established on the Cross (CCC, 550), in his Resurrection (CCC, 542), and at his Ascension (CCC, 664). Under the action of the Holy Spirit, and with the collaborators of the apostles, this kingdom will develop in history until the end of time (Pope Saint John Paul II, 22 November 1989). At the end of time, the Kingdom of God will come in its fullness and the righteous will reign for ever wit Christ (CCC, 1042).
This is the Kingdom we pray for in the Our Father. It is a kingdom of peace, joy and righteousness (Romans 14:17). It is a Kingdom filled with the Spirit, who bestows on those who accept God’s lordship, love, joy peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). The coming of the Reign of God is the work of the Holy Spirit who completes the Lord’s work on earth and brings us the fullness of grace (CCC, 2818). If we allow ourselves to be led by the Spirit we will inherit the Kingdom of God (Galatians 5:21).
Readers may contact Father Jason Mitchell at [email protected].