When we read the gospels of Matthew, Mark and John as well as the writings of St. Paul, we are surprised.  They don’t mention of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit taking place on the 50th day after Christ’s resurrection.


To Matthew, Mark, John and Paul, the good news was that Jesus had risen, was in glory with the Father and at some glorious future day he would return in all his glory to judge the living and the dead. The Holy Spirit was given to the apostles on the very Sunday evening of the Resurrection.  It all happened in one day!  Jesus continued to appear to the apostles and his disciples in bodily form on many occasions. Matthew, Mark, John and Paul didn’t attach much importance to Jesus’ final appearance.  They don’t mention Jesus’ Ascension after forty days.  Nor do they record the special sending of the Holy Spirit on the 50th day.  [Only in Mark’s second ending, is it mentioned that “Christ was taken up to heaven.”] 


Although Jesus told them, no one knew the day or the hour when he would return in glory, the early Christians were expecting it to happen within a few years or maybe within twenty or thirty years.


In the meantime, the early Christians followed the teachings of Jesus.  They gathered each Sunday to celebrate the Lord’s Supper.  By word and example, Christians preached the good news to the people they met. The Christian merchants and travelers would tell their acquaintances about Jesus and some of these non-Christians asked for Baptism. On the other hand, the apostles were full time missioners.  Wherever they went, they healed the sick. They proclaimed the Kingdom of God to the world as they knew it.




Luke was familiar with the gospels of Matthew and Mark.  He was a companion of St. Paul.  He knew what they were thinking. Luke was “ a man of the world!”  Moreover, Luke knew some geography.


He had a different way of looking at the situation of the Christian community and their mission. He was writing forty or fifty years after the death and Resurrection of Christ [after the destruction of Jerusalem 70 C.E.]   Paul has some great successes but Luke saw that there were many difficult languages, cultures and custom. Just to learn one of these languages could take a lifetime.  And Luke wrote his gospel for the non-Jewish Christians: the nations and tribes. Missioners had to learn difficult languages. The message of Jesus had to be implanted in these non-Christian religious traditions and ancient cultures.  Otherwise the Jesus’ message would sound like foreign nonsense. The mission task was gigantic.


In today’s reading, Luke mentions twelve language divisions.  The geographers of his day divided all the peoples into twelve language divisions. [Luke probably didn’t know anything about the people of China, the Philippines, India, Malaysia, South Sea Islands, and Americas.]


And so Luke began researching and thinking about the period after Jesus’ Resurrection and Jesus’ last physical appearance to his followers.  Luke concluded that the forty days after the Resurrection was the time that Jesus finished the apostles’ training and gave directions on the kind of Church he wanted to establish. In other words, Jesus instructed them on how to be a Church in mission.


Luke wrote the Acts of the Apostles: the first Mission History of the Church. 


In today’s reading, Luke describes the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the Church.  Today is the official beginning of the Church.  Today is the birthday of the Church.


That is why Luke lists all the languages that people spoke on that first Pentecost Sunday. He wanted the early Christians and us to  know: “We’ve got a whopper of a mission!”  And moreover, Jesus may not be coming back in glory until we finish the job. Jesus left it up to his Church to carry out this jaw-dropping mission.  That why we got to have this outpouring of the Holy Spirit. The Christian community has to pay attention to the Holy Spirit to get the strength and smarts to do its mission thing.





1.      To all the Christians here today. 


Each of us at Mass today, Filipino domestics, Chinese elderly, young people, workers, housewives are called to play a small but essential part in the mission history of the Church: to proclaim the gospel to all peoples, all cultures, all language groups, all classes of people, people in all social conditions and to people with all sorts of weird ideas.


Some of us our old.  Some of us can’t read or write Chinese.  Some of us are sick and can’t even go to the bathroom by ourselves. But each of us by living our Christian life with the power of the Holy Spirit is engaged in the Church’s mission enterprise. We may not be able to see any results of our efforts.  But this morning Holy Spirit assures us that each of our contributions is essential.  God doesn’t have substitutes on his bench.


As we at St. Patrick’s go about our daily concerns, raising our families, working, defending the poor, living our Christian life and sharing our Faith with others, we are the instruments of the Holy Spirit.  We don’t observe history.  We are making history.  Each in our way is pushing the gospel forward.


2.      Some of you can read and write. 


May I suggest spend we spend a little time reading and talking about the Church’s mission history and the challenges of bringing the gospel to other peoples, cultures and religious traditions.


However before we can appreciate the cultures of other peoples, we, Christians need to appreciate our own culture and traditions. 


