04 June 2017Pentecost

Homily from Father James Gilhooley
Pentecost - A Cycle - John 20:19-23

A violin made by the 17th century Antonio Stradivari came on the market in London. It was valued at $7 million dollars. Two points made it valuable: firstly it's a Stradivari and secondly in 200 years it had been hardly played. The Holy Spirit is our Stradivari. He has restyled us with His graces at Baptism and Confirmation. But we don't make use of them.

Everyone Mother Teresa told us is a pencil in God's hand. But He gets little writing from most of us.

We Westerners should blush at today's Pentecost. Two thousand years ago our ancestors worshipped trees. They attempted to stay warm without fire in damp caves. They hadn't yet invented the wheel. But this was not the case with the sophisticated people of India, the Middle East, and North Africa. They were lining up by the thousands waiting patiently to be baptized with the Holy Spirit by the Apostles & Co. The Pentecost story comes out of Acts of the Apostles. Its nimble prose is almost a daily history of the early Church. The Acts are a historian's delight.

The word Pentecost is borrowed by us from the Jews. So too are other elements in our Liturgy. We owe much to the Jews and their genius. We even borrowed Jesus from them. If Christians are anti-Semites, they are guilty of short memories.

Originally Pentecost was a great Jewish feast. The Jews never took any gift from God for granted. They spent quality time thanking God for the first crops. The holy day was celebrated fifty days after Passover. We celebrate Pentecost fifty days after the Resurrection of Christ. We salute not the appearance of tomatoes in our gardens but rather the arrival of the Holy Spirit on the founding members of Christianity. Today our Christian ancestors were confirmed in the Spirit. The terrible beauty that is the international Church was born. Is there any wonder we shoot off liturgical fireworks at Pentecost?

At the point we discuss, the Jesus followers were leaderless. They were scared. They were short on bodies but not brains. They numbered one hundred forty timid souls - the apostles, Mary, and unnamed individuals. This was hardly a group equipped to take over the world. They clung to each other like fly paper. They were in the large room which had been the scene of the Last Supper.

It was to these frightened souls the Holy Spirit came with His wagon load of gifts. They discovered that Christianity was not designed to be a do it yourself affair. (Daniel Durkin) In charismatic language, they were slain in the Spirit. They began to feel like super strong people. They found themselves ready to take on the cosmos. They heard each other speaking in foreign tongues. These languages would be their passports to evangelize the world.

What happened to them that first Pentecost? Take a glass of clear water. Drop in a few drops of red dye. Ah, red water. A new creation. A few drops of the Holy Spirit into our souls and they became a new creation. A little bit of the Holy Spirit will take us a long way. The Holy Spirit was already the electricity causing the light to burn but remaining invisible. (Regis Armstrong) The bedlam occurring in the Upper Room was heard. Someone dialed 911 and a mob assembled. It was an international crowd. They watched the freshly confirmed apostles rush from the Upper Room. They spoke in various tongues about Jesus. The Church was jumping into the fast lane. The world would never be the same.

Many say, "If the Holy Spirit gave us the same gifts, what a job we'd pull off for Christ! We'd turn our town upside down." The good news is that we received the same cornucopia of gifts at Baptism and Confirmation. These were our personal Pentecosts. The bad news is that we have never thrown the on switch to use these gifts. Most of them sleep. Think of the Holy Spirit as the generous uncle everyone wants. He loads us down with wonderful gifts at our Baptisms and then doubles the ante at Confirmation.

But the gifts become like the Stradivari violin in London. Though increasing in value, they are hardly used.

Today is a good day to blow the dust off our spirits and play sweet music. The Spirit will assist us. He is the master of surprises making the impossible possible. He reminds us it does not require great people to do great things - just unselfish ones. (Patricia Opatz) This Pentecost become God's well worn pencil. Leave your signature on the world.

Jesus does not need lawyers. He needs witnesses. (Paul VI)
Homily from Father Joseph Pellegrino
The Solemnity of Pentecost: The Work Entrusted to Us by the Master

I want to begin today by telling you a story about the great opera composer, Giacomo Puccini. You probably have heard his music and his name. You certainly have heard the names of his most famous works: Madame Butterfly, La Boheme and Tosca. In 1922 Puccini began what many would consider his best work: Turandot. As he was composing the opera he became terribly sick. The doctors gave the diagnosis of cancer. He did not have long to live. Puccini raced to finish Turandot before he died. But he couldn't. The disease was taking its toll. Finally, Puccini announced to his students that if he could not finish the opera, they should finish it. He died in 1924, leaving the opera incomplete. His students assembled all his notes and manuscripts, studied them in great detail and proceeded to finish the work.

