9 June 2019Pentecost

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

The story is told of Napoleon Bonaparte boasting to a Vatican cardinal that he would destroy the Church. Replied the official insouciantly to the perplexed emperor, "Good luck, Your Majesty. We priests have been attempting to do just that for centuries." In effect, the bishop was doffing his scarlet biretta in salute to the Holy Spirit. That Spirit dwells comfortably and sometimes, I suspect, very uncomfortably within the Church. Try what anyone might, the Church will not go away precisely because the Third Person of the Holy Trinity is on the job around the clock. Napoleon thought the prelate was pulling his imperial leg. He took on the Church. He was rudely dethroned. The Church survived. The former emperor wound up beating off mosquitoes as a full-time occupation on the damp island of Saint Helena somewhere in the Atlantic Ocean.

Think of the top athletes in any sport you can name - baseball, cricket, soccer, whatever. Without these players, their respective teams would be a big nothing. With them, their teams are contenders for first honors. Sometimes the stars and their fellow players because of them will wear championship laurels. These top-of-the-line performers lend an all-important spirit to their teams. Without them, the other players would be non-contenders and possibly losers. Without the Holy Spirit, the Church would be at best a third rate operation or, perhaps better, a non-operation. But with the Spirit the Church is today able to survive its many difficulties. Some commentators go further and say with the Paraclete the Church played a strong hand in bringing down the Communist empire in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and in eastern Europe in the last century.

And who are you and I to say they are wrong? What everyone does agree on is that it is the Holy Spirit that keeps the Church on her feet, sometimes bruised and bloody but still valiantly swinging away. Many times that swing is good enough to be a knockout punch. And all of this is happening twenty centuries plus after its foundation in Palestine by Jesus the Nazarene! Scientists tell us that space ships are moved out of the atmosphere of the earth by a particular fuel combination that results in millions of pounds of all-important thrust. Racing car enthusiasts giddily inform us that sleek race cars move around the track at an outrageous 200 miles per hour. They are of course propelled by an exotic mixture of powerful fuels. And, as in the case of the space ships and racing cars, we Christians and our Church are likewise fueled by an awesome fuel. But in this case the name of that fuel is the Holy Spirit. And pound for pound, the Spirit is a winner. What other figure in the five thousand years of recorded history can match His track record? None of the champion players you can name are hardly in His league. But who or what is?

The Acts of the Apostles 2:2-3 speak of the Spirit in terms of wind and fire. A writer has noted that a wind can move a clipper ship across an ocean at a brisk pace. First though it must take the effort to unfurl its sails. A fire can warm the corners of a cold room, but it must be lit and then tended. So it is with you and me. We possess the gifts of the Holy Spirit from day one of our Baptisms. They were quadrupled by our respective Confirmations. They rest unpeacefully in our spirits waiting to be called to birth and life. If they are, then we fly and we take on a golden glow. Try as one might, there is no way of disguising a genuine Christian. Unhappily there are so few genuine ones. Thus the real article stands out like that famous sore thumb.

Soren Kiergegaard sums up the situation of many of us. He most unflatteringly compares us to domesticated geese. Invariably we talk of flying. So, we say, "We have wings. We should fly. Let us use them." But says the professor mournfully we stay firmly glued to the ground. But perhaps this Pentecost might be different for us. Why? Well, listen to Gerard Manley Hopkins: "Because the Holy Ghost over the bent world broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings." However, do remember, as somebody has put it, we do not need more of the Holy Spirit. Rather, He needs more of us. Do stand out like a sore thumb this Pentecost season.

