23 May 2021Pentecost

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: Spiritual Dynamism

Today we celebrate a major solemnity in the Church: Pentecost. The Liturgy of the Hours provides very beautiful readings in preparation for Pentecost. I want to zero in on Friday’s Office of Readings. Here St. Hilary of Poitiers explains our need for the Holy Spirit. He says that just as a fully functional eye cannot see unless there is light and a fully functional ear cannot hear unless there are sound vibrations, the human soul needs the Holy Spirit to experience God. Let me flesh this out a bit more. When I was in college, I spent a couple of summers at a retreat camp in the foothills of the Catskill Mountains in New York. On days off we often took long hikes through the hills until we came to a small opening in the ground that was the entrance to deep underground caves. When we climbed into them and kept descending we would eventually find that the floor of the caves was covered in ice. We were very careful carrying ropes and flashlights, but it was still quite an adventure. Deeper and deeper we would go, following the ice. Before we turned back, at the deepest point of our exploration, we would all shut off our flashlights. We would be in pitch black. Seriously, we could not see our hands even when we waved them in front of our faces. Now, our eyes were working fine. They were fully functional. But our eyes could not see without any light. So, by analogy, we can have fully functional souls, but the encounter with God begins with the Holy Spirit. That is what St. Paul meant when he wrote in 1 Cor 12:3, “No one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except by the Holy Spirit.”

The Holy Spirit is the dynamism of God, the Third Person of the Trinity. This dynamism, this power, was first experienced on Pentecost Sunday, the fiftieth day after Passover when the Jews celebrated the Festival of Weeks. Everything changed for the disciples when they experienced the descent of the Holy Spirit in the signs of tongues of fire and the sound of the wind. They finally began to understand the central event of mankind: the Christ event, the incarnation, passion, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. They left the Upper Room where they had been hiding from the Jewish authorities, and courageously proclaimed the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The scripture says that people from all over the world heard the disciples, now apostles, speaking in their own languages. It was the Spirit speaking to them through the disciples. The scripture goes on to say that on Pentecost Sunday 3,000 people became followers of Christ. Within a few decades Christianity spread to most of the major cities of the Roman Empire. Eventually it would spread to the entire world.

It is clear that it was the work of the Spirit, the dynamism of God, that was responsible for the miracle of evangelization. The apostles would all die, most put to death, but nothing could stop the growth of the Church. The Church expanded due to the Presence of the Holy Spirit within the apostles and within those who came after them. The Church continues to grow due to the dynamism, the Presence of God working within us and through us. When we live our faith, the Spirit within us draws others to Christ.

Living our faith means that we, like the first apostles, have to have the humility to allow God to give us a knowledge beyond the grasp of the human mind. Living our faith means that we be willing to leave that safe place, our own Upper Rooms. Living our faith means trusting in the dynamism of God that is the Holy Spirit.

Come Holy Spirit! Give us the courage we need to proclaim Christ.

Come Holy Spirit! Give us the ability to speak to peoples’ hearts with powerful words, mystical words, words we might not know but words that come from you.

Come Holy Spirit! Be the dynamism of God within us.

May we be people of Pentecost.

Homily from Father Phil Bloom
* Available in Spanish - see Spanish Homilies

The Holy Spirit Will Transform You

(May 23, 2021)

Bottom line: The Holy Spirit and Communion will transform you little by little.

Congratulations to our children and young people receiving their First Holy Communion today - also to parents, godparents and family members. You probably notice I am wearing red - color of the Holy Spirit. Today is Pentecost Sunday. There's a close relation between the Holy Spirit and Communion. After all, how does plain unleavened bread become the Body of Jesus? In the Eucharistic Prayer, the most sacred part of the Mass we hear this:

Make holy, therefore, these gifts, we pray,
by sending down your Spirit upon them like the dewfall,
so that they may become for us
the Body and + Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ.

You notice that at this point the server rings the bell. That is because when the priest says those words and extends his over the gifts, the Holy Spirit descends to transform them into Jesus' Body and Blood. 

Transform means to change or remake. You mom can take a few ingredients - flour, eggs, sugar, walnuts etc. - and transform them into delicious cookies. In Eastern Washington we have high dams that take the power of falling water and transform it into electricity for our homes and to charge our phones. Similarly, the Holy Spirit transforms bread and wine. He also transforms you and me. St Paul says:

For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body,
whether Jews or Greeks, slaves or free persons,
and we were all given to drink of one Spirit.

When you receive Jesus, you become intimately united with him - and also with all members of his Body. St. Paul mentions Jews and Greeks, slaves and free, but we could add children down in Peru, families in China, young people in Nigeria who also receive Communion. We are joined in one body - by the power of the Holy Spirit.

We pray in the union of the Holy Spirit - that is, the Communion of Saint in heaven, purgatory and here on earth. When you pray, by the power of the Holy Spirit, you talk with Jesus. Jesus, I thank you. Jesus, help me. Jesus, I trust in you. The Holy Spirit enables us to pray. As we said before the Gospel.

Heal our wounds; our strength renew;
On our dryness pour your dew;
Wash the stains of guilt away.

Now I wish I could say that when you receive Communion, everything is going to be perfect - smooth sailing from here on. No, we are in struggle and we need Jesus strength each week. Remember the commandment: Keep holy the Lord's Day. Keep coming to Mass. The Holy Spirit and Communion will transform you little by little. You will experience days of wonderful grace. You will also face setbacks, but the Holy Spirit will pick you back up if you let him. And don't forget the power of Jesus' forgiveness in Confession. I'll conclude with that verse from today's Gospel:

Jesus said to them again, "Peace be with you.
As the Father has sent me, so I send you."
And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them,
"Receive the Holy Spirit.
Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them..."

Homily from Saint Vincent Archabbey, Latrobe, Pa
Saint Vincent Archabbey

These homilies may be copied and adapted for your own use; however, they may not be commercially published without permission of the author.