In 1926 the world premier of Turandot was performed in the famous opera house of Milan, La Scala. Puccini's prized pupil, Arturo Toscanini conducted the work. The opera proceeded beautifully until Toscanini came to the end of the parts written by Puccini. He stopped the music, put down his baton, and turned to the audience. "Thus far the master wrote until he died," Toscanini announced. There was a long pause. No one moved. Then with tears in his eyes, Toscanini said, "But his disciples finished his work." The conductor picked up the baton again and the opera concluded to thunderous applause and a permanent place in the annals of great works.

Puccini's students were imbued with the spirit of the great composer. They reflected on his spirit and knew what he would do with each note, each voice, each instrument. He had given himself to them and they had accepted his gift and developed his spirit. They could never have his spirit though. They could only study what they thought he would do. What if instead of studying his spirit, they could have taken the spirit of Pucinni within them, and each become vehicles of the spirit of the master? It is exactly that which happened on Pentecost Sunday.

Pentecost is the empowering by the Master, Jesus Christ, to complete his work, the salvation of that part of creation made in the image of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Jesus entrusted his work to his prized disciples. He gave them the Third Person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit, and they allowed his Spirit to flow through them. And the Church was born. And the Church is being born. And the work of the master continues.

At Pentecost the apostles were empowered by the Holy Spirit to bring others to Christ and Christ to others. As we just heard, after the Eleven received the Holy Spirit, they went and proclaimed Jesus. People from all over the world listened to the proclamation of the Lord in their own languages. They were literally inspired to become Christians.

The disciples became apostles on Pentecost Sunday. The learners, disciples, were empowered by the Holy Spirit to become apostles, When we were confirmed, we also received this power, this working of the Holy Spirit. Just as Baptism can be called a Personal Easter, Confirmation can be called a Personal Pentecost.

How have we engaged this great gift? How, have we allowed the Spirit to work through us? How have we brought Christ to others and others to Christ?

First of all, we cannot call upon the Holy Spirit to work through us if we are not united to Christ. This is far more than avoiding serious sin. We need to foster our union with Christ through daily prayer and weekly Eucharist. If we are do this then our proclamation of Christ flows naturally through us. The things we say or do actually become secondary to the action of the Spirit through us.

Second, we need to reach out to those in the world who are longing for a Savior. This is not limited to those who have never heard of Christ. It also refers to those leading desperate lives or insignificant drudgery. It refers to those who are caught up in the dictates of secular society, busy doing all sorts of things that fade away except the one thing that lasts, uniting themselves to the Lord. Sometimes we are reticent. We think that if we did ask someone to pray with us, that person would say. “NO”. We are afraid that we will not be convincing enough. Perhaps we need to remember that God supplies the words and actions that lead others to him. We are merely the vehicles for the Lord. At the same time, a vehicle is useless if it stays in the garage. We need to do our best and let the Spirit do the rest.

How is it that we are all here? How is it that billions celebrate Jesus Christ? Was there a huge miracle that caused so many to become Christians? Was there a sign in the sky that said, “Go to Church and eat at Joe’s.” Of course not. We are here, billions are part of our Christian family, because the Holy Spirit worked through others. I am here because others, particularly in my case as in most your cases, my parents, took their Catholicism seriously. I am here, as you are, because others have led me to Christ.

God uses His People to spread his Gospel. He empowers them with His Spirit, inspiring them and others through them to choose Christ. This empowerment began on Pentecost Sunday and continues among all those who have taken their confirmation seriously and are fulfilling the mission of their Personal Pentecost.

May we have the courage to complete the work of our Master.
Homily from Father Phil Bloom
* Available in Spanish - see Spanish Homilies
Life in Christ Week 8: Source of Power

(June 4, 2017)
Message: Take advantage of the greatest untapped power. Lord, send out your Spirit and renew the face of the earth.

Today we celebrate Pentecost: Lord, send out your Spirit and renew the face of the earth. Pentecost fits into our series on Life in Christ. The series began on Easter Sunday and will conclude in two weeks with the Feast of Corpus Christi - the Body and Blood of Jesus.