In our homes, what do we have items that speak of our Filipino, American or Chinese heritage?  A painting?  A biography of true patriots their virtues [and warts]?  The Constitution of our country? Do we quote the wisdom of our ancestors? Do we display photographs of our grandparents who may have had to struggle to give us life?  Do we ever narrate these heritage stories to the younger members of your family?  If we can’t read, lay a guilt trip on one of the grandchildren and ask him/her to read to poor old grandpa for five minutes after supper.


Once we love our own heritage, then we can then appreciate the culture, the art, the religious traditions and ways of thought or someone not of our culture.  Hong Kong is full of people of many cultures.  The Christian sees the Holy Spirit already busy at work in these other people. 


Our mission task is then to play a humble role in witnessing and supporting the Holy Spirit busily at work in these various cultures




During the coming week, how many of you will thank the Holy Spirit for calling you to proclaim the Good News?  Please, raise your hands if you will do so.


During the coming week, how many of you will at least once discuss the gifts that you have received from your ancestors?  Please, raise your hands if you will do so.


During the coming week, how many of you will talk to a person of a different culture and ask them to explain one of their customs?  Please, raise your hands if you will do so.


[At the end of Mass request the organist to play Happy Birthday to celebrate the Church’s Birthday.  Corny!  But it may be the only thing somebody will remember about the sermon all week.]





TEXT: “Yet each of us hears them speaking in his own tongue about the marvels God has accomplished.”  Acts 2: 11. (NAB)




TWO WORDS: Mission History


TOPIC SENTENCE: We are called to play an important role in the mission history of the Church.  As the body of Christ, his Church community, we proclaim the gospel to all peoples, all cultures, all language groups, all classes of people, people in all social conditions.


CONGREGATION Homily is directed to 7:30 A.M. Chinese Mass, an elderly congregation.  And at 1   P.M. English Mass with a Filipino community.


DESIRED RESULT:  Father, I have been feeling discouraged.  Although Jesus died and rose from the dead two thousand years ago, still such a small percentage of the world’s population know about him and love him.  There is so much evil and injustice in the world.  But in your homily, I began to understand that this mission is not the work of an individual’s life span, but the mission task will require centuries—even millennia--to complete.  It will require bringing the gospel to the cultures and languages of the world.  It will require bringing Christ to every dimension of   contemporary life. I am heartened to know that I have some small role to play in the history of mission. I am confident that the Holy Spirit knows what she is doing.




“10. Sent by Christ to reveal and to communicate the love of God to all men and nations, the Church is aware that there still remains a gigantic missionary task for her to accomplish.  For the gospel message has not yet been heard, or scarcely so, by two billion human beings.  And their number is increasing daily.  These are formed into large and distinct groups by permanent cultural ties, by ancient religious traditions, and by firm bonds of social necessity. …the Church must become part of all these groups for the same motive which led Christ to bind Himself, in virtue of His Incarnation, to the definite social and cultural conditions of those human beings among whom He dwelt.”  Walter M. Abbot, editor,  “Decree on Missionary Activity in the Church”, The Documents of Vatican II, (New York: Guild Press, 1966) pp. 596-597. [Emphasis added: et]




“The earlier kerygma, St.  Paul and the evangelists Mark and Matthew only know about a fully glorified Lord who in His resurrection entered into this heavenly glory and then appeared from there to be with his followers (John).  About such a thing as an ascension after a period of quasi-earthly existence, and a pouring down of the Spirit following upon this, they did not know.  Or we should rather say, theologically speaking, they did not see the need for such a presentation.  [Only in the second ending of Mark’s gospel is their reference to Jesus Ascension--et]


     “The question is, therefore, which were the theological reasons for the third evangelist to come to such a different presentation, and to describe an ascension  and a Pentecost as two events separated from the resurrection, which for the time being only seemed to mean a continued stay of the risen Lord with his followers here on earth.



       “The fundamental reason certainly is that St. Luke was the evangelist who clearly realized that Christianity and the Church was going to have a long history in the world. The period of the more or less excited nearness expectations had come to an end.”     “The Meaning of the Christian Pentecost” Notes by Fr. John Linskens.





1.      We will soon be celebrating the Olympics in Athens.  And my favorite two races are

 the 100 yard dash and the 26 mile marathon.   The 100 meter dash is over is less than ten seconds.  The athletics throw every ounce of energy into each step.