Homily from Father Joseph Pellegrino
The Solemnity of Pentecost: Empowered by the Spirit

Peter, Andrew, James and John, the other eight, the seventy-two, Mary, Martha, Mary of Bethany, Mary Magdalene, the woman who followed and attended to His needs--all encountered Jesus of Nazareth. His presence changed their lives. They wanted to be with Him, near Him, wherever He was teaching and preaching and healing. They knew that while they were in His presence they were in the presence of God. He was a holy man, a spiritual man. The Spirit of God was in Him. He told Philip, "if you have seen me, you have seen the Father, for the Father and I are one." This was just the beginning. They gathered in the Upper Room fifty days after Easter, Pente--Fifty--cost. They weren't there to grieve over the One who had died and risen and ascended. They were there to wait. He told them to wait. Then under the signs of wind and tongues of fire His Spirit filled their being. The Father was above. The Son had gone to Him. But the Spirit, the Holy Spirit, was now the Spirit of the followers of Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit was now their life principle. And the Church, the living Church, is born. Today is the birthday of the Church.

The people of Jesus, the people of God, have been entrusted with the Spirit of the Living God to continue the work of the Savior. Ordinary human beings of every place and age, speak and do, and Jesus continues teaching and healing. And people who are searching see you and how you live your lives. They see how God is the center of your lives. You don't just attend Church on Sundays; you live for the Lord. And as these people see the world around them becoming more and more irreligious, and more and more pagan, they want what you have for themselves and for their families. And the Holy Spirit works within you and through you, and people come to Church seeking God. They experience the presence of the Lord calling them to reorientate their lives. The Spirit, His Spirit, our Spirit, moves them. And parents bring their children to faith formation and then beam with pride as they see their children growing in their spiritual life. Parents realize that parish religious education programs are only building on the presence of God in their homes.

As they watch their children praying, they realize that somehow, mystically, spiritually, God is working through them. And their work, your work, the work of raising children for the Lord, is the work of the Holy Spirit using you for them. You reach out to those needing help, perhaps to the seniors, perhaps to the homebound or the hospitalized, perhaps to the grieving; perhaps to those who are refugees and strangers in our land, perhaps to those with AIDS or those in prison, those suffering, the people with whom the Lord identifies, through your charity they all encounter Christ. And the Holy Spirit works though you for them. And Moms and expectant Moms look for help in the neediest times of their lives, perhaps for some the most confusing times of their lives. They find Christ's Spirit at our Upper Pinellas Pregnancy Center as so many members of our parish reach out to them.

And people who have natural talent, people who can sing, adults and children, people who can speak clearly in public, people willing to be alert to care for the assembly, members of the music ministry, lectors and ushers, Extraordinary Minister, servers and all who help, many more than the congregation realizes, all provide an atmosphere of prayer for our community. People come to Church and experience the spiritual, the Spirit of Jesus. The Spirit is alive. And teenagers take their place as leaders in the faith, not just among their peers here in Church, but as leaders throughout the parish, and in their schools, on their teams, in their world. Teens in Life Teen and younger Teens and Pre-Teens in the EDGE come to the realization that they also are spiritual. For the Spirit of Jesus works through them for others. We all continue to search for ways to strengthen the Presence of the Lord in our lives, in our homes. Young singles or newly weds, parents with children at home or parents with children on their own, widowed or divorced, single or married, young or old, we know that we can be holy, we can be spiritual, for we have received the Spirit of God.

The Holy Spirit is alive and is working in the Church, right here, right now. We encounter His presence on a daily basis in every aspect of our lives. We are inspired to reach out to others. We have been empowered, empowered to continue the work of Jesus Christ. And outside, outside the Upper Room where the disciples waited, outside the walls of the Church, outside there are hundreds, thousands, millions of people longing to find meaning in their lives, and purpose, and fulfillment. They are longing for the spiritual. They are waiting for us to come out of our security and plunge into the world with compete faith in God. They are waiting for us to proclaim with our lives that Jesus Christ is Lord. For today and everyday is Pentecost. "Father of Light, from whom every good gift comes, send your Spirit into our lives with the power of a mighty wind, and by the flame of your wisdom open the horizons of our minds. Loosen our tongues to sing your praise in words beyond the power of speech, for without your Spirit man could never raise his voice in words of peace or announce the truth that Jesus is Lord." ......Collect (Opening Prayer) for the Solemnity of Pentecost.