We can envision Life in Christ as a daily walk with Jesus. That walk involves listening to Jesus. As we saw with those two disciples on the road to Emmaus, we listen to Jesus in the Bible and the sacraments. "Were not our hearts burning within us?" they ask. I hope that happened at least in a tiny way when we inaugurated the Bible Study on Monday. After Jesus opens Scriptures, he takes bread, blesses, breaks and gives it to the disciples. The phrase "breaking of the bread" refers to Eucharist, the Mass - the high point of our Life in Christ. We'll see that when we conclude our series with Corpus Christi Sunday.

Last weekend we celebrated the Ascension: We saw how Jesus gives a mission: "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, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you." Our parish mission aligns with Jesus' mission. If you know it by heart please say it with me: "Blessed to live in this beautiful valley, we are Christians, in union with Pope Francis and Archbishop Sartain, who strive to lift up Jesus, love one another and make disciples." Some still need to learn it. (smile)

We have a big mission. It's not easy to lift up Jesus. We live in a world that either denies God's existence or assumes that if he does exist, he makes no difference. As far as loving one another, well, some people are easy to love, but others are difficult - and no human being is perfectly lovable.

Couples discover that early on. That perfect girl has strange moods. And although we men are practically perfect, we sometimes have minor defects. Nothing that a good anger management course can't correct - along with impulse control. While waiting for all that to kick in, well: It's not easy to love one another - in a family or in the broader community. Regarding "make disciples" most of us hardly know where to start. The first step is to take up the work of listening to Jesus, following him day by day.

Lift up Jesus! Love one another! Make disciples! Where do we get the power to live our mission? Let me tell an anecdote. You may have heard it, but it bears repeating in this context.

Once an American had a visitor from England. He wanted to show his guest the marvels of our country, so he took him to Niagara Falls. From above they could appreciate the expanse of the Falls, as they looked from the U.S. to the Canadian side. Then they went below where the water made a deafening noise. The American explained about the enormous quantity of water and its great force. He had to practically shout into his friends ear as he concluded, "There is the greatest unused power in the world." The visitor was duly impressed; he had seen nothing like it in his own country. But then, like a good Englishman, he started to think a little deeper. "Yes," he said to his American host, "the power here is great, but there is something much greater. The greatest unused power in the world is the Holy Spirit of the Living God."

This anecdote goes back to the nineteenth century. Since then about ten percent of Niagara Falls has been harnessed to produce hydroelectric power.

You know if we could harness even one percent of the Holy Spirit's power it would transform our world. Lord, send out your Spirit and renew the face of the earth. The question is: How can you and I tap into that power? Let me suggest one way: Pay attention to the peaks and valleys. You know what I mean. Sometimes you're up and sometimes you're down. When I am up I have high energy and can get a lot done. But when I'm down, that also presents an opportunity. God allows those troughs so we can recognize our ultimate emptiness. We have an emptiness not even Niagara Falls can fill. We need the Holy Spirit of Jesus. The Sequence expresses this need:
"Heal our wounds, our strength renew On our dryness pour your dew Wash the stain of guilt away."

We need the Holy Spirit of Jesus: "Bend the stubborn heart and will; melt the frozen, warm the chill; guide the steps that go astray." We need the Holy Spirit of Jesus.

Next week we will see the relationship between Jesus, the Holy Spirit and the Father: How those three show where we come from and where we are heading. I'll give a clue: It's not a random process.

That's for next week. For today Take advantage of the greatest untapped power. Lord, send out your Spirit and renew the face of the earth. Amen.
Homily from Saint Vincent Archabbey, Latrobe,Pa
Saint Vincent Archabbey
Pentecost Sunday, Modern

Lectionary 63, Gospel John 20:19-23
Today's feast of Pentecost is the Church's most important celebration of the Holy Spirit and acknowledgment of its life-giving presence among us. We mention the Spirit each time we make the sign of the cross and we profess belief in the Spirit at every Sunday mass when we recite the creed, yet it often has gotten short shrift in Catholic devotion. To be sure there have been moments in the history of the Church when belief in the Holy Spirit became especially prominent—the charismatic renewal movement that began fifty years ago this past February right here in western Pennsylvania is a good example—but the Spirit has typically taken a more ambiguous role in most Catholics' lives than the persons of the Father or Christ the Son.

