Pentecost, 2011, Cycle A (06/12/11)
In our first reading we see the Holy Spirit act as sort of a universal translator – and to celebrate the feast of Pentecost Father David decided to let me give the homily to see if the Holy Spirit is still as good a translator now as he was then!
Today, Holy Mother Church celebrates her birthday. We come together and celebrate when, finally, the disciples, strengthened by the gift of the Holy Spirit, found the courage, the power, the ability to be Church to those around them. To proclaim the Good News and witness to Christ Jesus and His saving message. To Glory in Christ our Savior. The glory of the Church is nothing other than celebrating the glory of God Himself.
But in our readings today we seem to see two different versions of the gift of the Holy Spirit. In our Gospel we see Jesus appear to the disciples in the upper room behind locked doors; and by breathing on them he gives them the gift of the Holy Spirit: “he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.’” And in our first reading, from the Acts of the Apostles, we hear the familiar story of the descent of the Holy Spirit from on High: “When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled, they were all in one place together. And suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house in which they were. 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.”
I think it is important to note that these are not two different versions of the same event – far from it! They are two separate events that seem to give the same gift. The Gospel reading was before Jesus ascended into heaven; and of course the first reading from the Acts of the Apostles was on Pentecost itself which, as we know was after His ascension. But a question I believe we need to ask ourselves is why did the Lord seemingly give the gift of the Holy Spirit once while on earth, and once from His throne in heaven? Why, did Jesus as a man, breathe this gift to His disciples on earth and afterwards divinely send it from heaven as a wind and tongues of fire. Pope St. Gregory the Great said: “it seems to me it is because the precepts of love are twofold – The love of God, and the love of our neighbor!” In other words; the Holy Spirit, God’s Love, though one gift has two parts – for it is through the love of our neighbor that we learn how we are to come to the love of God. As we hear told to us in First letter of St. John (4:20-21) “for whoever does not love a brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. This is the commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.”
It is through our loving actions, our witness to what the gift of Holy Spirit has done for us; that we are able to make others aware of God’s Love for them. Through our patient endurance of self-giving love we make real to those we meet, the glory of God! We radiate the magnificence of the mystical body of Christ, the Church, when we witness to God’s love. It is true that it is ultimately God who converts the hearts; but it is for the Church – for us – to introduce the unknowing to His gift. We on earth offer His love – so He from heaven can place in the hearts.
Isn’t this why Jesus created the Church? To be His true presence here on earth, to help those around us come to know the love of God? Didn’t he tell His apostles and us: “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.”
All of you, my dear brothers and sisters in Christ, have been given the gift of the Holy Spirit – the breath of God – and you all have a heightened awareness of the beauty and the Glory of the Church because you see, hear and feel the Holy Spirit alive in her. My prayer for all of us is that we become like the apostles on that Pentecost day 2,000 years ago; and go out and breathe on those we meet, share the Holy Spirit by offering our love. Let those in the darkness, by our actions, have a chance to see this living flame of love descend on them. If we do this then Pentecost isn’t a celebration of a past event but an ongoing celebration of our living God.