Homily for 27 May 2012 - The Feast of Pentecost

Acts 2:1-11; I Corinthians 12:3-7,12-13; Psalm 104; John 20:19-23

In his homily on the Feast of the Ascension, Taoiseach Ivan spoke of our having all the tools and gifts needed to carry out the mission of the Church, and it is on the Feast of Pentecost that the Church received the Holy Spirit, the source of those tools and gifts. Each one of us also received the Holy Spirit when we were Chrismated, so that we would be empowered to carry out our personal Christian mission in and as the Church. All these tools and gifts are given for the building up of the Church, the proclamation of the Good News, the spreading of the Kingdom of God. They are not for personal gain, pride or glory. However, we are not expected to lay them aside as we walk out the Church door, they are for the Church, but not to be used exclusively in the Church, they are for the evangelization of the world.

Taoiseach Ivan also said in his homily that the reason the Church’s, and our, mission has not been wholly successful is because we have not wanted to do it. I am not going to disagree with what he said, but I am going to nuance it a little. I don’t think that we don’t want to, but that we also want to do other things as well. Too often I think that we see the Church’s mission as out there somewhere, and we keep trying to get to it but our life keeps getting in the way. We see the Church’s mission as somehow separate from what we are doing right now - the daily round of work, home, school, friends, family, politics, the economy, the price of gas, etc. If we do think this, then I have to say, we are wrong. If we truly trust God, then we are where we are because he has a use for us and our gifts right here, right now. The old saying “Bloom where you are planted,” is trite but true. Wherever we are, whatever our circumstances, we can help build the Kingdom of God.

In our second lesson St. Paul wrote, “No one can say: ‘Jesus is Lord,’ except in the Holy Spirit.” If we can, again, wherever we are, in our words, actions, attitudes, reactions, say, “Jesus is Lord”, then we are manifesting the Holy Spirit, we are proclaiming the Gospel, we are witnessing to the Truth of Christ. We are using our gifts. From reading our first lesson from the Acts of the Apostles we often get the idea that the gifts of the Spirit are flashy, attention-getting - whirling wind, dancing flames, speaking in tongues. And sometimes they are, but most often they are quiet. A word of hope and encouragement, a helping hand, a clarity of vision, a silent faithfulness in duty, the sharing of a burden. The ability to keep trying, to keep getting up each time we fall, to continue loving even with no return, these are all the Holy Spirit working in and through us.

St. Paul went on to say, “To each person the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.” What happened to those first Christians in that upper room on that first Christian Pentecost was not an event, it is a Presence, a Presence that is with and in us now as it was in them then. We are not second-class Christians, somehow less able, less worthy, less gifted, less inspired than they were. The Spirit rests on the Church and abides in every Christian, empowering us to live out our Baptismal covenant. The mission of the Church and our personal mission are the same, both are universal and intimate, transforming the cosmos and the heart of the person next to us. There is no balancing of our life and our mission. Either everything we are, do and have is dedicated to the service of God or we need to re-evaluate, repent and try harder. And Taoiseach Ivan was right, we do have to want to do it, and everything else we want to do needs to serve that end as well, or, as the Shepherd of Hermas mentions, and condemns, so often, we are double-minded. We want to serve God, but we also want to cling to the distractions of the fallen world. We want to serve God, but we also want to indulge our disordered passions. We want to serve God, but we also want to succeed according to the world’s standards. We are to be in the world but not of the world. We are to serve the world by serving God. And as we do this, the Spirit works through us, often without our being aware of it someone’s heart is touched, they are led to faith, repentance, forgiveness. Just because we do not always see the results of our work in the Spirit, does not mean that there are none.

In our Gospel lesson from St. John, Our Lord came to the disciples and said, “Peace be with you.” Peace of heart, mind and spirit, is a fruit of the Holy Spirit and a sign of the Spirit’s presence. Peace is not necessarily the absence of conflict or struggle, but the ability to stand faithfully in the midst of it as a witness to the Truth of Christ. We may fall in the conflict but we will not have failed in our mission.

Tomorrow we start the third fasting season of our Church year, we call it the Fast of Mission. For the next forty days we should all try to listen to the Spirit within us, and see what we are being urged to do, or possibly not do. Pay attention to how the Spirit is, right now, guiding, directing and challenging our lives. Where, how and when we are being called to proclaim – “Jesus is Lord!”

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