This pattern at the personal level holds true at the broader ecclesial level. While even the earliest Christians believed in the Holy Spirit and acknowledged the Spirit as divine (witness today's scriptures), as late as the Council of Nicaea in the fourth century the Church was content to profess faith in the Spirit without venturing to say much more about it. Looking to the Bible for guidance, we find that the Holy Spirit, which is the bond of love between the Father and the Son, enters powerfully into the life of Christians in several key ways. First, the Spirit fills those who believe in Jesus and brings them together in unity. In the case of the Christians described in the first reading from the Acts of the Apostles it brought them together by enabling the members of a large crowd to understand each other in spite of speaking many different languages. No matter the particular form of its unifying activity, at a fundamental level the Holy Spirit always brings believers together by leading them to Jesus: "No one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord' except by the Holy Spirit” (1 Cor 12:3).

Next, the Holy Spirit renews us, as seen in Psalm 104 which is our responsorial today. Even once we have been brought together there is always still a need for renewal, conversion, and deeper belief. The Holy Spirit pours forth this new life upon us in the sacraments of the Church that initiate us into Christian life such as baptism, the Eucharist, and confirmation: "you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God” (1 Cor 6:11). The Spirit is active in effecting such renewal as well in the sacraments that heal us and make us whole again: reconciliation and anointing: "the Spirit too comes to the aid of our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit itself intercedes with inexpressible groanings” (Rom 8:26). Finally, the Spirit sends us forth: "Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.' And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained'” (John 20:21-23). As we worship the Holy Spirit on this feast of Pentecost let us remember the Spirit's uniting, renewing, and sanctifying presence in our own lives, giving thanks that we too have been claimed in the Spirit as beloved sons and daughters of our heavenly Father through Christ Jesus our Lord.
Father Edward Mazich, O.S.B.

Pentecost Sunday, Classic
John 20: 19–23

Gospel Summary
On Pentecost Sunday we celebrate the wonderful good news that the risen Lord has poured out his Spirit upon us, first of all to convince us of his victory over sin and death, and then to enable us to continue his work of salvation by our own love and concern for others. As we can well imagine, the disciples were filled with fear and foreboding after the death of their master. But suddenly, Jesus is there among them, radiant with life. He shows them his terrible wounds, which have now become beautiful emblems of his love for them. He offers them his peace--that deep, calm, resonant sense of well-being, which is so different from their own fear and uncertainty. This peace becomes possible through the presence of his Spirit in them.

And then Jesus tells them (and us) what possessing the Spirit will mean in our lives. Henceforth, we will need to be converted from our natural tendency to be self-centered, cautious and defensive to an attitude of generous and loving concern for others. This new way of living will be manifested first and foremost by our willingness to forgive others. This would be impossible if we did not enjoy the powerful presence of the Spirit who enables us to overcome our constant judgmental tendencies.

Life Implication
As fragile human beings, we know the experience of living in fear and of being anxious and worried about many things, some of which exist only in our imagination. Jesus, having absorbed the ultimate violence, offers us his peace and thereby enables us to be confident and joyful in the face of uncertainty and threat. This represents a real experience of liberation from the paralysis of fear--a paralysis that often prevents us from doing beautiful and risky things, like giving cut flowers!

With this peace and joy comes the obligation to share our blessings with others. It was once thought that the command of Jesus to forgive or retain sins was addressed only to priests and referred only to the Sacrament of Reconciliation. But, in fact, this charge, in a less formal fashion, is undoubtedly addressed to all the followers of Jesus. We must all accept the wonderful and awesome responsibility of offering or withholding forgiveness. In this case, the sin of omission looms large and should make us all examine our consciences in regard to the many times that we may have persisted in nursing old injuries or have refused to make allowance for extenuating circumstances in the lives of those we call sinners.

In this regard, we should recall the very strong words of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount: Stop judging, that you may not be judged. For as you judge, so will you be judged, and the measure with which you measure will be measured out to you" (Matthew 7:1-2). We all know how much we hope to have a merciful judge and now we also know how to assure that happy outcome. It is, of course, very difficult to live such an ideal forgiveness. And that is why Jesus offers us the Holy Spirit who, if given half a chance, will empower us to become the kind of gentle, caring and compassionate persons that can make a real difference in a world that desperately needs the witness of love and forgiveness. Let us all rejoice in this wonderful gift of the Spirit. Demetrius R. Dumm, O.S.B.
Homily from Father Alex McAllister SDS
Homily by Father Alex McAllister SDS

The role of the Holy Spirit is the least clear of the three persons of the Trinity. We generally regard the Father as the presiding member of the Trinity who oversees everything and who brings all that exists into being. We see him as the lawgiver and the maker of heaven and earth and of all things visible and invisible.

