20 May 2018Pentecost

Homily from Father James Gilhooley
Pentecost - Cycle B - John 20:19-23

A poor European family was coming to the US early last century. On the ship, they had as food the bread and cheese they had purchased prior to sailing.

After many days of cheese sandwiches, the son came to his father, "Dad, if I have to eat cheese sandwiches all the way across the Atlantic, I won't make it." The sympathetic father gave him his last nickel for ice cream. Hours later the child returned. The father noticed his wide smile. He asked what he had eaten. "Several plates of ice cream, dad, and then a steak dinner." "For a nickel?" "No, dad, the food is free. It's part of the passage ticket." He returned the coin to his father.

The filet mignon of the Holy Spirit came to us with the ticket of our Baptism and Confirmation. No one has to continue eating cheese sandwiches everyday. No doubt cheese will nourish us. However, we will die of boredom before cholesterol kills us.

We have listened to Christ's command, "Receive the Holy Spirit." Each of us received the Holy Spirit at Baptism and Confirmation. The Spirit's gifts are awesome. Listen to them: wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord. We must learn to use them. The Holy Spirit, says Daniel Durken, came to dispel the A,B,C, and Ds of our humdrum lives - apathy, boredom, coldness, and dullness.

When St Paul dropped in on Ephesus (Acts 19), he judged they were lacking a get up and go spirit. So he asked point-blank, "Have you received the Holy Spirit?" Why would he ask that, inquires Peter Kreeft, unless he observed a power shortage in their company? The Ephesus Christians were dragging themselves along on 60 volts when all the time they could have been charged with 120 volts. When they replied they had not received the Spirit, Paul confirmed them. They became supercharged people.

Why were the twelve, many of them illiterate, able to win a world for their Leader? And why are a billion Christians unable to repeat the same feat today? The answer is the Apostles used the Holy Spirit's gifts to the full and we do not.

The Spirit's gifts operate in our ordinary lives under extraordinary conditions. They kick in, as someone has said, as "unruly house guests." People blossom to levels of wisdom or fortitude they never dreamed possible. During the French Revolution, an informer notified the Mother Superior of a Carmelite convent that the following day all the sisters would be guillotined. She told her nuns. She said that the convent gate would be left open for anyone who wished to flee. Only one ran away. The next morning the rest were brought to the guillotine. The sisters were about to place their heads on the block. Then they observed with pride that the nun who had run away stepped out of the crowd and joined her sisters. What had brought her back? It was the gift of fortitude from the Holy Spirit.

Benedict Groeschel writes the gifts of the Spirit were sewn into us like seeds. They remain in the desert of our souls waiting to be nourished and given life. The driest desert in the world, says Groeschel, is in Chile. One time the desert had not seen rain for sixteen years. Then the rains came. The result was the desert was marked with tiny enamel-like flowers. They were there all the time just waiting for proper growth conditions. As it was in Chile, so it is with each of our spirits.

The saddest young man I ever met was a fellow I encountered at a college. He was asked by a student who knew he was a devout Catholic at home, "Why don't I see you at Sunday Mass?" The teen replied, "Would you want me to be the only one in my dorm to go?" The student had received the gift of fortitude from the Holy Spirit, but he was afraid to use it. Which will it be for us - steak or cheese sandwiches?

Will we recall the monk who preached that God the Father gave us His Spirit so that we might become like His Son?

A five year old pre-Communion child watched her mother receive the Eucharist. She asked, "Will you share Jesus with me?" Will we, helped by the Spirit, share Jesus with our friends? Napoleon Bonaparte said, "There are two forces on this earth, the force of arms and the force of the Spirit. The force of the Spirit is stronger." Why don't we prove that by our lives? 

Homily from Father Joseph Pellegrino
The Solemnity of Pentecost: The Power of the Spirit

For the last number of years, I have been attending college lectures without going anywhere. There are college courses available from a company called The Great Courses which sells CD's and DVD's of college professors lecturing in all sorts of subjects. I like to listen to the CD's in my car or stream the courses on my phone when I exercise. I enjoy their history and music courses. They have a few courses in religion that I also like, such as one on St. Francis of Assisi, a couple on St. Augustine, one on great Christians, and a really detailed and wonderful course on the history of the Church. Some of the religious courses are not very good though. Some of the professors seem to have an anti religious viewpoint, or an anti Catholic bias. They seem to take as a starting point that Christianity was imposed on people who had lived wonderful lives before they were convinced to become Christians. The only religious courses that I find worthwhile are those that are taught by people whose faith is evident even if it isn't particularly stated. The other courses lack the spirit necessary for explaining the miracle of Christianity.

