Pentecost - Cycle B - John 20:19-23
A poor European family was coming to the US early last
century. On the ship, they had as food the bread and
cheese they had purchased prior to sailing.
After many days of cheese sandwiches, the son came to his
father, "Dad, if I have to eat cheese sandwiches all the
way across the Atlantic, I won't make it." The sympathetic
father gave him his last nickel for ice cream. Hours later
the child returned. The father noticed his wide smile. He
asked what he had eaten. "Several plates of ice cream,
dad, and then a steak dinner." "For a nickel?" "No, dad,
the food is free. It's part of the passage ticket." He
returned the coin to his father.
The filet mignon of the Holy Spirit came to us with the
ticket of our Baptism and Confirmation. No one has to
continue eating cheese sandwiches everyday. No doubt
cheese will nourish us. However, we will die of boredom
before cholesterol kills us.
We have listened to Christ's command, "Receive the Holy
Spirit." Each of us received the Holy Spirit at Baptism
and Confirmation. The Spirit's gifts are awesome. Listen
to them: wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude,
knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord. We must learn to
use them. The Holy Spirit, says Daniel Durken, came to
dispel the A,B,C, and Ds of our humdrum lives - apathy,
boredom, coldness, and dullness.
When St Paul dropped in on Ephesus (Acts 19), he judged
they were lacking a get up and go spirit. So he asked
point-blank, "Have you received the Holy Spirit?" Why
would he ask that, inquires Peter Kreeft, unless he
observed a power shortage in their company? The Ephesus
Christians were dragging themselves along on 60 volts when
all the time they could have been charged with 120 volts.
When they replied they had not received the Spirit, Paul
confirmed them. They became supercharged people.
Why were the twelve, many of them illiterate, able
to win a world for their Leader? And why are a
billion Christians unable to repeat the same feat today?
The answer is the Apostles used the Holy Spirit's gifts to
the full and we do not.
The Spirit's gifts operate in our ordinary lives under
extraordinary conditions. They kick in, as someone has
said, as "unruly house guests." People blossom to levels
of wisdom or fortitude they never dreamed possible. During
the French Revolution, an informer notified the Mother
Superior of a Carmelite convent that the following day all
the sisters would be guillotined. She told her nuns. She
said that the convent gate would be left open for anyone
who wished to flee. Only one ran away. The next morning
the rest were brought to the guillotine. The sisters were
about to place their heads on the block. Then they
observed with pride that the nun who had run away stepped
out of the crowd and joined her sisters. What had brought
her back? It was the gift of fortitude from the Holy
Benedict Groeschel writes the gifts of the Spirit
were sewn into us like seeds. They remain in the
desert of our souls waiting to be nourished and given
life. The driest desert in the world, says Groeschel, is
in Chile. One time the desert had not seen rain for
sixteen years. Then the rains came. The result was the
desert was marked with tiny enamel-like flowers. They were
there all the time just waiting for proper growth
conditions. As it was in Chile, so it is with each of our
The saddest young man I ever met was a fellow I
encountered at a college. He was asked by a student who
knew he was a devout Catholic at home, "Why don't I see
you at Sunday Mass?" The teen replied, "Would you want me
to be the only one in my dorm to go?" The student had
received the gift of fortitude from the Holy Spirit, but
he was afraid to use it. Which will it be for us - steak
or cheese sandwiches?
Will we recall the monk who preached that God the Father
gave us His Spirit so that we might become like His Son?
A five year old pre-Communion child watched her mother
receive the Eucharist. She asked, "Will you share Jesus
with me?" Will we, helped by the Spirit, share Jesus with
our friends? Napoleon Bonaparte said, "There are two
forces on this earth, the force of arms and the force of
the Spirit. The force of the Spirit is stronger." Why
don't we prove that by our lives?