We have no trouble either in understanding the role of Jesus Christ as the second person of the Trinity because he took on human form and brought about our salvation through his sacrifice on the Cross of Calvary and his resurrection from the Empty Tomb. He has returned to the Father but now we wait for his second coming at the end of time as the judge of all.

So far so good, but it is when we come to the Spirit that we have a bit more trouble. The Holy Spirit often seems to be rather undefinable and elusive. Actually though, our beliefs expressed in the Creed are quite clear: 'I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son, who with the Father and the Son is adored and glorified, who has spoken through the prophets.’ So, although the Father is the creator we see that the Holy Spirit gives life and this is surely why breath is so closely associated with him.

We know too that the Holy Spirit played a vital role in the conception of Jesus and we read in today’s scripture text of how he came upon the Apostles in the form of tongues of fire and impelled them to preach the Gospel to all the nations.

The Holy Spirit plays a crucial role in the sacraments, most particularly in the Sacrament of Confirmation. He enters the lives of the Confirmation candidates in an important way and bestows on them special gifts enabling them to play their full part in the life of the Church.

We could say then that the Holy Spirit is the action of God in the world who leads, inspires and guides the Church down through the ages. Most particularly he plays a crucial role in keeping it free from doctrinal error.

In short, the Holy Spirit is the abiding presence of God in the lives of believers. It is his role to keep us faithful to our beliefs and to continually shower us with God’s grace as we pass through the various stages of our life.

We need to see today’s Feast of Pentecost as part of the whole picture. Christ came into the world on the first Christmas Day and then after thirty years of obscurity began his three years of teaching and healing. This culminated in his death on the Cross and then his resurrection from the Empty Tomb. He appeared to his Disciples on quite a number of occasions and then having completed his work on earth he ascends to the right-hand side of the Father.

Then comes the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the Feast of Pentecost, occurring fifty days after Easter. It marks the birth of the Church, as it came to the profound understanding that its role was to spread knowledge and love of Jesus throughout the world. It is no mistake that for the Jews Pentecost was a harvest feast called the Feast of Weeks, in the Christian dispensation it marks the beginning of the new harvest of souls that the Church reaps for Christ. The name Pentecost itself comes from the Greek word Pentēkostē which means the fiftieth day, because Pentecost occurs fifty days after Easter.

The account of Pentecost Day itself comes from the Acts of the Apostles and literally describes what happened on that great day. The Gospel, however, gives us an account from the Gospel of John which tells us about an appearance of Christ to the Disciples in the Upper Room. It tells us how he breathed on them saying, 'Receive the Holy Spirit. For those whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven. For those whose sins you retain, they are retained.’

We should note a few points. The first is that the Disciples were cowering behind locked doors but they proved to be no obstacle to Jesus. This reminds us that we ought to keep the doors of our lives always open to him. Of course, Christ can break down any barriers that we put up to keep him out, but the prudent thing for a true Christian is to throw open the doors of our lives so that Christ can be welcomed in.

The second thing to note is that we have here the birth of the Sacrament of Reconciliation or Confession, as we commonly call it. This sacrament is closely associated with the Holy Spirit. It is made particularly clear in the words of absolution spoken by the priest, 'God, the Father of mercies, through the death and resurrection of his Son has reconciled the world to himself and sent the Holy Spirit among us for the forgiveness of sins.’

So, the Holy Spirit has a vital healing and reconciling and forgiving role in the world.

You will notice too in that passage that when Jesus appears in the room he says the words 'Peace be with you’ not just once but twice. Pope Benedict has described these words as forming a bridge of peace between heaven and earth. It is this bridge that we climb over to reach our true fulfilment with God in heaven.

But, of course, by these words Christ indicates his purpose of bequeathing the Holy Spirit to his disciples. The Holy Spirit is above all the spirit of peace. The Holy Spirit’s role is to establish peace and reconciliation in the world. It is his aim to bring peace and tranquillity to all who have given the Gospel a home in their lives.

And in a final point we should note that Jesus imparts the Holy Spirit to the Disciples by breathing on them. This, naturally enough, alludes to the first breath of life blown into the nostrils of man as recorded in the Book of Genesis. 'God fashioned man from the dust of the soil. Then he breathed into his nostrils a breath of life, and this man became a living being.’

We see here then the breath of new life blown into our nostrils so that as part of the Church we can bring the Good News of salvation to the whole world and so build up a community of true believers who will worship God in spirit and in truth.
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