In these final days before the great Solemnity of Pentecost, the Mass readings speak of endings and beginnings. We know that something new is about to happen: The Church is about to be born through the coming of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles and the Blessed Mother. We know that something old is coming to an end: The fear-induced inertia that has plagued Jesus’ closest followers since his Ascension, holding them back from acting on the Lord’s command to them to “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Mt 28:19) will be swept away by the powerful wind of the Holy Spirit blowing through the Upper Room.
The endings, then, aren’t dead ends; rather, they are summations, even climaxes. The beginnings aren’t events fraught with worry and anxiety about what is about to unfold; rather, they are invitations to newness.
In today’s first reading from the Acts of the Apostles, Paul is delivering the peroration to his public ministry. His final words to the early Christians to whom he has preached the Good News are not a sad farewell. He is at peace with what he has done — not necessarily with what he has accomplished — because he has been faithful to “the ministry I received from the Lord Jesus, to bear witness to the Gospel of God’s grace.” His accomplishments are the Lord’s. “I served the Lord with humility,” he says. “I did not shrink from telling you what was for your benefit.”
Even though he is certain that “imprisonment and hardships” await him personally, the fact that he has proclaimed “the entire plan of God” means he has fulfilled Christ’s command. Whatever may happen to him is part of God’s plan. He has knowledge, he has certainty. He is at peace.
Many of us wonder, even worry, about what will happen to us next. … and not just tomorrow or next week, but the all-encompassing next of eternity. In today’s Gospel Jesus tells his followers and us exactly what heaven will be like: “Now this is eternal life, that they should know you, the only true God, and the one whom you sent, Jesus Christ.” That’s it…nothing more, nothing less. And, really, what else should we want or need? Heaven will be intimate knowledge, abiding union in God the Father with Jesus Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit.
As we prepare to receive anew the Holy Spirit this Pentecost Sunday, we pray that our earthly endings will always be peaceful and our beginnings filled with promise until we come to God’s kingdom which has no end.
Father Tim S. Hickey is a priest of the Archdiocese of Hartford currently serving as a mission priest in the Diocese of Dodge City, Kansas. A native Kansan, he was schooled at Benedictine College, Marquette University and Mount St. Mary’s Seminary. Prior to becoming a priest, Father Hickey was editor of Columbia magazine for the Knights of Columbus. He writes occasionally for Magnificat’s seasonal special issues and for Communion and Liberation.