- Category: Homilies for 2012
- Published on Sunday, 27 May 2012 07:29
- Written by Fr. Rick Spicer
- Hits: 278
Marriage, as many of you know, is a roller coaster of joys and sorrows, of triumphs and tragedies. Job losses, illnesses, and the myriad of raising children are all part of the adventure. Just about every spouse faces some kind of complication sooner or later that confounds them with their own inadequacies and doubts. I can't do this. I can't be the husband or wife or parent I need to be. And yet, they manage to find within themselves the compassion, the forgiveness, the love to be the spouse and parent their family needs them to be in such moments.
On that first Easter evening, before Jesus appeared to the apostles in the upper room, imagine how inadequate they felt, yet when Jesus breathed on them, empowering them with the Holy Spirit, whatever fears they had then disappeared. That moment, the Church was born. As any student of history can tell you, the Church is a product of human struggle, disagreements, and crisis. Yet with the ongoing presence of the Holy Spirit, the Church has weathered the test of time and continues to do so.
In both accounts of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit entered the lives and hearts of the apostles, enabling them to do things they could not do on their own. In Acts, the Spirit empowers the apostles to speak boldly of the risen Christ. In the gospel, Jesus' gift of the Spirit enables them to embrace the truth of his love, something they could never have done or understood on their own.
This feast celebrates the unseen presence of God in their lives and ours, namely, the immeasurable presence of God in our Church. Just as Jesus breathed on the apostles on that first Easter evening, so he continues to breathe on us. That breath is meant to help us embrace the truth of Jesus' love as well, thus animating us to do the work of the Gospel, to make God's will our will, transforming us so that we may bring the love and life of Christ to our broken world.
Pentecost celebrates the gift of God's Spirit, the Third Person of the Trinity, who enables us to love as selflessly and as totally as God does. This Spirit takes us beyond empty legalisms and static measurements of "mine" and "yours" to create a community of compassion, reconciliation and justice that is centered in "us."
The Holy Spirit enables us, as it did the apostles, through prayer to understand the "truth" of God's great love for his people that is embodied in the risen Christ, and then proclaim to others each in our own way by word and deed the Good News of Jesus Christ.
In his letter to the Galatians, Paul speaks of a timeless struggle to live by the Spirit. In our secular society with its worldly values, some of which are outright immoral yet deemed acceptable by many, we are frequently being tempted or dared to ignore his prescription for a viable faith. When we give into such pressure, we create what I call "cafeteria Catholicism," a faith tailored more to our own liking rather than the principles of our Church.
A well rooted faith depends on its many parts to thrive. For us Catholics, that includes scripture, the sacraments, prayer, both private and communal, weekly worship with a community of believers, and moral guidance. Leave out any one of these essential parts and we could find ourselves with a tepid faith that can be easily pushed aside by the evil one for the values of our secular world.
Those of us who witnessed Vatican II fifty years ago know well that the Holy Spirit is a disruptive force, constantly challenging the status quo and moving us, the Church, toward the vision of the Kingdom of God which Jesus preached. But disruptive does not mean destructive for the Spirit is also a creative force, constantly remaking things new as the need arises.
One way to appreciate the potential that the Spirit has to offer would be to imagine what happens when we unleash the power of gasoline. If I were to drop a lit match into a ten gallon tank of gas, we would have an incredible explosion. But if I channeled that fuel through the engine of my Honda Civic in a controlled burn, I could drive all the way to Spokane. Think of the Church as an engine, all of us working together through worship, community and service to bring about the Kingdom of God.
Like wind, the Spirit comes in all shapes and sizes, from a quiet whisper to a thunderous blast. Its mission is to bring us closer to God, filling us with the grace to do the work of compassion and forgiveness that we can't imagine ourselves doing, and the understanding to take on the work of his justice and peace despite our own fears and doubts.
Let's not overlook the closing line of the gospel. "Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained." The Spirit that Jesus sends is also a Spirit of reconciliation, a Spirit that prevents us from holding grudges or nurturing vengeance, for neither help to bring about God's kingdom. The world we live in is in great need of reconciliation and truth but both have to begin with us. As we prayed moments ago in the Sequence; Wash the stain of guilt away, bend the stubborn heart and will; melt the frozen, warm the chill; guide the steps that go astray.
May this Pentecost empower us with the grace of God to take on what we know is right and good and just, despite our own sense of inadequacy and past failures. When we leave here, let us do so convinced, as the apostles were, that the Spirit will enable us to do what God wants done to make this world a better place.