Intellectuals who lack faith will never achieve their potential because they are not open to allowing the Power of God to enlighten their intelligence.

This is true for all people, not just professors. It is important that we learn what our faith is. We need to know what we believe. We need to know how we are to live the faith. But dogma, the articles of faith, and morality, the way we live the faith, are insufficient in themselves for leading us to God. We need the very Power of God to draw us closer to Him. We need the Holy Spirit.

They kept the door to the Upper Room barred, those eleven remaining disciples of the Lord. They did this even after they experienced the Resurrection. The disciples knew that Jesus was the Son of God. They witnessed His Resurrection. They knew how they were to conduct themselves. They had heard Jesus' sermons; they had seen how He lived. But they still kept the door barred. They were afraid, afraid that they too would be arrested and killed, probably also crucified. Besides, how could they fulfill the Lord's mandate to proclaim the Kingdom to all people? They were just simple men. They really didn't understand the most significant event in human history. And they were afraid. The disciples did not have the Power of God necessary to draw others to Christ.

Then on Pentecost Sunday, the Holy Spirit came upon them. They prophesied. They spoke in tongues. They went out of that locked upper room, no longer cowardly, but willing to risk their lives if only they could draw others to Christ. And that day people from all over the world heard the disciples, now apostles, speaking in their own languages. They felt the Power of God working through these eleven common, every day men. Immediately, 3,000 of them converted to Christ. The spread of the Kingdom had begun. The Church was born.

The Kingdom continues to grow throughout the world due to the power of God, due to the Holy Spirit. We all have experienced the working of the Spirit in our own lives. Why do we believe? Why are we Catholic? Is it simply because many of us were born into the faith? Or, perhaps, because many here married a Catholic and made the decision to practice their spouse's faith? Do we believe because someone made a great argument to us that we couldn't refute? Are we Catholic because we have seen so many Catholics being kind and generous to those in need?

All of these are ways that we have been exposed to the faith, but none of these alone, or even all of these together, draw us to Christ. There is something within us which calls us to Jesus Christ. This may be a burning desire for God. Or it may be a still small voice telling us where we can find our peace. Thunder or whisper, there is something, no, there is Someone within us. The Holy Spirit is there deep within our lives, leading us to the Lord. It is the Holy Spirit that leads us from knowing about God to knowing God, to experiencing God. It is the Holy Spirit that drives us to shout out to the world, "Jesus lives." Life has meaning when lived in union with Him. "Life is beautiful!" It is the Holy Spirit that leads us to convince others that they are good, that God loves them. It is the Holy Spirit that fills the world with the love and compassion of our merciful God.

"Lord, send forth your Spirit and renew the face of the earth," we pray in Psalm 104:30. Then the words of Joel 3 will be realized, "Your sons and daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions; even upon the servants and the handmaids, in those days, I will pour out my spirit." With the Holy Spirit, we are transformed from the bones and lifeless bodies that Ezekiel saw on the plain, to a living army for the Lord.

Pentecost is not merely a historical event. It is a continuing reality. The Holy Spirit continues to come upon people for the sole purpose of leading all to Jesus Christ. We are all in the Upper Room as the wind blows and the tongues of fire descend on our heads. We posses the Spirit of God.

We call upon the Holy Spirit today. We ask Him to continue to work through the Church in general and through each of us in particular. We ask him to help us continue the mandate of the Lord: May we, like the first apostles and all the fervent Christians throughout the ages, lead others to Christ.

Homily from Father Phil Bloom
* Available in Spanish - see Spanish Homilies
Like a Rhizome
(May 20, 2018)

Bottom line: The Holy Spirit like a rhizome manifests himself in gifts of service and sacraments.

