Sunday, 12 June 2011

Living Pentecost

Homily  - Pentecost, 2011

  • Some people are so gifted that there seems to be no end to the variety and number of their activities. They act so confidently and naturally and succeed in the many things they do.  It’s not surprising therefore that we see the same in Christ.  In him we see a many-sided personality.  In the scriptures we find there many wondering who he is, both among his followers and those who want to destroy him.
  • All sorts of people were attracted to him because of his teaching and also for his otherworldliness.   He seemed more than the historical person we know him to have been.  
  • There was something different and hidden about him.  But it wasn’t really a long-kept secret, for Jesus did tell his disciples who he was but they did not understand what he had meant.  That’s not surprising as we often don’t understand each other.  We are not as open to others as we think.  
  • The love and the care Jesus showed expressed in the pages of the scriptures were his but were more than his.  During the course of the past week in the daily gospel readings at Mass Jesus was seen talking about his intimate relationship with The ‘Father’.

  • He had a wonderfully close and understanding bond with the Father.  Married love or ‘best friend’ relationships could not be closer than this unity Jesus tells us he has with his Father in heaven.  It was so intimate that he spoke as if at times he was the Father or that the Father was like him.
  • It wasn’t surprising then that in succeeding ages the bishops and theologians in the early Church eventually came to the conclusion that there is indeed something greater in Jesus.  He was not just a superhuman man.  They believed that there is in fact an immensely complex reality present in Christ, in God.  Somehow Jesus and his Father are one and have always been.  They are separate identities - Persons, and yet one because of their great love.  And it is this love that Jesus came to share with us.  Not as something we can take or possess, but share.  The nature of sharing is that you give something of yourself.  When Jesus and the Father give us of themselves it is the Holy Spirit, their Spirit, which comes to us.  That is what we see in the colourful words used in the Acts of the Apostles describing the first Pentecost.  The apostles were transformed.  They were taken out of themselves.  In a way they were like Father and Son going out in love to express their experience.  That is the way of all great experiences.  We want to share it.  We want others to see what we have been given.  
  • This gift of God’s life contains so much of God that it became another expression of God, the Holy Spirit - another Person.  This Paraclete, this other helper; was one with the Father and the Son.  That is why the risen Jesus would be with us always through the coming of the Spirit at Pentecost.  
  • This realisation is so compelling that the Church has firmly stated that there are three Persons in the one reality that is God.  This is not a numbers game.  People have used ingenious explanations to try and reconcile the seeming contradiction of God being three but also one.  The gospel tells us not so much that God is out there and needs to be found by us as that God is in our lives and in our hearts.  There it is God who seeks us.  God is the breath we live by.

  • The Holy Spirit gave new life to the apostles in the upper room.  They became energised and courageous enough to proclaim the good news of Christ and his message.  This same Spirit has come to do the same for us making us one in the body of Christ the Church.  This vocation may be in the public arena or quietly in the way we live our ordinary daily lives.
  • The Spirit’s coming upon us on this feast of Pentecost fills us with God’s life; through the Holy Spirit the presence of the risen Christ remains with us all the days of our lives.
  • Some priests were holidaying in the north of Italy in the month of August.  They arrived in Milan for their final weekend. On the Sunday they went to the Cathedral to concelebrate Mass.  The colour of the vestments was red.  They asked the sacristan whose feast they were celebrating and he replied: ‘Today is Pentecost.’  (This was a very hot day at the end of August.) to all who would listen.   The sacristan went on to explain that in the Ambrosian Rite used in Milan they wore red vestments for Pentecost, and for the rest of the year.  The Holy Spirit given at Pentecost, he said, is still with us.  Pentecost is not simply the celebration of the anniversary of an historical event.  It is a permanent reality in the Church.