Homily from Father Phil Bloom
* Available in Spanish - see Spanish Homilies
Fire of Your Love

Bottom line: The Holy Spirit creates, heals and sustains. If only we would open our hearts to the fire of his love: Many of you know this prayer: "Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love..." What is this fire? Let's start at the beginning. Fire creates. We know this even from modern physics. They talk about a moment when the universe was tiny, smaller than an apple. According to this theory what the cosmos lacked in size it made up for in temperature: trillions and trillions of degrees. The numbers are beyond imagining - higher even than our national debt! Anyway from this primal fire comes the matter to make up the galaxies, stars and planets, including our own. So fire creates. The Holy Spirit prayer says, "Kindle in us the fire of your love," and adds, "send forth your Spirit and they shall be created..." The fire of the Holy Spirit creates us. Besides creating, fire purifies. Later this summer we have our parish picnic. The Knights will grill hamburgers.

They fire not only gives the burgers a delicious taste but also kills harmful bacteria. Fire likewise purifies gold or silver. Just so the Holy Spirit burns away the greed, lust and bitterness that poison our hearts. Because fire creates and purifies we pray, "kindle in us the fire of your love". Fire also sustains. We hear today how the Holy Spirit came upon the Apostle in tongues of fire. Before receiving the Holy Spirit, they were uncertain and fearful. The Holy Spirit gave them courage and directed them. We need the Holy Spirit to keep going. I don't know about you, but I sometimes feel dry and discouraged - even paralyzed or frozen. Sometimes anger or guilt will well up and I feel impotent. Like Shakespeare I say, "In sooth, I know not why I am so sad." But you know at precisely that moment something amazing happens, a strange consolation. Like that old spiritual, "Sometimes I feel discouraged and feel my work's in vain but then the Holy Spirit revives my soul again." It can be something simple like the Holy Spirit reminding me what I have to be grateful for. Or maybe he focuses my attention on the other person and his need.

It can be something more complex like when I worry I have hurt someone by what I said or did. I can't do anything immediate so I pray the Spirit will touch that person's memory. I've been amazed at how the Holy Spirit heals memories. We need the Holy Spirit. We need him so much that Jesus says it is good that he go away so he can send the Advocate. We live now in the age of the Holy Spirit. When we began the Easter Season we heard Jesus say, "Peace be with you...Receive the Holy Spirit." The Spirit enables a person to believe, that is to trust Jesus. Then take the decisive step of touching his Body. The Holy Spirit is behind what we do. For example, when I extend my hands over the bread and wine, it's by the Holy Spirit they become the Body and Blood of Jesus. The Holy Spirit is the life of the Church. In baptism we see water; the reality is the Holy Spirit. So it is in all sacraments. So it is when we pray - the Spirit prays in us. The Holy Spirit creates, heals and sustains. If only we would open our hearts to the fire of his love: "Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created and you shall renew the face of the earth.

Homily from Saint Vincent Archabbey, Latrobe, Pa
Saint Vincent Archabbey

Homily from Father Alex McAllister SDS
Feast of Pentecost

In the account of the Day of Pentecost in the Acts of the Apostles we note that there are a lot of strange things happening. There was the very loud sound of a powerful wind, then there were what seemed like tongues of fire descending on the heads of the disciples and finally they found that they had received the ability to speak foreign languages. These are all the kinds of things that accompany a decisive intervention of God. You will recall that at the Transfiguration a blinding light surrounded Jesus and Moses and Elijah appeared. The technical word is Theophany which means a spectacular and supernatural manifestation of God. What we are meant to understand, therefore, is the importance of the pouring out of the Holy Spirit on the Apostles. It marks the decisive transformation of the group of followers of Jesus into the Church with its mission to Evangelise the world. They turn from a passive band of followers of Jesus into an active group of Evangelisers.