With Pentecost we bring to a conclusion the 50 days of Easter. During these 7 weeks I have used the daily Mass readings for a study of the Acts of Apostles. Acts begins with Jesus sending the Holy Spirit and then tells story of his work.

One commentary I used had an intriguing comparison for the work of the Holy Spirit.* They compared him to a rhizome. Gardeners know about rhizomes but it was a new word for me. A rhizome is a continuously growing underground stem that sends up shoots at different points. Bamboo and ginger are rhizomes as are hops. The main part grows below the soil. Above ground we see the sprouts with their fruit.

Similarly, as Acts of Apostles tells us, the Holy Spirit - although we don't see him with our eyes - he brings forth missionary disciples like Peter and Paul. We see the fruit: new Christians who repent, change their lives and receive baptism. The apostles lay hands on new disciples; the Holy Spirit fills them - confirmation. Besides baptism and confirmation Acts has another sacrament - "the breaking of the bread," the Eucharist, the Mass. With our eyes we see water, oil and bread; with the eyes of faith we see the true reality - the Holy Spirit.

St Paul tells us the Holy Spirit manifests himself in gifts of service. God blessed our parish with a person who showed remarkable gifts of service. Sister Barbara served here for 41 years. She touched hundreds, really thousands of lives in our Valley. This summer when we have the parish picnic we will dedicate a memorial to her, inviting the whole community to join us. We want people to remember her service and to thank God for the gifts she steadily shared.

We also want to show gratitude for the people who cared for her - parishioners who stood by her in good times and bad times. We saw that care most intensely in her final year. Sister had lost her drivers license and her memory began to fail rapidly. The disease that took away her short term memory began to make it impossible for her to live on her own. Because of her desire to continue here in Monroe she accepted assisted living more willingly that many.

I am deeply grateful to her religious congregation for taking on that financial burden. As you know, those costs are huge. I think of it when we take up the Annual Catholic Appeal. A significant part of the Appeal goes to care for ill and retired priests and sisters. It's a way of caring for those who cared for us. As St. Paul says, by the Spirit "though many we are one body."

The Holy Spirit like a rhizome manifests himself in gifts of service and sacraments. We make today's Psalm our prayer, "Lord, send out your Spirit, and renew the face of the earth." Amen.
*Easter Fire makes this comparison quoting Carl Jung: "Life has always seemed to me like a plant that lives on its rhizome. Its true life is invisible, hidden in the rhizome. The part that appears above ground lasts only a single summer. What we see is the blossom, which passes. The rhizome remains."

Homily from Saint Vincent Archabbey, Latrobe, Pa
Saint Vincent Archabbey
Pentecost Sunday, Classic
John 20: 19–23

Gospel Summary

On Pentecost Sunday we celebrate the wonderful good news that the risen Lord has poured out his Spirit upon us, first of all to convince us of his victory over sin and death, and then to enable us to continue his work of salvation by our own love and concern for others.

As we can well imagine, the disciples were filled with fear and foreboding after the death of their master. But suddenly Jesus is there among them radiant with life. He shows them his terrible wounds, which have now become beautiful emblems of his love for them. He offers them his peace—that deep, calm, resonant sense of confidence, which is so different from the peace that the world can offer—a superficial peace that amounts to little more than a temporary cessation of hostilities. This profound peace becomes possible through the presence of his Spirit in them.

And then Jesus tells them what possessing the Spirit will mean in their lives. Henceforth, they will need to be converted from their natural tendency to be self-centered to an attitude of loving concern for others. And this will be manifested first and foremost by their willingness to forgive others. This would be impossible if we did not enjoy the powerful presence of the Spirit who enables us to overcome our constant judgmental tendencies.

Life Implication

As fragile human beings, we know the experience of living in fear and of being anxious and worried about many things, some of which exist only in our imagination. Jesus, having absorbed the ultimate violence, offers us his peace and thereby enables us to be confident and joyful in the face of even severe uncertainty and threat. This represents a real experience of liberation from the paralysis of fear—a paralysis that often prevents us from doing beautiful and risky things, like giving cut flowers!

