Pentecost Sunday, June 8, 2014
Homily by Fr. John De Celles
St. Raymond of Peñafort Catholic Church
In today’s 1st reading we hear the story of the first Pentecost,
and how on that great day the Holy Spirit descended on the disciples
“And suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind… Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire,
which …came to rest on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues.”
It goes on to tell us that the disciples
immediately went out and started proclaiming the Gospel to the crowds
and that 3000 were baptized that day.
Some remember the dramatic events of that day
and wonder why these things don’t happen today:
today there is no loud wind, except perhaps a windbag preacher,
and the only flames of fire
are the candles around the Altar. If the Holy Spirit is here, why doesn’t he make himself known
like he did 2000 years ago in Jerusalem.
But you know, maybe sometimes he does.
As you all know, 6 weeks ago Pope John Paul II was canonized a saint.
So he’s and his life have been on my mind an awful lot lately.
It seems to me his whole life was witness to the presence of the Holy Spirit.
I remember a few months after his election to the papacy,
when he returned to his hometown of Krakow Poland,
on Pentecost of 1979,
and stared down the atheistic-Communist government.
His words sting ring out, as he prayed:
“Send down your spirit! … And renew the face of the earth! This earth!”
And the crowd of 3 million Poles began to shout: “we want God! we want God!”
And Communism was over in Poland, and the fall of the Iron Curtain began.
But another memory of John Paul that came after his life stands out even more,
as I recall the vivid scenes of his funeral Mass,
9 years ago, on April 8th, 2005.
As terribly sad as that day was,
watching all the events transpire I remember thinking then:
this is the Holy Spirit—this is Pentecost.
I don’t know if you remember it, but I see it like it was yesterday.
4 million people gathered from all over the world,
came together, overflowing from St. Peter’s Square
into the streets of Rome
all to see a dead man.
And another 2 BILLION folks saw the funeral on TV.
Incredible….but as incredible as that was,
how much more amazing to see heads of state
from all the nations of the earth
standing together—more than ever assembled before.
The sight of the foreign minister of Iran shaking hands
with the foreign minister of Israel.
The sight of a Methodist President of the United States
and the Secularist Prime Minister France
kneeling next to each other before our Eucharistic Lord at Catholic Mass.
And then the wind blew, and blew, flipping the pages of the Book of the Gospels
laying on the casket back and forth—as if in invitation to read it all at once.
And then, you may remember, how at the end as the casket of the pontiff
was turned to the people one last time,
and at that very moment the clouds parted and the sun shone down
for the first time all day.
4 million people, 2 billion people, all different languages, all different faiths,
to hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ proclaimed
by the successors of the apostles…
…the wind buffeting, the fire of the sun descending.
Pentecost in the year 2005.
My friends, the Holy Spirit is alive and well in the Church.
And if that day wasn’t enough to prove his presence,
11 days later he made his presence known in perhaps a more subtle way,
but still, a truly powerfully supernatural way.
While all the worldly pundits droned on about how the new pope would have to
be young, vigorous and charismatic like the John Paul of 1978,
and would have to open to radical changes in the Church…
…the Holy Spirit thought differently.
Instead, he moved the cardinals in conclave to elect
one of the oldest of their number, a quite scholar: Pope Benedict XVI.
A staunch defender of tradition and orthodoxy, who had been responsible
for publicly reprimanding many of the men who would elect the new pope.
And still they would overwhelmingly vote for him,
because the Holy Spirit had chosen him.
And Pentecost in 2005 continued.
And then jump forward to 2013.
Pope Benedict resigns and again the cardinals elect a man no one thought of.
This time a cardinal from the 3rd world, the “new world.”
Another old man, but one who surprises us every day with his energy and wit,
and has the whole world taking a second look at the Catholic Church.
And yet he hasn’t made one change in doctrine or liturgy,
and, in fact, has affirmed strongly the teachings of his predecessors
—especially John Paul II and Benedict XVI—
on the most so-called “controversial” subjects.
But the Holy Spirit is not just manifested in great events or in the lives of Popes.
The real reason we don’t need extraordinary ostentatious displays of power
—like on the first Pentecost—
is because we have something even greater
that is a persistent powerful display of his presence.
2000 years ago Jesus Christ established his Church on earth.
And when he had ascended into heaven,
He and His Father sent their Holy Spirit into the Church,
like a wind, a breathe of life,
just as he had once blown into the lifeless body of Adam,
bringing him to life.
What we have is the Church, living and breathing,
working and preaching in the world.
And this is the great and dramatic sign of the Holy Spirit’s presence:
despite of all the weak men and women
who have been and are now her members,
despite the scores of weak, foolish and even sinful Popes,
and thousands of weak, foolish and sinful
bishops, priests and lay people,
in spite of all that,
the Church still stands after 2000 years,
as a beacon of light, truth and grace to the whole world.
Why seek spectacular shows of fire and wind and languages,
when see the power of the Holy Spirit protecting the pristine Word of God
flowing to us in Holy Scripture and Holy Tradition,
and clarifying that Word through His continuing protection
of the teaching magisterium of the Church, especially the popes.