Up till now their role has been to listen, to observe and to follow Jesus. But now their task is to explain the Gospel, to perform miracles, to celebrate the sacraments and to travel far and wide to make Christ known to the world. Up to this point the twelve have been bumbling around in the dark; they have frequently misunderstood Jesus and worst of all they deserted him in his hour of need. But here on Pentecost Day they are transformed from disciples into Apostles, from followers into leaders, from novices into Evangelists. This is a radical turn-around and it has not been something they have done by themselves. It is the result of the direct intervention of the Holy Spirit. They have been seized with power from on high. They have been transformed through the agency of God himself. They now have a sacred mission and they have been turned from helpless inward-looking creatures into powerful ambassadors for Christ. It is interesting to note that the noise of what seemed like a wind was so loud that it attracted a crowd. This the reason the devout men from all over the world gathered in the street before the house.

Presumably, the Holy Spirit precisely wanted to attract these people from across the Empire so that the Word of God could be spread to all corners of the known world. Each one of these travellers would take back to his own home this newly discovered faith and quite quickly cells of Christians would spring up in many counties simultaneously. Anyone who has been to a Pentecostal Church will have heard people speaking in tongues. This is a form of prayer which is not unknown in the Catholic Church but it is not at all common in our regular worship. It is a form of ecstatic prayer in which the person involved seems to be speaking an unintelligible language. Some people think that this is what the Apostles were doing on that extraordinary day, but it cannot be so since we are definitely told that the people present each heard them speaking their own native language and that it was clearly understood what they were talking about.

In the Vigil Mass of Pentecost the first reading is an account of the Tower of Babel, the Biblical story which provides what was thought to be the reason behind the great confusion of the languages of the people of the world. There has been a long tradition in the Church which sees the Feast of Pentecost as being the very opposite of what happened at Babel. Although mankind is not given one new actual language at Pentecost, man is given one new way of understanding God. The discord between the tribes and races that occurred at Babel is now healed and the peoples of the Earth are now able to discover a new unity through faith in Jesus Christ. It is this new faith that will gradually draw humanity together so that on the Last Day we can all speak with one faith and with one voice proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord. We should note that the account of the Day of Pentecost is not found in the Gospels but only in the Acts of the Apostles. Nevertheless, John gives us an account of Jesus imparting the Spirit to his disciples.

He tells us that on the day of the Resurrection Jesus appeared in the evening to the disciples who were gathered in the Upper Room. He breathed on them and said 'receive the Holy Spirit' and gave them the power to forgive sins. Like the other Evangelists John does not give us an actual account of Pentecost but he wants to convey to us that Jesus did impart his spirit to the disciples. John is also underlining that the Spirit cleanses us from sin. And one can understand that being cleansed of sin the disciples would enjoy a new and deep-seated peace. They would experience the joy that comes to all Christian believers when their sins are forgiven them. And they would feel a new and stronger unity with each other. The transformation that occurred in these followers of Jesus at Pentecost is truly remarkable. Take Peter for example, not so long before when he was questioned by the servant-girl he was too afraid to admit that he even knew Jesus. Yet, despite being a practically illiterate person here he is fearlessly proclaiming the Gospel of Christ to a group of highly educated foreigners.

Each one of us has experienced our own Pentecost; that is what our reception of the Sacrament of Confirmation was all about. It was the Holy Spirit being poured out upon us in that wonderful sacrament. Our Confirmation effectively meant our being transformed from passive disciples, mere children in religious terms, into active Apostles and Evangelisers. Being filled with the Spirit is not sufficient though to make us be effective in this new role. Like the Apostles we have to step outside the door. We have to engage with those around us. We have to actually speak about Christ and his Gospel. Being filled with the Spirit does not take away our free will. The initiative is still left with us. We have to step outside the door. We have to make the choice to open our mouths and speak words of salvation to our brothers and sisters living around us. When we do this the Holy Spirit will ensure that we have the right words and that these beautiful words will fall on fertile soil.

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