Fr. David’s homily Pentecost, 2016.

HOMILY May 15, 2016

I think we all can agree that this is not an easy time in the political life of our country. Regardless of your political allegiance, there seems to be a continued call for unity. Unity that comes from understanding,     not always agreeing, but respecting those with whom you disagree. It’s almost as if we’re building a Tower of Babel. From one point of view everyone speaking the same language, but nobody understanding what the other is saying. And it’s fitting that in the midst of Babel comes Pentecost. “Are not all these people who are speaking Galileans? Then how does each of us hear them in his native language?”

After the death of Jesus those who walked with him were incapable of joy. They were filled with fear. They began to get caught up once again in their own small worlds. Each one went his/her own way. They scattered themselves. They no longer had a memory, a perspective, hope. But then something happened. Those who believed in Jesus, because they were Jews, celebrated the harvest festival each year. It was a time of joy. There were celebrations. Dancing in the street, festive meals together. And the followers of Jesus took this feast and baptized it. They made it their own. They called it Pentecost, 50 days after Easter, celebrating the sending of the Holy Spirit. The images are poetic and graphic. Wind blew through their minds; fire warmed their hearts. They were bold. It was the dance of the spirit bringing them together in order to recognize what is most basic in life: “There are different gifts, but the same Spirit; there are different works, but the same Lord.” No matter where they were, day in and day out, who they saw themselves to be, what they called themselves: Christian, Jew, Greek, female, male, at the center of it all, they were gifted, able to make sense out of life, possessing that mind, that heart, which is Christ. They were new people, filled with power and confidence.

In his homily on Pentecost, Pope Francis called us to newness. “Newness,” he said always makes us a bit fearful, because we feel more secure if we have everything under control, if we are the ones who build, program and plan our lives in accordance with our own ideas, our own comfort, our own preferences.” Francis continues: “Let us ask ourselves today: are we open to God’s surprises? Or are we closed and fearful before the newness of the Holy Spirit?….Are we barricaded in the church in structures which have lost their capacity for openness to what is new?” This is certainly not the case with Pope Francis. Just last week he announced forming a commission to study the cause of women as deacons in our church. That raised a few eyebrows. But God bless Francis’ openness to the Spirit in our day.

The same God who sent Jesus Christ into the world is with you, with me; in you, is in me. We are alive with that power. It is fire in us. It is what enables us to make sense out of this world. It is what enables us to break out of our own personal pain and touch the pain of the world. It is what enables us to forgive generously, to love. It is what enables us to recognize that we are not in this world for ourselves alone, but that we are part of a human family, responsible for bringing that same Spirit to whomever and wherever and whenever we can.

A word that is often used for the Holy Spirit is Advocate, someone who takes your part. Similar to someone on the sidelines if you’re running a race. You begin to tire. The Spirit, says: “Come on Betty, come on Joe, hang in there. You can do it. You can finish the race.” There’s an adrenaline rush and you pick up the pace. True for the pace of life itself. The Spirit gives you courage and confidence. It reminds you of who you are, what you have been called to do for others in this world. The unity we seek, my fellow Christians, is based upon our respect for one another, understanding and a peaceful heart.

In concluding his Pentecost homily, Pope Francis said: “The Holy Spirit draws us into the mystery of the living God and saves us from being a church which is closed in on herself. It impels us to open the doors and windows to bear witness to the good news of the gospel, to communicate the joy of faith, the encounter with Christ.”

My fellow Christians, may that define us as the People of God: open doors and windows, proclaiming the good news of the gospel by a spirit of listening and understanding, welcoming change.

David J. McBriar, O.F.M.

Reading 1 ACTS 2:1-11

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 and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim. Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven staying in Jerusalem. At this sound, they gathered in a large crowd, but they were confused because each one heard them speaking in his own language. They were astounded, and in amazement they asked, “Are not all these people who are speaking Galileans? Then how does each of us hear them in his native language? We are Parthians, Medes, and Elamites, inhabitants of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the districts of Libya near Cyrene, as well as travelers from Rome, both Jews and converts to Judaism, Cretans and Arabs, yet we hear them speaking in our own tongues
of the mighty acts of God.”

Gospel JN 20:19-23

On the evening of that first day of the week, when the doors were locked, where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.” When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. 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, and whose sins you retain are retained.”