With this peace and joy comes the obligation to share our blessings with others. It was once thought that the command of Jesus to forgive or retain sins was addressed only to priests and referred only to the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Now it is clear that this charge is addressed to all the followers of Jesus. We must all accept the wonderful and awesome responsibility of offering or withholding forgiveness. In this case, the sin of omission looms large and should make us all examine our consciences in regard to the many times that we may have persisted in nursing old injuries or have refused to make allowance for extenuating circumstances in the lives of those we call sinners.

In this regard, we should recall the very strong words of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount: "Stop judging, that you may not be judged. For as you judge, so will you be judged, and the measure with which you measure will be measured out to you." (Matthew 7: 1–2) When we face the final judgment, we all hope to have a merciful judge and now we know how to assure that happy outcome.

It is, of course, very difficult to achieve such an ideal of forgiveness. And that is why Jesus offers us the Holy Spirit who, if given half a chance, will empower us to become the kind of gentle, caring, and compassionate persons that can make a real difference in a world that desperately needs the witness of love and forgiveness. Let us all rejoice in this wonderful gift of the Spirit.

Demetrius R. Dumm, O.S.B.

Pentecost, Modern
John 20: 19-23

We are told in Acts that on Pentecost the Apostles and Disciples were gathered in the upper room. The same upper room were the Apostles shared the Last Supper with Jesus, where they fled to and hid in fear after Jesus was arrested, crucified, died and was buried. It was behind the locked doors of this Upper Room where the Risen Lord appeared twice to the Apostles, greeting them each time by saying; "Peace be with you." This Upper Room that contained so many memories for them seemed to have become their refuge, and even after their experience of seeing the Risen Lord it seems like it was their tomb. They continued to return there and lock themselves away until Pentecost.

At the Ascension Jesus told the Apostles to return to Jerusalem "until you are clothed with power from on high." Luke 24;49. Tradition has it that they returned to Jerusalem where they gathered in the Upper Room, and scripture tells us that, "they were continually in the temple praising God." Luke 24; 53. At the Ascension Jesus didn’t tell them how long they were to wait until the Holy Spirit would be given to them, just to wait and to pray. I imagine that every day after the Ascension as they gathered together they wondered, "is this the day?" They did this for 49 days during which nothing extraordinary happened, and on the 50th day everything changed. This was the Jewish Feast of Pentecost, which was celebrated fifty days after Passover. Jerusalem was full of pilgrims from everywhere who came to celebrate the Feast. It was on this day that the Apostles and Disciples experienced the great outpouring of the Holy Spirit. It changed them instantly and they left the tomb they had made in the upper room and went out to boldly preach the Risen Lord. The Holy Spirit took away their fear and blessed them with the gifts they needed to boldly proclaim the message with great joy. This first Pentecost is sometimes referred to as the birthday of the Church, and we joyfully celebrate our birthday as church every year.

It was in the unity of the gift of the Holy Spirit that the believers faith in the resurrection of Jesus, and the love of the Father. Their experience of each person of the Triune God was life changing in such a powerful way that not only were their lives changed, but they couldn’t keep their experience to themselves. They went forth to tell everyone, and as Jesus instructed them before he ascended, they Baptized in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

As we celebrate this great outpouring of the Holy Spirit today it is important for us to keep in mind that the Holy Spirit that came to the early church never left the church. This Holy Spirit has been with the church for two thousand years and continues to bless us with the gifts we need and to call us to unity. In the Sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation we received and experienced the Holy Spirit so the gifts and power are within us. This Feast is a time for us to give the Holy Spirit permission to work more powerfully in our lives, and to call upon the Holy Spirit to take away anything that stands in the way of us experiencing his presence more in our lives. To help us come forth from whatever tombs might be holding us back. The Holy Spirit did great and marvelous things to those first Christians, and he can do great and marvelous things for us. Come, Holy Spirit and fill our hearts!

Father Killian Loch, O.S.B.

Homily from Father Alex McAllister SDS

The Feast of Pentecost ranks among the most important in the Christian Calendar; it is up there with Christmas and Easter as marking a crucial moment in the story of our salvation

As we have just heard read to us, on Pentecost Day the Holy Spirit was poured out upon the Apostles and they were inspired to leave their place of refuge and go out into the street to proclaim the Gospel eloquently in the languages of all their listeners.