Why seek dramatic signs
when every single hour of every day of the week,
the power of the Holy Spirit turns bread and wine
into the Body and Blood of God the Son, Jesus Christ,
at Masses celebrated all over the world.
Why seek incredible displays of divine power
when every time a sinner kneels before a priest with sorrow for her sins,
the words of Christ to his first priest on that first Easter
echo over 20 centuries:
“receive the holy spirit: who’s sins you forgive are forgiven.”
And by the power of the Holy Spirit the sinner arises a saint.
Pentecost today—and every day!
And the Holy Spirit isn’t just manifest in His Church as a whole
—but also in each one of its members.
Years ago each of you were baptized in the name of
the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
As water was poured onto your head the Holy Spirit was poured into your heart —and has abided there ever since.
And at your confirmation the Holy Spirit descended on you
in the fullness of his power
just as surely as he descended on that upper room on the disciples.
And he strengthen your Baptismal grace, and gave you new gifts
so that you possess inside of you every gift you need
to be the incredible saint, God created you to be.
So that when people ask me why
the Spirit doesn’t come in fire and wind and tongues,
in the end I have to respond:
2000 years ago the Spirit did all that to get our attention
and to make the point that he had arrived,
not only in the Church as one body,
but also in the individual members of that body.
So why are we so interested in about what he’s doing around us,
when we should be asking ourselves what he’s trying to do inside us?
Think of this, the same powerful Spirit of the Most High God
that made himself so clearly manifest at the first Pentecost
is the same Spirit that came to you in baptism and Confirmation.
The Spirit of Wisdom, Knowledge, Understanding, Counsel, Fortitude and Piety
The Spirit Who 2000 years ago transformed those cowering sheep,
hiding behind that locked door in Jerusalem,
into bold prophets, and future martyrs, fearlessly proclaiming the Gospel,
–and converting 3000 people in one day.
That Spirit lives in you—and me.
But we forget.
Or perhaps we never quite understood
—or it wasn’t explained to us, or maybe we weren’t paying attention.
Okay, then let’s pay attention now
—that’s why we celebrate Pentecost every year!
Because just as the Holy Spirit has sustained the Catholic Church for 2 millennia
and made her a rock of truth and holiness
he is in you to give you every grace
to live in the fullness of the life and love of God
and to make you a light to the nations,
a witness to the truth,
a clear example of what it means
to love God with all your heart, mind soul and strength
and your neighbor as yourself.
If you want to see the Holy Spirit
all you have to do is let him go to work in your life.
But how do you do that?
First, you have to pray.
The first disciples weren’t just twiddling their thumbs in the upper room
–they were praying for 9 straight days for the Holy Spirit to come.
What is your prayer life like?
Do you make time every day to really talk to God, and to listen to him?
How can you know the Holy Spirit if you don’t regularly take time
to recognize and acknowledge his presence?
Second, you must stay close to the Church
—you must act like the member of the body of Christ that you are.
Don’t be fooled by those who try to separate the Church and the Spirit
—that’s like trying to separate the body and soul—it brings death.
And you can’t separate yourself from the Church
and still experience the Holy Spirit in your life
–that’s like plucking an eye from the body and expecting it to keep seeing.
As the Acts of the apostles tells us today,
the Holy Spirit came to the first disciples when
“they were all in one place together.”
Do you come to church regularly, and experience the power of the Holy Spirit
acting in the sacraments?
Do you unite yourself to the apostles and their successors
by studying the teachings of the Church ?
Third, are you trying to live a life consistent with those teachings?
Are you trying to live a moral life?
Are you following the way of the Lord Jesus which he revealed to his Church,
or are you flagrantly or carelessly following some other road?
And fourth, are you even trying to proclaim the Gospel to those around you
—either by your actions or your words?
How can you say you don’t experience the Spirit and his gifts in your life
if you never even try to cooperate with him or use those gifts?
My friends, the Holy Spirit is alive and well in the Catholic Church, and in us.
If only we recognize him and allow him to work in our lives.
Let’s begin today—right here and now.
Here at this Mass we come together to pray.
We hear the teachings of his Church, and unite ourselves to his apostles.
And we acknowledge his power acting in the sacrament of the Eucharist.
And we resolve that when we leave here today,
we will live our lives consistent with those teachings,
and we will proclaim those teachings to all we meet.
If you need things like the fire and the wind and miraculous speech
to believe the Holy Spirit is present to us today
what more do you want after seeing something like
the events in Rome 9 years ago at St. John Paul’s funeral?
But really, who needs that when you have
the miracle of the Church, the Word of God, the sacraments
and the Holy Spirit inside you.
And so, if there’s a loud noise to be made today,
let it come from us as we proclaim in our prayers [and in song]
our faith in the promises of Jesus.
And if there’s fire to burn today, let it burn in our hearts filled with love for Jesus.
And filled with the Spirit, united in the one Body of Christ Jesus,
let that Spirit come forth today through us,
as we boldly proclaim the Gospel to all the world.
Lord, send forth your Spirit, and they shall be created. R. And You shall renew the face of the earth.