Jun. 3, 2017

Pentecost Sunday

Readings: 1st- Acts 2:1-11; 2nd- 1Cor.12:3-7,12-13; Gospel- Jn.20:19-23

"Receive the Holy Spirit" (John 20:22)

The 1st reading says, "when Pentecost day came around, they had all met together... Parthians, Medes and Elamites; people from Mesopotamia, Judaea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya round Cyrene; residents of Rome. Jews and proselytes alike- Cretans and Arabs; we hear them preaching in our own language about the marvels of God" (Acts 2: 9-13). This is the work of the Holy Spirit, uniting strange voices into one -Pentecost.

Like the apostles, we are gathered on this day of Pentecost. During the Mass at Coventry on May 30, 1982, Pope John Paul 11 said to the congregation, "On the first Pentecost the Holy Spirit came upon the apostles and upon Mary and filled them with power. Today, we remember that moment and we open ourselves again to the gift of that same Holy Spirit. In that Spirit we are baptized. In that Spirit we are confirmed. In that Spirit we are called to share in the mission of Christ. In that Spirit we shall indeed become the people of Pentecost, the apostles of our time."

Let us say our famous Holy Spirit prayer together, "Come O Holy Spirit and 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. O God, who did instruct the hearts of the faithful, by the light of the Holy Spirit. Grant that through the same Holy Spirit, we may be truly wise and ever rejoice in his consolation. Through Christ our Lord. Amen”. 

By the way, who is the Holy Spirit? It could be one of the hardest questions to answer with exactitude regarding the description from scriptures. The catechism teaches us that the Holy Spirit is the third Person of the Blessed Trinity. He is the Invisible Presence. Luke writes, “And suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house in which they were. Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:2-4). For Luke, the events of Pentecost were both audible and visible; noise like a strong driving wind, then visible like the tongue of fire. This reminds us of the Old Testament theophany events of Sinai, “On the morning of the third day there were peals of thunder and lightning, and a heavy cloud over the mountain… Mount Sinai was all wrapped in smoke, for the Lord came down upon it in fire” (Ex.19:16-18). Father Joseph Robinson wrote in one of his homilies, “The Spirit is like the wind; we can’t see the wind but we can see what the wind does as it shakes the trees and flies the kites and brings in the clouds that give us rain. The Spirit works in hundreds of thousands of ways, to be a gift to us and to help bring us to God”. So, no one can give a full description of the Holy Spirit, not even in this homily. 

The Holy Spirit is a special gift of Christ to the Church. In the past few weeks we’ve been listening to Christ tell us, "I shall ask the Father and He will give you another Paraclete to be with you forever, the Spirit of truth" (John 14:15-17). "...the Paraclete, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name..." (John 14:26). And the gospel tells us, Jesus breathed on them and said, "Receive the Holy Spirit" (John 20:22). Jesus fulfills his promise of sending us the Holy Spirit, the Spirit who will teach us everything. 

After his resurrection, Christ instructed his disciples thus, "You will receive the power of the Holy Spirit which will come upon you, and then you will be my witnesses not only in Jerusalem but throughout Judaea and Samaria, and indeed to earth's remotest end" (Acts 1:7-8). He reechoes in today's gospel, "As the Father sent me, so I am sending you". Christ is sending us as members of the community of the baptized. 

Sometimes, we think only of missionaries in faraway distant lands, thus neglecting or overlooking the need to evangelize our immediate environment. He is sending us out into the world of our families, professions, friendships, ambitions, etc. Christ is sending us within this community of believers to make him known, to give his peace beginning with the Glen Burnie Catholic community. He is sending us to speak the same language that everyone should understand, just as all the listeners heard the apostles in their own language and asked, "How does it happen that each of us hears them in his own native language?" Do you hear your neighbor when she speaks? 

Peace is our mission. Peace promotes love, justice and fairness. Pope Saint John Paul 11 remarks, "Peace is not just the absence of war. It involves mutual respect, and confidence between peoples and nations. It involves collaboration and binding agreements. Like a cathedral, peace has to be constructed, patiently and with unshakeable faith. Wherever the strong exploit the weak; wherever the rich take advantage of the poor; wherever great powers seek to dominate and to impose ideologies, there the work of making peace is undone; there the cathedral of peace is again destroyed" (Pope John Paul 11, Homily on Solemnity of Pentecost, Coventry, 30 May, 1982). Peace implies using our different gifts and talents to build up one another, and the community. Peace builds community and not groups. That is why the ministries in our church need to recognize that we all belong to the same Lord, Christ Jesus who has called us into one family. Whether you work for Saint Vincent de Paul or Ladies of the Sodality. Whether you work for Family Apostolate or Hospitality Group. Whether you sing at Crucifixion or Good Shepherd or Holy Trinity. Whether you are a lector, usher or communion minister, as Saint Paul says, “…all the parts of the body, though many, are one body, so also Christ” 

Pentecost invites us to break barriers of segregation, tribalism, ethnicity, color, etc. The poor and the rich are invited to speak the same language. Hispanics, Asians, Africans, Caucasians, Whites, Blacks, -everyone is invited to speak same language. That language is the language of love. For Christ says to each of us today, "As the Father sent me, so I am sending you" (Jn.20:21). Saint Paul reinforces it this way, “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility” (Eph.2:13-14).

May the peace of Pentecost be with you all. Amen.