But in the marathon, the athlete knows that there is a long road ahead.  It will take less than two hours.  He/she needs to carefully plan how to her conserve energy.  Any athlete who runs the first ten seconds like the 100 yard dash will surely use.


The early Christians, Mark, Matthew, Luke and Paul, thought of Christ’s command to preach the gospel to all nations as a 100 yard dash.  Luke tells us: Our mission a marathon that may will run through centuries and even millennia.



2.      When I arrived in Hong Kong on September 23, 1960, I was full of enthusiasm to

begin my mission.  I pictured myself helping the people of Hong Kong.  I would preach to thousands of Chinese people and baptize them.  In a short time all of Hong Kong would be Catholic.


However, I soon discovered that my mission task would not be quite that easy.  First of all, the language presented and still does a big problem.  Then there were the Chinese customs and traditions, literature and history.  And by 1970, we no longer had large Baptism classes.  We had small groups of fine Catholics.  But they made up just a small percentage of Hong Kong’s population.  The ordinary Hong Konger had a different set of values: earning a living.


3.      During the cultural revolution, all the stain class windows of the Catholic Cathedral in Shanghai were destroyed.  Nor were there any photographs or drawings of the original windows to be found.  Now the windows are being restored.  But the new windows will not reflect French culture and art.  Instead the new windows “will be filled with imagery drawn from traditional paper cut-outs, block seals and Chinese iconography.”  … “It will integrate 5,000 years of Chinese tradition.  It must be something that speaks to today’s Chinese Catholics.” {Far Eastern Economic Review, May 20, 2004, pp. 52-54.]


4.      Mr. and Mrs. Wong had no choice.  They had to leave their family and their farm. 

They didn’t know their destination. The children were almost grown and would be safe.  The parents said: “We must leave you in charge of our farm.” Someday we will come back!  But we don’t know when.”


At first, the children, didn’t have any concerns.  If they had a problem, they  would say: “Wait, until mother and dad returns, they will know what to do.”


But after some months, the oldest daughter said.  “Mother and dad may be back tomorrow or they may not be back for a number of years.  We have to organize our affairs.  We need to assign responsibilities, plan, chose leaders, get training and prepare for the long haul.  Then mom and dad will be proud of us when they return.”  The family became an organization.  The Church is the organization that Jesus set up to carry on the work of mission.   Today is the birthday of the Church.


5.      Of course, there are politicians, business interests, mass media that are very willing to inform us what it means to be true sons and daughters of our country and culture.  “If you want Hong Kong Legislative Council to be elected by  universal suffrage, you do not love China.”  “If you oppose the war in Iraq, you are not a patriotic American.”  “If you don’t want to be treated as a child by a benevolent, employer or a loving government, you do not understand your own Filipino culture and traditions.”


6.      Many old people in their fifties say: “I am too old to learn anything new.” Recently, I

was very impressed by the senior men at St. Patrick’s. It must have taken a lot of courage and humility, to start a Chinese musical instrument band. But these men practice regularly and play at parish gatherings.   They will never be famous.  But they now have a greater appreciation of their Chinese musical tradition.  They speak the musical language of their Chinese culture.


7.      We live in an age of mass media.  And media is frequently controlled by well-meaning politicians who can be manipulated by powerful by business interests. “I am so sincere, I must be right.” The media will tell us what it means to be a patriotic Filipino, Chinese or American.   “If you don’t follow me and jump off the cliff with all the lemmings, you are not a loyal Filipino, Chinese or American.”  We may not be able to confront these powers head-on. And somehow in his/her plodding steps along with the Christian community, the Holy Spirit will end up in the winner’s circle.





1.      Which of the four evangelists best understood the magnitude of the mission enterprise? Luke

2.      What must Christians love? Our traditions/heritage/culture/gifts of our ancestors.

3.      Once we have some appreciation of our own culture, we can then reach other to another _________.     Other peoples/cultures/traditions.

4.       Are you an essential actor/actress in the work of Christ’s mission to the world? Yes.






NAME _______  GRADE _______


1.      Luke was the first evangelist to write a _________ of the Church.


2.      List of the evangelist(s) who tell us about what happened on Pentecost Sunday?

a. ____________        b.  _____________    c. ____________   d. ________


3.      Can you explain why Luke would list the twelve language groups that assembled on that first Pentecost?  For Luke these represented all  the ______ of the _____.


4.      Before we study other cultures, we should first of all: _______________


5.      Describe something that you recently witnessed in the mass media that tells you what is required to be a “patriotic” (lover of father/motherland) of China/United States/Philippines.  Do you agree?  Why or why not?