O God, who by the mystery of today's great feast sanctify your whole Church in every people and nation, pour out, we pray, the gifts of the Holy Spirit across the face of the earth and, with the divine grace that was at work when the Gospel was first proclaimed, fill now once more the hearts of believers.
As we prepare to celebrate the Year of Faith proclaimed by Pope Benedict XVI, the opening prayer for Pentecost Sunday is a real gift to us.
This ancient prayer describes the new evangelization which the Church seeks to undertake in these first years of the twenty-first century.
Evangelization begins with the command of the Lord on the day of his Ascension into heaven, "go forth and proclaim the good news, baptizing all nations in the name of the father and of the son and of the Holy Spirit." But it is not until Pentecost, with the descent of the Holy Spirit, that the Church receives the power to fulfill the Lord's command.
Through Pentecost, all people and nations will be made holy, for the gifts of the Holy Spirit are given to the Church in order that she might renew the face of the earth. The true meaning of the Lord's command and the true mission of the new evangelization is to fill the hearts of all believers with the good news of salvation.
How desperately our world needs to hear this good news. How much brokenness, sin, darkness and death surround us. We need only read the newspapers or blogs, listen to the radio or watch TV to witness a desperate search for meaning, for purpose, full love.
I often wonder at the depth of the emptiness which must overwhelm a person without faith. Do not mourn, St. Paul tells us, like those who have no hope. What exquisite pain must pierce the heart of the one who must bury a person whom they love without faith that they will see them once again when they rise on the last day as Christ returns in glory! What unimaginable horror must be the suffering of one who is called to bear the sufferings, disappointments, and hopelessness of the world without God! What futility and panic must flow through the veins of one who must rely on their own strength, their own selfishness, their own minds, rather than trusting in the power, the love, and the wisdom of God!
But that is precisely the meaning of Pentecost. For today we receive the gifts of the Holy Spirit that we might renew the face of the earth, proclaim with Mary the great good news that Jesus has defeated death, that he will return at the end of time to judge the living and the dead, and that the just he will lead to eternal glory.
Let our hearts be filled on this Pentecost day with this joy, this Paschal joy which gives meaning to our lives and hope to our hearts.
Msgr. James P. Moroney, presently professor of liturgy at St. John's Seminary, Brighton becomes the 20th rector there on July 1, 2012. This is the eighth of a series of reflections on the collects of the Easter season.