Pentecost Homily 2018
Greetings my brothers and sisters,
Today is the Catholic Solemnity of Pentecost, a day when we typically celebrate the event where the Holy Spirit was dramatically given to the Church with signs and wonders.
What we now call Pentecost is from the Jewish celebration of Shavu'ot, the Festival of Weeks, which is the second of the three major festivals with both historical and agricultural significance (the other two are Passover and Sukkot). Agriculturally, it commemorates the time when the first fruits were harvested and brought to the Temple and is known as Hag ha-Bikkurim (the Festival of the First Fruits). Historically, it celebrates the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai and is also known as Hag Matan Torateinu (the Festival of the Giving of Our Torah).
The period from Passover to Shavu'ot is a time of great anticipation. We count each of the days from the second day of Passover to the day before Shavu'ot, 49 days or 7 full weeks, hence the name of the festival.
It is noteworthy in our context to point out that this holiday is called the time of the giving of the Torah, rather than the time of the receiving of the Torah — the Law was given to Moses and recorded in the first five books of the Hebrew scripture, also known as the Pentateuch.
This is important to note because Jesus Christ, his Apostles, and Catholicism are firmly rooted in Judaism. The symbolism of Moses receiving the Law is closely related to the Catholic understanding that all of our Christian scripture is God-breathed, or directly inspired by the Holy Spirit — which proceeds, or flows from the Father.
When the followers of Jesus were all in one place, much as we are today there came from the sky a noise like a driving wind, filling the entire place. Then there appeared unto them tongues as of fire, which rested upon each of them, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit. In the Holy Spirit, we find our own empowerment for ministry. In fact, in my humble opinion, today's particular message would be impossible without the Spirit of God residing within me.
For the “ancient Church,” Pentecost was a beginning – a beginning of the Church born in the Spirit of God. It was a beginning of zeal, fortitude, and tremendous trust in the Spirit of God in ministry.
For many today, including some clergy, in the “modern church,” Pentecost has been reduced to an end – the end of the Easter season or some simplified watered-down happy “birthday” of the Church. For many, Pentecost, and the Sacrament of Confirmation remains as much a mystery as the Holy Spirit Himself. Pentecost and Holy Confirmation remain a very untapped source of tremendous life-giving grace for us individually, the Church and society as a whole.
When we, as individuals, are emblazoned with the fire of the Holy Spirit, we bring that fire into the Church and into society as a whole.
Our initial contact with the Holy Spirit is in our baptism where, either as children or later as adults, through the power of the Holy Spirit, God washes away our sins, initiating us into the Body of Christ, the Church.
First Communion is another point of contact with the Spirit. For it is the Holy Spirit, which the priest calls upon to make the ordinary elements of bread and wine “Holy.”
Finally, in the Sacrament of Confirmation is the sacrament by which Catholics receive a special outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Through Confirmation, the Holy Spirit gives them the increased ability to practice their Catholic faith in every aspect of their lives and to witness Christ in every situation.
The Holy Spirit must never be reduced to a “force,” He is a person, a Divine Person, who loves us and wants a relationship with us. He is neither fire, or wind, nor is He a bird, He is the 3rd Person of the Most Blessed Trinity who we can and must talk to, share with, listen to, and learn from.
Why are many people afraid of the Holy Spirit today? Firstly, I believe one reason is that some people have seen some abuses in the Church by “charismatic” people or the “charismatic movement.” Secondly, many people believe they must speak in “tongues” to be “charismatic.” This is a grave misunderstanding. Speaking in tongues is only one manifestation or gift of the Holy Spirit. Third, the use of the word “charismatic” or someone calling himself or herself “charismatic” has turned many others off from the Holy Spirit.
EVERY baptized and confirmed Catholic has “charisms” or gifts to bring into the Church and society as a whole. Every Catholic is called to holiness and all have gifts of the Holy Spirit for His use and the build-up of the Church-the Kingdom of God, not the build-up of the kingdom of our egos or false identity. St. Paul’s Letter to the Galatians reminds us of this. The charisms and gift of the Holy Spirit are given for the whole Body, the Church, not to be compared to each other or to separate.
In St. John Paul II’s catechesis Theology of the Body, the saint reminds us of whom we truly are and that the effect of original sin has distorted our desires and they need to be constantly purified and cleansed. Original sin and our own sin wounds us and sometimes we live in that sin and get distorted images of ourselves, which need to be healed. Shame will also come into play due to the bad, undiscerned choices we make in our life and this causes us to fear.
St. John in his Holy Gospel points this out in chapter 20. He states: “when the doors were locked…for fear of the Jews.” The use of the word “fear” hear has nothing to do with the cardinal virtue of prudence. This fear was not of the Holy Spirit but was born from their own lack of the Spirit and human insecurities. But, what happened next? “Jesus came in and stood in their midst and said ‘Peace be with you.’”
Quite often today we stay locked in our own fearful hearts, insecurities, and shame due to unconfessed sins and unhealed wounds. Fear needs to be conquered by faith in a Divine Person who is in love with you – the Holy Spirit, the Advocate. He will always help us pray and take us to the Christ and the Father, but He cannot do this unless we allow Him “in” to our hearts and this takes trust! Yes-people have hurt us in our lives but God NEVER will. The Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father, our Papa, and is sent by Jesus, our Savior, and He will guide us to the Truth.
Jesus desperately wants to give us His Peace, but for Him to do that, we must allow Him to breathe His Spirit on us, we must be not afraid as St. John Paul II said so many times. We all truly need to be healed and this cannot happen without forgiving those who have hurt you and asking forgiveness from God for your sins.
He breathes on us and we receive the Holy Spirit, not just at Baptism and Holy Confirmation when we receive the oil of Sacred Chrism, which is breathed upon and consecrated by the bishop, but also when we go to confession. The Holy Sacrament of Confession, which was instituted by Christ in the Upper Room, and handed on to the Apostles, is proclaimed in today’s Holy Gospel.
Jesus “breathes” on the Apostles and says: “receive the Holy Spirit…” When the priest raises his anointed right hand and prays the formula of absolution, you receive the Holy Spirit from the priest, who is interceding for you.
The Holy Spirit is mentioned twice in the formula, which states: “sent the Holy Spirit amongst us for the forgiveness of sins…” The Holy Spirit confects the Holy Eucharist through the priest, your sins are forgiven by the Holy Spirit and we can’t grow, be healed, be loved or love without the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit isn’t just for self-identified “charismatic” people, but for ALL OF US! We all have gifts and charisms given to us, start dusting them off, get to confession, allow Him “in” and be healed. Share your gifts and chrism with others for the build-up of the Kingdom of God. Don’t know how too? Simple-just ask you know who-The Holy Spirit, the Advocate, the Spirit of Truth.
Amen, and have a Blessed Pentecost.