Homily for Pentecost Sunday 2019

A man who was an adventuresome skier went onto some very tricky slopes that he had never skied before.  He ignored the marked trails and raced down some dangerously steep terrain, passing, as he went, a group of skiers standing to one side.  As he whizzed by, they called out to him, “STOP! Cliff! STOP!”

Undaunted, he yelled back, “I’m not Cliff. — I’m Billllll.”

      The message was sent, but it wasn’t received!

     In the very act of bringing us out of nothingness and into existence, God formed a DEEP, FATHERLY BOND with each of us by TAKING UP RESIDENCE IN THE VERY CORE OF OUR BEING.

     Which means that, the HOLY SPIRIT was no stranger to the apostles on that FIRST PENTECOST.  God’s own Holy Spirit had been with them from the very first moments of their lives. 

     St. Luke uses the ancient BIBLICAL SYMBOLS of fire and wind to describe the presence of God’s Holy Spirit on Pentecost — because he wants to tell us that a NEW AGE has now begun! — BUT, if GOD’S SPIRIT HAD ALWAYS been there INSIDE the Apostles, WHAT CHANGED? — WHAT ACTUALLY HAPPENED ON PENTECOST ?

     I think that PENTECOST CELEBRATES that point in time when the Apostles stopped holding back — stopped measuring out their COMMITMENT to the Lord in small doses!  I think that Pentecost celebrates that point in time when the Apostles finally stopped “counting the cost” and calculating “what was in it for them,” and made a “LEAP OF FAITH” entrusting themselves to the Lord! — Fifty days after Christ’s Resurrection from the dead (which is what the word “Pentecost” or 50 means) ) – the Apostles finally lowered their guard so that God’s Spirit could FILL THEM UP and TRANSFORM THEM!  And WHEN they did; the CHURCH WAS BORN!

     I’d venture to say that IF you and I were absolutely honest with ourselves, we’d ALL have to admit that, in some ways, we’re in the same “spot” as the Apostles were BEFORE Pentecost! — We all have our fair “share” of irrational fears, unresolved inner conflicts, and old wounds still waiting to be healed, don’t we?  And, most all of us are still asking the question, “WHAT’S IN IT FOR ME?” —-  And YET, despite all this, the SPIRIT OF GOD IS working WITHIN US – and has been working within us since we drew our first breath! — Trouble is – God wants us to give Him the “whole enchilada” so that he can do GREAT THINGS with us; and we’re AFRAID to give God more than a few “crumbs of the tortilla!”   

     So, what KIND of THINGS can we expect God’s Spirit to DO in our lives?  If we invite him to “do His thing,” and “fill us up,” and “transform us,” HOW can we expect to be CHANGED?  

     I strongly suspect that ALL OF US have EXPERIENCED God’s Holy Spirit “at work” in our lives on countless occasions.  It’s just that we don’t necessarily “label” it: GOD’S SPIRIT AT WORK! — FOR EXAMPLE:

   – Has there ever been a time in your life when you took the FIRST STEP to FORGIVE someone, (maybe someone in your own family) – even though your EFFORT went unnoticed and unappreciated?  That overture to “forgiveness” was the work of God’s Holy Spirit in your heart! —  (In fact, today’s Gospel reminds us that JESUS’ gave us HIS SPIRIT precisely so that we can CONTINUE his work of bringing forgiveness into the world! – (So don’t give up your efforts!)

   – Has there ever been a time in your life when you’ve experienced what St. Theresa of Avila described as, “the dark night of the soul”? – (When you didn’t “feel” God’s love for you?  When your prayers seemed to fall on “deaf ears”?) — And yet, despite the lack of hoped-for “feedback” you continued to LOVE GOD and to PRAY? — Well, that PERSEVERANCE, (despite the lack of “felt” satisfaction OR spiritual warm fuzzies), was the work of God’s Holy Spirit. — (Maybe you’ve even noticed, (in retrospect), that because of this experience, you’ve GROWN; and that there are times now, when YOU can act in a kind and loving manner to others even when they aren’t the slightest bit thankful, or kind and loving to you!

   – Has there ever been a time in your life when you were confused or dissatisfied or profoundly disappointed by life and by yourself? — A time when you couldn’t make the guilt, and the good intentions you never acted upon, and the losses you’ve suffered – all fit together in a nice, neat little package? — BUT STILL, you trudged on in TRUST and in HOPE – surrendering yourself (in your confusion and disappointment) to God?  Well, THAT was the work of the Holy Spirit, as well – inviting you, (in the midst of your weakness and weariness), to a greater CLOSENESS TO and UNION WITH GOD!

   – Isn’t it the Holy Spirit at work in our lives, who urges us to make an effort to put the words we PRAY on Sunday morning into practice in our DEEDS during the rest of the week? – at home, at work, at school, at the store or on the playing field?

   – Isn’t it the Holy Spirit that “HOUNDS” us into recognizing the needs of the poor, and then refuses to let our consciences rest until we have attended to those needs?

   – Isn’t it the Holy Spirit who urges us to PRAY even when we don’t have any words with which to pray, or don’t really understand what it is we are praying for?

   – Isn’t it the Holy Spirit who chips away at our self-protective armor and batters down the walls behind which we TRY TO HIDE from ourselves, from others and from God?

   – And, IT just HAS TO BE the Holy Spirit who inspires us to RISK getting involved in the sometimes unattractive and messy circumstances of other peoples’ lives – (be they family, friends, or just someone in need) – in order to lend them our support and strength and courage! – Or who EMPOWERS us to avoid or give up self-destructive behaviors and attitudes!   It just has to be a power GREATER THAN OURSELVES – a DIVINE POWER at work in us — otherwise, why would we ever bother?  

   – And WHO is it that is constantly REVEALING to us the presence of God in our friends, in nature, in the wonder of our bodies and what they can feel and do; and who enables us to seek the transcendent? — Surely, it MUST BE God’s own HOLY SPIRIT?!

   – The very fact that you and I are HERE (tonight/this morning) is the greatest PROOF of God’s Holy Spirit at work! — Can there be any other explanation than the SPIRIT OF GOD HIMSELF – to account for the fact that the very often sinful, disparate, sometimes disagreeable and motley crew of individuals who believe in Jesus has SURVIVED for over 20 centuries (despite scandals, persecutions, and lethargy); and continues to constitute the miracle that we call THE CHURCH?

     As we conclude this Easter Season 2019, let us be confident that this same HOLY SPIRIT is ALIVE and WELL, EMPOWERING you and me to CONTINUE the mission and work of Jesus Christ in the world! — IF WE ALLOW HIM TO!