Homily:  Pentecost Sunday

May 31, 2020

The fact I am about to share with you may or may not surprise you but this week end we celebrate one of the big three solemnities of the liturgical year.  Pentecost is a celebration that should rank right up there with Christmas and Easter.  It often doesn't because our secular world has not attached to it a practice like buying gifts or dyeing eggs.  You don't hear people counting down how many shopping days there are until Pentecost.  Trace this celebration back to the days of the early church and the importance of this solemnity grows in its importance.

St. Augustine, a bishop who lived from 354 until 430 wrote this about Pentecost: "It was a happy day in which the Holy Church makes her first radiant appearance to the eyes of faith and sets the hearts of believers on fire.  Keep this day with joy, celebrate it in freedom of spirit, for in you is fulfilled what was foreshadowed in the days when the Holy Spirit came."

Pope Leo the Great, who lived from 400 until 461, concurred when he wrote: "The reverence due Pentecost is beyond all question, because this day is consecrated by the most sublime and wonderful gift of the Holy Spirit.  And so, ever since that day, the clarion call of the gospel has rung out; since Pentecost a rain of charisms, a river of blessings has watered every desert and dry land, for the Spirit of God has swept over the waters to renew the face of the earth and a blaze of new light has shone out to dispel our former darkness."

Actually, Pentecost is the birthday of our church, an organization which for over 2000 years has survived sharp attacks from the secular world and divisions from within its own ranks.  With the Holy Spirit guiding the way, unity has come out of the diversity and understanding and mutual acceptance has come out of confusion.  But remember that the work of the Spirit did not end at the original celebration of Pentecost.

St. Paul makes it clear in his letter to the Corinthians that the Holy Spirit is still creating unity from diversity.  To make his point he uses the image of the human body.  The body adequately stresses the contributions of the individual parts and the entire system that these parts create.  For the body to function, all of its parts must remain unified; When a part is separated, it loses its purpose and the body suffers too.

It is like the ritual seen in the film March of the Penguins.  When temperatures reach eighty degrees below zero and the wind exceeds 100 miles per hour, the penguins huddle together as tight as possible to form one compact body to survive.  They regularly take turns standing on the outer perimeter so that no one will suffer and die.  Individually they could not survive the storm but collectively they are saved.

So it is with the Body of Christ.  Responsibilities are shared by all.  On Pentecost the Holy Spirit did not inspire just a few hearts, the spirit inflamed all of the believers and sent them forth to fire up the earth.  When Christ gifts us with the spirit in Baptism and Confirmation, it is our responsibility to share that energy with others, enriching our entire community.

Today, we mark the end of the Easter season and we are encouraged to take the power that comes from the resurrection of Christ and instill it deep within our being.  Prompted by the Holy Spirit, we become hands, the eyes and the feet of Christ in our world.  It is an identity that we renew every time we come to this altar and enter into communion with Christ and all the other members of His Body here on earth.

Today, Lord send out your spirit and renew the face of the earth.


Homily: The Ascension of the Lord

May 24, 2020

Since the coronavirus has appeared on our world stage the one thing we can all agree on is our lives have changed in big and small ways.  Within a week, we will once again be able to come to church to celebrate the mass but even then those celebrations will have a much different look and feel to them.  They will be like nothing we have ever experienced before.  The alterations that the coronavirus has brought to our daily routines have led to a variety of reactions from people at large; some reactions have been positive, some have been negative, and a few have even been indifferent.  As we all know change is hard and it can cause an increase in fortitude, as well as fear and uncertainty.  These events reminded me of words that Blessed John the 23rd spoke before he convened the Second Vatican Council.

"Let there be unity in what is necessary, freedom in what is doubtful, and charity in everything."

With these words, the Pope was anticipating troubled waters with this Council.  Even back then change was hard but necessary and once again our Church finds itself in a similar situation.  In these next couple of months, it is good for all of us to meditate on the words of Blessed John the 23rd.

"Let there be unity in what is necessary, freedom in what is doubtful, and charity in everything."

In our lives when change looms large or small, we can be assured that there will be some struggle, resistance, growth, and pain.  Imagine the anxiety that the disciples went through when Jesus, their leader, teacher and friend was persecuted, crucified, died and buried.  In order to keep going, they needed to remember his parables, his words and his actions.  This is what gave them direction.  But then he rose from the dead and it brought them renewed hope; then he announced that he was ascending to the Father and that a new Advocate would take his place.  This gave clarity to their mission of spreading the good news.  Now understand that none of this could be rushed, it had to play itself out in its own time.  The pain and struggle were part of the equation.  It is what made them strong.

It's like the story of the man who was walking in a park one day and spotted a cocoon hanging in a tree.  He snapped the branch and took the cocoon home to watch as the moth emerged.  Well, there was a movement in the cocoon on several occasions but the moth did not emerge.  Finally the man grew impatient and when he saw the cocoon move again, he took his jackknife and cut the cocoon open in order for the moth to escape.  When the moth emerged, it looked weak and within a couple of hours it was dead.  Asking a friend about the situation, he was told that the moth had to struggle to escape the cocoon.  It was in the struggle that the moth developed and became strong enough to survive and thrive.  Without the struggle, the moth would not survive.

In our lives, when we have periods of struggle and pain, we have to understand that these rough patches will make us stronger and more resilient.  Yeah, we pray that God will rescue us but God knows that this is for our benefit.  He will stay with us and give us encouragement and love us all the way.  That is why we must resist the temptation to walk away from the church in hard times.

By coming closer to God, we have our fears erased as the Lord teaches us to ascend into a more peaceful place where we can walk with faith.  God won't erase our pain, but he will love us and encourage us until our struggle is at an end.

Those times when we feel our life is falling apart, we need to remember the words of the Lord in our gospel today, "I will be with you always" and there we will discover a lifeline that will guide us and hold us up as we move forward on the path to our heavenly inheritance.