NB. Being of gimpy knee and puny countenance, I am unable to preside or preach at a Mass today. So, here's a decent-enough rerun.
Pentecost Sunday (C)
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
St. Dominic Church, NOLA
The Lord our God keeps His word! Through His prophets He promised the gift of a Messiah who would suffer as a servant for sinners and die at the hands of his enemies for the sake of the world. The long-awaited Messiah came among us as a child: born of a virgin; raised on the Law; and anointed by the Holy Spirit at the River Jordan. During his three- year ministry, he reveals the power of God by healing the diseased and injured; raising the dead to new life; feeding thousands with food enough for only a few; liberating souls held captive by unclean spirits; and teaching the word of spirit and truth to anyone who would listen. He is opposed at every turn by jealousy, greed, ambition, and ignorance; and, finally, he is betrayed by one he calls a friend. Falsely accused, illegally tried, he is found guilty by a mob and executed by the Empire. But he makes a promise to his disciples: “. . .the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything. . .” The Lord our God keeps His word! To his disciples he promises the gift of an Advocate, the Holy Spirit, to renew the body and soul of his Church.
The Lord our God kept His promise to send among us a Savior to suffer and die for our sins. That Savior, Jesus the Christ, promised that the Father would also send among us an Advocate, the Holy Spirit, to teach us and to remind us of everything he had said and done. Gathered together in the Upper Room—terrified, despairing, anxious—the disciples wait to be discovered. Do they remember the Lord's promise? His warning? Do they have any idea what's about to happen to them? “Suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind. . .Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit. . .” One Holy Spirit roars into the Upper Room. Divides. Then descends all at once upon each one of the disciples. Not a different spirit to each. But One Spirit to each, all at once. The same Holy Spirit given to every disciple. And though each disciple receives the same Spirit, each one manifests a different gift. When all of these different gifts are brought together with one heart and mind and the freely given in service to preaching and teaching of the Good News, the Church is born. The Lord our God keeps His promises; He keeps His word.
Before he begins his Passion, Jesus says to the disciples: “Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him.” Whoever loves Christ will make good on his promises. And whoever makes good on Christ's promises will be loved by the Father. Jesus says “we will make our dwelling” with those who keep the Word. We. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The Feast of Pentecost—the birth of the Church—celebrates the day, the moment when the Holy Spirit came to dwell with us and remain with us. With the Spirit among us we are not only capable of keeping Christ's word, we are do so with all the strength and integrity of the Blessed Trinity. Through our varied gifts we—each one of us—manifests the Spirit for the glory of God, drawing in and teaching anyone who longs for God's mercy. Our gifts are made purer, stronger, holier in their work for the kingdom, and we are made more perfect in love by sharing God's love. The Holy Spirit is sent to be our Advocate, the one who defends us against the dark accusations of the world. But we are not permitted to simply hide away in a room and shake ourselves silly in fear of the world. The Spirit enlivens, empowers, ignites, and He pushes us out in the world as witnesses to the freely given mercy of God.
Think about it. What do the disciples do the moment the Holy Spirit endows them with His gifts? “[They] began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim.” Different languages? Yes. Though all of the disciples were Galileans they were understood by Parthians, Medes, Elamites, Mesopotamians, Judeans, Cappadocians, Asians, Egyptians, Libyans, Romans, Cretans, and Arabs. They were also understood by “both Jews and converts to Judaism.” In other words, not only were they speaking different languages, they were speaking in a way that anyone who heard them could understand what they were saying. How is this possible? They were given the gift of being able to speak to the deepest longing of every human creature, the desire of every man, woman, and child to love and be loved by their Creator. The gift of the Church—then and now—is to be the Body and Word of Christ, the living sacrament of God's mercy to all of creation. With the Holy Spirit, the Church—all of us—speaks the language of divine love when we are united in heart and mind in the service of the Gospel. We keep His word, and He dwells among us. His spiritual gifts are boundless.
His gifts are boundless. But are we ready to receive them and put them to their proper use? Paul tells us in his letter to the Corinthians, “There are different kinds of spiritual gifts but the same Spirit. . .To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit.” For some benefit—the benefit of the one who receives the gift and all those for whom the gift will be used. The Holy Spirit does not give private gifts, gifts to be used for one's personal benefit. All gifts of the Holy Spirit are given for the benefit of the whole Church and her mission. “As a body is one though it has many parts, and all the parts of the body, though many, are one body. . .For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body. . .we were all given to drink of one Spirit.” One Holy Spirit given to and received by many different parts to make up on Body in Christ. This means that whatever spiritual gifts I might possess, that you might possess, belong to the whole body not just me or you. And b/c our gifts belong to the whole body, our use of them influences the whole body. Good, evil, indifferent. How we use these gifts colors the Church, leaves a mark on the Body of Christ. How we use these gifts determines whether or not we are keeping Christ's word, fulfilling his promise.
We sang along with the Psalmist, “Lord, send out your Spirit, and renew the face of the earth.” If we are to be servants of this renewal, we must also sing, “Lord, send out your Spirit, and renew the body and soul of your Church.” And if we are to be servants of this renewal, we must eagerly step forward and offer ourselves in service to the Gospel. Pope Francis urges us not to become a “baby-sitter” Church. We could add: do not become a museum, a social club, a something-to-do-before-the-Saints-game. If we truly believe that the Holy Spirit is among us, if we truly believe that Christ our Lord is here with us right now, how can we even think about not leaving this place and shouting about the mighty acts of God. How do I think of anything else if I truly believe that the Creator-God of the universe loves me? How do I wake up in the morning and not immediately give Him thanks for the gift of life and my freedom from sin? The renewal of the Church will not come from Rome or D.C. or the archbishop's office. It will come from the pews of St Dominic, Our Lady of the Rosary, from the parish; from your homes, your schools. But it must start with the family. With you. Use the gifts you have been given to renew the body and soul of the Church. Fidelity, strength, perseverance, humility, and above all: love, divine love. You have them all. Put them to work for Christ, keeping his word. Put them to work for the Church, and dwell forever as a mighty act of God.__________________
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