This great outpouring of the Holy Spirit was not a one-off event it is something that continues in the Church right up to the present day. Indeed it will always be one of the identifying characteristics of the Church.

The Lord himself said: 'I will not leave you orphans'. And neither he has. The Holy Spirit has been sent down on the community of believers and he inspires and sustains the Church through all the ages.

This great Feast of Pentecost is rightly considered the birthday of the Church. But it marks much more than merely the birth of an institution. What is happening is that we are being gradually drawn into the life of the Trinity; the life of God himself.

We have been saved by the work of the Son and we now live the life of the Spirit. We are being drawn ever closer to the Father and when we die we shall rise to glory and see God face to face.

Actually, each one of us experiences his or her own Pentecost. The Holy Spirit is poured out on us in the Sacrament of Confirmation but the Spirit does not stop there. We experience many other moments of grace because God never ceases to act in our lives.

Nothing occurs by accident and, while respecting our free will, God constantly cares for us and guides us in the way he chooses. If we want to know whether he has actually done this then simply sit down and count your blessings and you will soon see what he has been doing.

We as Christians want to live in harmony with our creator and we want to follow where he leads us. Sometimes though we find it difficult to discern his will. Does the Holy Spirit inspire this or that particular action or it is just me following my own desires?

To answer this question, we simply need to ask ourselves whether the deed in question is good and whether its effects will be good. If there is a shadow of doubt then we will know it is our own desires that are at work rather than the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

God is good and there is no darkness in him. If our actions and motivations are good in themselves then they certainly come from God.

This might not sound like much fun; we may regard being good all the time as rather boring. But this is a basic error on our part. Doing good deeds is certainly pleasurable, working in harmony with our creator is in fact deeply satisfying; and indeed, true personal fulfilment can be found in no other way.

The Lord Jesus breathed on the Apostles and said 'Receive the Holy Spirit', so we are told in the Gospel reading. This is a most interesting action and indeed the Holy Spirit is often identified as the very breath of God.

It is breath that gives life and the Holy Spirit certainly gives us life. We begin to live a new life; we have a new breath in us, the breath of God. We live this new life by doing the things God wants us to do, thinking the thoughts God wants us to think and by speaking the words that God wants us to speak.

By living in such close conformity to the will of God we become more and more in harmony with him. What begins as an act of will, sometimes only with great difficulty, gradually becomes second nature to us. We don't have to ask what God wants us to do because we instinctively choose the good.

This sounds all very lovely and pious and you might be thinking by now that although I might be saying these rather marvellous things I quite obviously don’t live them! And you would be right.

You might also be thinking that you wish you could live in this way yourself but it would be too hard. There are so many practical things that get in the way. And actually, we all quite like our little vices and bad habits and are reluctant to let them go.

And this is understandable and in fact it is an inevitable effect of the original sin that we were all born into. Concupiscence is the technical word, if you want to know.

But look again at our Gospel reading and you see that the outpouring of the Holy Spirit is simultaneous with the institution of the sacrament of reconciliation. The Holy Spirit comes upon us and this Spirit is a forgiving, healing and reconciling Spirit.

We want to live the way God wants but we frequently fail, we frequently return to the selfish habits of sin, we frequently choose our way rather than God’s way. But we are aware of this. And when things build up we find ourselves turning to God in repentance to seek his forgiveness and mercy.

When, in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, we clear away the backlog of sin we hear the priest say those wonderful words: 'God, the Father of mercies, through the death and resurrection of his Son has reconciled the world to himself and sent the Holy Spirit among us for the forgiveness of sins; through the ministry of the Church may God give you pardon and peace.'

So, although we are still fairly hopeless and always will have a certain propensity to sin we can yet make progress. After all the Holy Spirit is guiding us and he guides us along the way to holiness. By letting him do his work we gradually grow in love and goodness. By letting him do his work he draws us to the Father, he leads us to life eternal.

Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful,
And enkindle in them the fire of your love.
Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created.
And you shall renew the face of the earth.
Let us pray.

O God, who has taught the hearts of the faithful by light of the Holy Spirit, grant that by the gift of the same Spirit we may be always truly wise and ever rejoice in his consolation. Through Christ our Lord. Amen
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