HOMILY -PENTECOST SUNDAY
My Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
Today is “Pentecost Sunday,” the fiftieth day after the Resurrection. On this day, we solemnly commemorate that great event when Jesus fulfills his promise of sending the Holy Spirit upon his timid disciples, who gathered behind the closed doors of the Cenacle in Jerusalem.
The feast of Pentecost is the culmination of the Paschal mystery and it marks the end of the Easter season. The Easter candle, which has been burning since Easter to remind us of the light that has come into the world, will be set aside and used only if there is a baptism. Next week we continue what is called ‘Ordinary Time’ which simply means that the joyous feasts have ended, and we go back to the Gospel of St. Luke and continue to read the story of Jesus, focusing primarily on his teachings and parables. Although today we end the Easter Season, it is also a reminder of starting something new, for Pentecost is considered to be the birthday of the Church. The Spirit’s first appearance in the Bible is in the second verse of the first book: “The earth was formless and void… and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.” The Spirit’s last appearance in the Bible is in Revelation 22:17, “The Spirit and the Bride say, ‘Come!’” The Bible ends four verses later. In between those two, there are dozens and dozens more. So we can safely say that the Spirit is really important.
In today’s first reading the Spirit is manifested in tongues—in two senses of the word: tongues of fire, referring to a tongue-like shape, and “tongues,” meaning languages. The Apostles apparently learned new languages instantaneously, without boring grammar drills and vocabulary lists. Believe it or not, that original gift of languages still exists today, but in a less spectacular form. Where? In the Church, which proclaims the Gospel in every language!
So… what else does the Holy Spirit do exactly, besides giving language? Well, let’s see. In the Creed we read that he “has spoken through the prophets,” that, in other words, he took possession of them, much as we read in the Acts of the Apostles, “enabling” them to proclaim God’s word.
In the Creed the Spirit is also called “Giver of life,” the One who stirs everything to life. We see this in a broad sense in the sacraments. At Mass, just before the Consecration, the priest extends his hands over the bread and wine and asks the Father to send the Holy Spirit upon them, so that they will become the Body and Blood of Christ. The same “imposition of hands” and calling down the Spirit occurs at Ordination and at Confirmation. In the Anointing of the Sick, the gesture stands on its own, wordlessly invoking the Spirit to descend with gifts of hope, patience, courage, and acceptance.
Today’s Gospel associates the Spirit with the Sacrament of reconciliation. “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them.”
The second reading goes beyond the Sacraments to many manifestations of the Spirit, described as different… different… different. It appears that there is nothing the Spirit can’t do, while
remaining unpredictable. Whether you realize it or not, you have a gift of the Spirit, and probably more than one. You and I can bear the “fruits of the Spirit” listed in Galatians 5: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control,” because the Spirit penetrates the very fiber of our being. The Spirit is the great enabler!
We don’t get to pick and choose the gifts we want, but we can discover over time what gifts we have received. After that we do get to choose if, when and how we will use them in the Church and the world or, as St. Paul writes, “for some benefit.”
So what is Pentecost all about? One of the major things it about is, of course, the Holy Spirit. We often pray – “COME HOLY SPIRIT COME! FILL THE HEARTS OF THY FAITHFUL…” As Christians, we are called to be prophets. This, by virtue of our baptism when we received the gift of faith and by our confirmation when, like the disciples at Pentecost, we too received the Holy Spirit. Now is the time of the Holy Spirit. He is at work in the world in and through us. Let us cooperate with Him by opening our minds and hearts to Him. Then we can speak out to others about the wonderful and mighty works God has done in and for us so that they, too, will accept Jesus as Lord of their hearts.
Today let us ask God to send His Spirit into our hearts. Filled with that Spirit, may we each individually make our contribution to the community to which we belong. And, as a community, may we give clear and unmistakable witness to the Truth and Love of God, revealed to us in Jesus our Lord. And this the Good News of Today.
May God Bless you,